Thank you to everyone who has signed the petition to remove Peel Hall from the council’s Local Plan and get a commitment that the site will not be developed. The number of signatures is approaching a thousand and shows yet again what an important issue this is for local people. The support for the preservation of our green spaces should not be underestimated. People know how important they are to our communities and that once they have been lost, they are lost forever.
The developers have been rebuffed on several occasions and two public inquiries have rejected their plans. The campaign groups deserve much praise for what has been a long and hard fight. However, whilst the site remains in the local plan the danger of the developers succeeding remains a real possibility.
I challenged the council in the Summer of 2017 when the site appeared in their local plan and was described as ‘suitable, available and achievable’ for development ‘if infrastructure problems were addressed’. I thought this was an open invitation for developers and asked that the entry be changed but was told, by council officers, that this would not be necessary and their policy was robust enough to stop development at Peel Hall. Sadly, it did not stop planning applications being submitted. In reality we had the chance to close the door on developing the site but the local plan actually opened it. The plan says that ‘the council is not opposed to any development at the site’. Well the public are. The site should never have been included in the plan. Thousands have signed the petitions to save Peel Hall with, literally, only a handful supporting any development. Governments of all colours have been keen to say that local residents should have a greater input into planning decisions. I can think of no other example where local people have engaged so completely with the process over such a long period of time – this is no 52%-48% but rather 99%-1%.
I am told that council officers are resisting suggestions that Peel Hall be removed from the local plan. Officers should remember that they don’t make the policy, elected councillors do. Councillors in the wards surrounding Peel Hall (along with Winwick and Poulton parish councils) want it removed. Expert advice suggests that it can be removed successfully, so let’s get on with it.