The campaigners saying no to new housing in Whalley
PUBLISHED: 16:34 04 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:39 20 February 2013
Developers are encircling Whalley, one of Lancashire's most historic communities. Nick Walker puts the case for the villagers
Whalley, the ancient village which lies at the western end of the Ribble Valley, is a favourite place for visitors, cyclists, ramblers and those who may be indulging in a spot of shopping for new clothes, souvenirs or an unusual present.
Walk along its wide main street, find peace among its spectacular abbey ruins or take a break in one of the cafes or hostelries and you will soon realise why Whalley is so popular.
However, all is not at peace in the village. A familiar drama is being acted out. Whalleys rural heritage is under threat from developers wanting to build large housing estates which would cover its surrounding green fields and turn it from a village into a small town.
Already supermarket chains are looking for possible sites to buy should the developers get their way. More houses will follow and the village will have been lost for ever.
On the other side are the villagers, united in their opposition to more development. They are short of resources but determined to defeat the developers and save the village. To this end, an action group has been set up and has been hard at work fighting the developments.
The Save Whalley Village Action Group was formed last September and has a properly constituted committee which meets regularly to review the situation, make representations in the appropriate places, raise funds and plan for action. Currently there are over 1,200 members and Janet Higgins, the membership secretary, said: We are recruiting more and more, mostly from the village but some from outside as well.
The question has to be asked: Does it matter? Many people would love to live in Whalley and, if affordable houses are on offer, local youngsters would be able to stay in the village. We are told that the nation needs to build more houses so why not in Whalley?
Firstly, Whalleys attraction is its beautiful site and situation beneath Whalley Nab with the backdrop of Pendle Hill, Longridge Fell and the hills of the Trough of Bowland. It is surrounded by green fields which form a natural boundary. All this is enhanced by the River Calder running past its western edge, the abbey ruins and other buildings laden with charm and character.
How will 300 houses and other buildings proposed to the south of the village enhance that or the 80 which the Co-operative Group plan (but which lead to a larger area of land owned by the Co-op) to the west? Some 40 houses are already under construction to the north and 60 on the eastern flank with another application for 30 more pending on an adjacent site in the east.
Secondly, developers lead with statements about the need for affordable housing which they are going to build but they fail to say that only three tenths of their developments are of affordable housing, the rest being premium priced on which huge profits are made.
The third point to make is that the local infrastructure cannot support more housing. Traffic congestion often brings the centre of the village to a complete standstill. Parking is difficult as there are so few places to leave your car.
As a consequence cars are parking on residential roads, pavements and verges causing problems for residents, blocking the roads and eroding verges. Local schools are full and children unable to find a place. They are having to be driven for miles to other outlying villages and towns. Add to this drainage and sewage problems and you can see why the situation is problematic and the residents are fearful for the future of their village.
There have been the inevitable claims of Nimbyism from those outside the village but the villagers point out that there has been more building in the last 20 years within the village than anywhere else in the Ribble Valley which has meant an almost doubling in size in that time period.
As chairman of the Save Whalley Village Action Group I refute claims we are Nimbys. The whole village is united in its desire to preserve our heritage for future generations and not to allow it to be turned into a housing sprawl on the desire of developers to make money at our expense.
The situation at present sees an application by the Co-op awaiting an appeal hearing in August having previously been refused by the borough council. The village was disappointed with the Co-ops decision to appeal after it had consulted with the village and heard the overwhelming opposition to its plans.
Action group vice chairman Mike Harper says the Co-op may promote itself as an ethical company but those ethics seem to go out of the window when it comes to making a profit from greenfield land. Another application has been submitted by the Commercial Estates Group and is currently out for scrutiny. More objections than ever have already been submitted to the borough council by interested parties.
The village hopes that it can win and asks that if the people of Lancashire care for the village and want to preserve a part of the rural heritage of England then they can join the campaign and save Whalley village.
Worth fighting for?
What do you think -are they Nimbys or people determined to save the characters of one of our finest villages?
Send your views to email@example.com
If you want to find out more about the campaign to save Whalley village you can visit their website at www.savewhalleyvillage.org.uk, on Facebook at Save Whalley Village or e-mail for information to firstname.lastname@example.org