JEERS and tears from furious residents greeted the decision to give the nod to a 600-job business park in the heart of Huncoat village.
At a packed Planning Committee meeting, attended by at least 50 residents, there were heated and at times intimidating exchanges, with some members being accused of hypo-crisy and representing developers’ interests over those of their constituents.
G N Properties wants to develop the 8.4 hectare site, bounded by the former Huncoat Power Station to the north and Peter Grime Row to the south, for use as an employment estate, comprising a mix of office, industrial and distribution uses.
The outline plan also includes a 0.3 hectare incursion into Green Belt land for access via a branch road off the planned Whinney Hill link road.
But 10 of the committee’s 12 members decided the loss of Green Belt was justifiable given that the land, currently used for grazing livestock, had been designated for employment use.
Huncoat councillor Dave Parkins told the meeting the land had been in the Borough Plan for development since 1996.
He said: "The Green Belt issue is the most concerning but to me it is minimal. I would not be a good ward councillor if I stood in the way of 600 jobs. I couldn’t do it.
"If people had concerns years ago they should have expressed them then – not now. Six hundred jobs are badly needed in Huncoat and Hyndburn, especially in these times."
Fellow ward councillor Paul Gott, who is not a member of the committee, was among several speakers vehemently against the application.
He argued that there were over 30 vacant industrial sites in Hyndburn that could be used instead, while the amount of Green Belt land affected was being understated and the jobs gain overstated.
He added: "Distribution and light industry do not employ hundreds of people. Six hundred jobs is very doubtful so where are the special circumstances for us to grant this?"
There were also claims the proposals would set a dangerous precedent for Green Belt development and be "unsightly for the village of Huncoat".
The plan attracted 44 letters of objection, although a previous outline application – refused by planners in December last year – attracted 103 letters of protest from members of Huncoat Voice as well as a petition containing 645 names.
Concerns included the loss of green space in a rural location, too much industrial development in Huncoat, increased traffic impact, loss of trees, hedgerows and wildlife habitats, loss of rights of way, increased noise and air pollution, and visual and other negative impact on residents.
Councillor Claire Pritchard said: "They’re going to end up with a dirty great industrial estate in the heart of the village. We’re not just talking about houses, we’re talking about homes that families live in. It’s time this committee put people before policy."
Committee chairman, Council-lor John Griffiths, said the committee had to weigh the detriment to residential amenity against a "duty" to provide new employment sites in the borough.
He concluded: "We are told there is a shortage of units in excess of 25,000 square feet and a number of large companies would leave the borough if they could not expand."