Councillors who voted against plans for new houses say residents’ safety comes first - after the developer won a government appeal against their decision.

An application to build seven houses and demolish a derelict barn on land to the north of Ennerdale Country House Hotel in Cleator, was refused by Copeland Council’s planning panel in October 2021.

Members had raised concerns over the effect the development would have on highway safety.

The developer lodged an appeal against the decision with the Planning Inspectorate, which has been upheld.

The appeal decision notice was brought before members of the council’s planning panel at a meeting held on Wednesday.

Nick Hayhurst, head of planning and place at Copeland Council, said: “There was some dispute about a speed survey that had been submitted with the application and there was a tree felling sign put up that would automatically slow traffic down.

“A second report was submitted as part of the application process and that report showed that traffic speeds were low enough to warrant a 60m visibility splay.

“It was on that issue that members disagreed with officers’ recommendation to approve, in that it should be bigger than 60m.

“The inspector has noted the speed surveys and considers that 60m is acceptable. He has also imposed a condition that traffic calming measures are installed before any development commences.

“He thinks that it complies with the local plan and National Planning Policy Framework so he has allowed the appeal. He has determined that the application is acceptable.”

Councillor Graham Calvin said: “In hindsight, we could have settled this. There was a claim that because we were in lockdown when the survey was done, there wasn’t sufficient traffic to get an accurate assessment.

“We said in the meeting, if we had a survey done now, we would accept it and we had nothing. I know it would be a third one.

“I know we haven’t got the option but sometimes with the planning panel, we either refuse it or there’s nothing else we can do. I’m afraid it was one of those.

“To develop the site, wasn’t a problem to me. It was just to make sure the road safety. The inspector has accepted, that’s fine by me, no worries whatsoever.”

Mr Hayhurst then pointed out that the test in the National Planning Policy Framework was if the highway impact is ‘severe’, not if there is an impact.

He said the inspector would have been using that test and ‘clearly didn’t think’ the impact was severe.

Councillor Michael McVeigh said: “I thought it was an absolute disaster that this was not resolved in the first instance.

“We do have a responsibility to the public, of course we do. If I remember rightly, Christopher Harrison did this report. I couldn’t find a flaw in it.

“The sad thing for me is, this was a small developer, who maybe employed three or four people. The most challenging times for anyone to be doing work in this field.

“We have delayed this by possibly three months. Hopefully, the developer has sufficient funds to carry him through to this stage.

“I do welcome the appeal decision, very much.”

Councillor Linda Jones-Bulman said: “I do really have to go against what Mike McVeigh said. We are here about safety. We are not here about developers.

“I’m on that road most days. If there’s an event on at the Ennerdale Hotel, they park on the side of that road. That was our concern – the safety of the access and the road.

“Of course we take developers into consideration but I’m sorry it’s the safety of the people in our community on those roads.”

Cllr McVeigh replied: “The safety of residents is paramount to everyone. The most comprehensive report that Christopher Harrison did, highlighted those concerns and the inspector has agreed with him. We move on.”

Cllr Jackie Bowman said: “I’m with Linda on this because yes, Chris did a brilliant report, as is his job, but I’m just happy that God forbid anything does happen in situations like this, it is now on the Inspectorate’s shoulders, not ours.”

READ MORE: Developer wins appeal to build near Ennerdale Country House Hotel