A council has approved plans for a major housing development on a disused mine site, despite 81 objections from residents in the area.
At Thursday evening’s Planning and Highways Committee meeting, Blackburn with Darwen councillors approved the plans to build 343 new homes on Bailey’s Field, off Ellison Fold Way in Darwen.
The decision comes after months of protestations from residents in the immediate area, who have been opposed to the development since the plans came to light.
The approval was granted following a consultation in which the council say they distributed 1,000 leaflets to residents in November 2020 and received 23 responses; and is subject to a Section 106 Agreement relating to highway improvement works, sustainable transport initiatives, education provision, and green infrastructure – meaning hundreds of thousands of pounds must be secured under the Section 106 in order for the development to go ahead.
The money is then to be used for improvements to the Blacksnape Children’s Play Area; £742,500 for the provision of primary school places in East Darwen, by extending St Peter’s Church of England Primary School, Turncroft Road; while £642,500 should be secured towards completion of the Darwen East Development Corridor highway improvement works, sustainable transport initiatives including subsidised public transport, traffic calming and improved pedestrian routes.
Earlier this year, residents formed the Ellison Fold Parkland Association and applied for the site to be considered as an Asset of Community Value.
The application was determined on May 12 but members were advised the nomination was unsuccessful and was ‘non-material to the assessment and determination of the planning application’ due to the fact the site was within an area formally allocated for housing some 20 or so years ago.
One resident, who did not wish to be named, said he was angered that the council had approved the plans, and wanted answers as to why they allegedly paid just £1 for the site, saying: “I am not happy. I would have paid £1 for that land myself, safeguarding the field for others.
“If this lot of developers and builders change their mind about building on the land (like lots have over the years due to the costs involved) then it needs to be taken off the Local Development Plan for housing allocation, and made into a ‘town green’.
“Housing development has failed on there for decades, not least because of all the hidden mine shafts.”
Over the last few months, a number of disused mineshafts have opened up on Bailey’s Field, which led to residents contacting the Coal Authority in the hope that they would also oppose development on the site.
However, following investigations, the Coal Authority noted that ‘all of the recorded mine shafts present within the site had been positively located’, with a geo-environmental investigation report stating: “All mine shafts identified within this site will be subject to a program of stabilisation and surface treatment to remove any potential hazardous instability which may occur within the future.
“All mine shafts should be provided with a suitably designed reinforced concrete cap which is formed upon competent rock head level typically lying at a depth of some 1.6 – 5.0m below existing ground level at this site.
“Upon completion of these capping works it is recommended that properties should be constructed outside the zone of potential influence or where plots are located within the potential zone of influence then the foundations will need to extend the same formation level as the structural cap.”
The Coal Authority’s planning team ultimately welcomed the proposed works to treat the shafts and said they were ‘satisfied that the proposed layout of development has been appropriately informed by the presence of these former coal mining features’.
Of the proposed 343 homes, 67 will be grant-funded affordable homes, with land to the north of Ellison Fold Way providing 324 homes and land to the south providing 19 homes.
The northern part of the site is privately owned by Landeer Investments Ltd with a small portion to the west of Lisbon Drive and east of Ellison Fold Way in council ownership, and the southern part of the application site is also council owned.
Associated works are also proposed, including provision of a network of public open space, an interconnected network of streets, public footpath connections and drainage attenuation.
The planning document along with all conditions and the 81 objections can be viewed in full here.