CONTROVERSIAL housing plans for a “dangerous rat run” near Whitehaven have provoked an outcry including demands for a public inquiry.

Residents claim Harras Road is already plagued by speeding drivers – and that the self-build plots west of Casa-Mia would make a bad situation worse.

The panel heard including horror stories of speeding drivers, including near misses involving children and several collisions.

The proposals for nine self-build plots had sparked 103 objections with concerns raised over road safety, increased traffic flow and drainage.

And following an emotional plea from several speakers, councillors voted to reject the plans against their own officers’ recommendation.

The plans were deferred until the next meeting in March by which time every member who refused to back the plans must come up with a “material planning reason” for their decision.

The meeting heard that highway chiefs and other statutory bodies had no objection to the plans which are still in the outline stage.

Simon Blacker, speaking on behalf of the applicant, insisted that traffic-calming measures as part of the proposals would address concerns.

But resident Graeme Milligan claimed the increase of traffic on the road was already causing “much distress” to his disabled son, adding that the development would heap yet more misery on people living near to the road.

He said: “It affects his well-being due to the excessive revving, squealing of breaks and the exhaust fumes – and the threat of a vehicle crashing through our back wall. This has happened a number of times yards away from where we live.”

Among the speakers expressing concern was Ken Heddle, a former traffic officer with Cumbria Contabulary Roads Policing Unit.

Resident Gary Elliott said there were constant tyre markings on the grass verge where drivers had swerved to avoid oncoming traffic.

He added: “I was shocked one morning to see a wagon mount the kerb for about ten metres as it passed a car only for a five-year-old girl to step out from a cutting – she was in my own daughter’s class in school. If she had stepped out there three or four seconds earlier she would have been wiped out by that wagon.”

Town, district and county councillor Graham Roberts spoke out behalf of the residents.

He said: “This was never meant to be an arterial road to Whitehaven – it has developed out of a farm track access road into a major highway to enter and exit the town. It is impassable in foul weather – in snow and ice.

“The seriousness of the whole issue is such that one member of the public has asked me for a public enquiry.”

But Mr Blacker said that four raised speed tables at intervals along Harris Road would help slow traffic down.

He said: “The additional properties and driveways will also help to slow the traffic. The nine properties are unlikely to create an effect on highway safety.

“And while there is a perceived issue, which is to some degree down to bad driving, the statutory consultee on this matter raises no objection.”

Drainage looks set to include underground storage tanks and large pipes to cover a “one in 100 year” flood event.

United Utilities, the county’s Flood Authority and Copeland council’s flood and coastal defence engineer have raised no objections.