Thursday, 5 June 2014

Woodland holiday homes approved on appeal

MAZE Planning Solutions and Urban Green have secured detailed planning permission for 49 holiday homes at Leisure Lakes on behalf of the owner, Leisure Lakes Ltd following a successful appeal. 

The proposed holiday homes are situated in woodland with a lakeside setting and form part of significant planned improvements to facilities at the outdoor pursuits, watersports and caravan park near Tarleton in West Lancashire, which are being guided by MAZE on behalf of the owner.

The site lies within the Green Belt and much of it is within a Biological Heritage Site covered by a Woodland Tree Preservation Order, raising a challenging set of land use planning issues. 

West Lancashire Borough Council refused to approve the detailed design for the holiday homes in May 2013, but the scheme has now been approved following reconsideration by a Government Planning Inspector.

The appeal was heard in April and May this year and the Planning Inspector’s decision draws a 6.5 year reserved matters planning application process to a close after negotiations between Leisure Lakes, West Lancashire Borough Council and Lancashire County Council faltered. 

The appeal success owes much to work carried out by Manchester based consultants Urban Green, who were commissioned in the latter stages of the project to prepare a woodland management programme, construction management plan and arboricultural assessment, as well as landscape design proposals for the holiday homes.  Urban Green’s work enabled Leisure Lakes and the Borough Council to reengage in discussions about the scheme after the May 2013 refusal.  That ultimately led to the parties resolving their differences during the appeal process and presenting the Planning Inspector with an agreed scheme.    

Andrew Watt, Partner at MAZE Planning Solutions said:

“The planning application process was made difficult by a lack of resource in the County Council’s ecology service which meant that face-to-face meetings needed to discuss and resolve issues raised by the development did not take place, despite repeated pleas from Leisure Lakes.

Whilst regrettable as a course of action, the appeal process focussed all parties firmly on the task of getting the scheme right, which enabled agreement to be reached on development detail and the long term management of woodland areas at Leisure Lakes for ecology.

The Planning Inspector is to be applauded for his approach. He recognised the merits of the scheme and the opportunity it presented to bring large areas of woodland in the Biological Heritage Site under management.  Adjournment of the appeal hearing for a month was permitted to allow time for Leisure Lakes to reach agreement with the Borough and County Councils. That pragmatism was embraced by all parties and the cooperative approach that resulted was key to the approval of reserved matters, which is an outcome I believe all parties are happy with” 

Martin King, Director at Urban Green said:

“The project and permissions had an unusually long history and thus it provided a real challenge to us, as our involvement commenced late in the overall process. We always believed there was a workable solution to the development being able to be implemented in such a woodland and lakeside location. We are extremely pleased that the approach of appropriate management, along with sensitive design and construction methods within this setting was acknowledged by all parties and that we were able to be part of this successful appeal. Hopefully the project will now move forward positively."

A copy of the appeal and related costs decision can be viewed here.