A FORMER planning supremo has described Hyndburn Coun-cil’s handling of an application for a controversial buggy racing track in a Rishton wildlife heritage area as "disgusting".
Ex-Planning Committee chairman Councillor Janet Storey, who sat on the committee for 10 years before coming off this year, was outraged after officers reversed their recommendation for the Hermitage Street proposal to "approve’’ at the last minute, forcing her and fellow-objectors to hurriedly re-word their arguments.
The plan had provoked 62 letters and petitions bearing 223 signatures in objection, citing noise pollution and damage to wildlife on the site, which is already used for clay pigeon shooting on Sundays.
Councillor Storey had reassured residents the plans had been marked down for refusal, only for supplementary notes to be given out on the day, detailing a crucial change of heart by Lancashire County Council.
Planning chairman Councillor John Griffiths admitted the reversal was "unusual" but defended the decision to grant the applicant, Mr Thomas Threlfall, temporary permission for 12 months.
Councillor Storey said: "I couldn’t believe it when they said the recommendation had been changed.
"It’s a really lovely area and very rural with deer, foxes, rabbits, squirrels and kingfishers. We were under the impression there was a wildlife corridor there but it’s not in the Borough Plan as a wildlife area. It’s a farce."
Former councillor and fellow protester Tim O’Kane added: "You could expect this kind of thing to happen in Zimbabwe under Mugabe but this is Hyndburn, not Harare. The 220-plus people who objected to this application simply did not get a fair hearing."
Sue Birtwell, who lives off Brantwood, Clayton-le-Moors, said: "It’s a lovely area. There’s a wildlife corridor from the Dunkenhalgh.
"All the pollution and noise will spoil a really nice nature area. We already have to put up with the clay pigeon shooting every weekend. Nearly everybody on the estate signed the petition, saying they didn’t want it to go ahead."
The buggy racing can now go ahead between 10am and 6pm Monday to Friday and from 10am to 2pm on Saturday. The planning permission also allows military games on the site, which was a former sewage works.
Councillor Griffiths said: "It’s the first time I’ve known this to happen in many years but I think we took the right course by not deferring it and by going ahead with the 12-month trial period. We’re always taking views right up to the last minute."