Physio slams Bolton Council for not backing his Westhoughton 'green centre' plan
A PHYSIOTHERAPIST who wants to create a new “green centre” and nature garden has hit out at Bolton Council for failing to back the plan.
Stuart Cosgrove is looking to expand his business, currently operating in Ashcrofts Farm in Chorley Road, Westhoughton, and has applied to build a new clinic 300 yards away in green belt land.
His first application was knocked back by Bolton Council’s planning com-mittee as “inappropriate development” in the green space in October, and an appeal to the national Planning Inspectorate also failed.
Mr Cosgrove says he has now spent £21,000 creating new plans for an eco-building which will be debated at Thursday’s meeting of the planning committee — and has also been recommended for refusal.
He said: “What I fail to understand about Bolton Council’s lack of support here is that in May, 2012 councils were urged by the Department of Energy and Climate Change to give planning consent to projects that have a high level of renewable energy schemes.
"Of course I need bigger and better premises for my business, but I am also trying to improve the area with better facilities.
“I care passionately about the health of my patients and about the health of the town, and this plan genuinely improves life.”
Mr Cosgrove says the new building would be sustainable with features such as a biomass boiler and rainwater harvesting, excavated into the site so the floor level would be below existing ground level to help it blend into the landscape.
He has also included legally-binding plans for an intensive landscaping scheme around the building and its car park to form an eco-garden and nature reserve.
This involves planting woodland, a sensory garden, a pond and six beehives — all of which would be open to local schoolchildren including from special schools.
The council has received has received five letters of objection to the plan, with neighbours warning that there will be dangerous consequences on highway safety and the plans are contrary to green belt policy.
But Mr Cosgrove collected more than 1,000 signatures of support for his first application, and letters from patients, local schools, professional people and the University of Bolton.
A council spokesman said: “This new application is recommended for refusal because the site is in the green belt, and the siting, size and design of it represent inappropriate development within the green belt.
“The evidence and information provided by the applicant do not fulfil the ‘very special circumstances’ criteria that is required for green belt land.”
‘There is no justification for a development on this site’
WESTHOUGHTON town councillor David Wilkinson, for Hoskers and Hart Common, has criticised Stuart Cosgrove’s decision to reapply for planning permission.
He said: “This was one of the most robust refusals from the planning inspector I have seen in some time.
“There is no justification at all for development on this site. Anybody that says there is does not know what they are talking about.
“I’ve got no issue with the building or the intentions for it but it must be built somewhere else, not on the green belt. This is a deliberate attempt to bust the planning process wide open and if this is approved, the floodgates will open.”
Five objection letters have been received from local residents who fear the plan could set a dangerous precedent with regard to commercial developments on green belt land.
They also cited traffic, pedestrian safety and the poor condition of the proposed access road as reasons to reject the plan.
Cllr Christopher Peacock, for Westhoughton North, sympathised with Mr Cosgrove, but said his plans do not meet the “exceptional criteria” required to build on green belt land, which the council has a “duty of care” to protect.
He said: “We have no problem with Mr Cosgrove’s business reasons for building here but it is green belt land.
“Despite the effort Mr Cosgrove has gone to, I think this will be rejected again."
Westhoughton Town Council has also recommended the plans be thrown out for a second time.
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