PLANS to build over 100 homes in a South Cumbria town have been given the green light despite concerns from councillors and residents.

Members of the strategic planning committee for Westmorland and Furness Council approved plans from Oakmere Homes to construct 125 homes on land off Beetham Road in Milnthorpe on Wednesday (March 20).

The proposed development will consist of 111 houses, six bungalows and eight apartments with associated roads, car parking, landscaping, infrastructure and access from Beetham Road.

A decision made deferred in January to allow for more consideration on foul sewerage, affordable housing provision, the proximity of the proposed development to existing properties, the proposed mix of dwellings and the access arrangements.

Local resident Brian Sherrington urged the council to refuse the planning application until there is a ‘real physical improvement’ in the way sewage is handled.

Mr Sherrington said: “The residents of Milnthorpe that are aware of this application are unanimously concerned about the ability to have their waste processed correctly.

“Almost every day I walk my dog and I cross the old stone bridge that crosses into Dallam Tower Deer Park. I used to stop and marvel at the amount of fish I could see in the River Bela.

“Over the last four years or so I have failed to see any fish in that part of the river.”

According to a report prepared for the committee United Utilities state: “Milnthorpe has sufficient capacity to treat the additional foul only flows from this development site. The current proposals for this development are for surface water (rainwater) to infiltrate to ground and also to discharge directly to watercourse, thereby not connecting with the public sewer and reducing the impact of the development on the sewer network.

“As the additional flow into the drainage system will be foul only, the treatment works will have capacity. Furthermore, United Utilities will continue to undertake due diligence to assess the potential impacts of the proposed foul only connection from the development to the sewer network and treatment facilities and will respond accordingly as and when the development progresses.”

Planning regulations state where there is a separate policing process for a particular activity as there is for foul sewage disposal it is not for the planning authority to get involved.

Planning officer Andrew Martin told the committee he understood why ‘you would be unhappy given the reports of sewage entering the River Bela’ and added: “It’s for the Environment Agency, OFWAT and United Utilities to resolve, it’s not us.”

According to a report prepared for the committee in January, the proposals will contain 19 affordable housing units. This will consist of eight one-bedroom apartments which will be for ‘affordable rent’, six ‘first homes’ and five ‘shared ownership’ homes.

This will provide 15.2 per cent affordable housing, lower than the council’s regulations of developments providing 35 per cent affordable housing.

However the developer said there were ‘exceptional circumstances which make it impossible to deliver 35 per cent affordable housing’.

Planning agent Graham Love, from Smith & Love Planning Consultants, said: “Financial viability on this site is extremely tight, it was deferred last time, and we have gone back and looked at it and we are trying to squeeze everything we can out of this.”

Mr Love told the committee the site has a ‘very awkward’ shape and this has led to ‘extreme abnormal cost’.

Councillor Helen Chaffey (Kent Estuary, Lib Dems), speaking on behalf of her ward, said: “When I heard the amended scheme was coming back to planning committee so quickly my heart sank. How can the developers have had time to seriously address the issues raised in the January meeting, well they haven’t.

“Yet again this is another tweaked scheme paying lip service to the issues raised by residents and the planning committee.”

The amended scheme ‘does nothing’ to improve the outlook for residents and questioned why the site was chosen for housing allocation given the ‘steep typography’ of the site, Cllr Chaffey added.

Cllr Chaffey said the proposed development is a ‘double whammy’ of building homes that don’t meet local needs on ‘swathes’ of greenfield land and labelled the provision of affordable homes ‘paltry’.

Councillor Hilary Carrick (Hesket and Lazonby, Conservatives) said it had been an ‘incredibly frustrating day’ for committee members and added ‘the planning system as it stands at the moment is not serving us well’.

“I feel if we’re not very careful we will be taking a decision according to the planning law and the planning system which will be the right decision in terms of the planning context but will absolutely not serve our local community well,”, Cllr Carrick said.

Members of the strategic planning committee approved the application on March 20.