CONTROVERSIAL plans for 370 new homes in Whitehaven can go ahead, the government’s Planning Inspectorate has ruled.

Homes England lodged an appeal against Copeland Council’s decision to refuse its application to build houses on land at Harras Moor.

Councillors went against their own officers’ advice in August 2022 when they voted against the proposed development over concerns for highway safety.

Cumberland Council, which took over from Copeland Council in April following local government reorganisation, refused to defend the decision during an appeal hearing held in July.

The scheme will see houses built on land surrounded by the Highlands, Hillcrest and Red Lonning housing estates. Vehicle access will be via Harras Road and Caldbeck Road.

An appeal decision notice published by the Planning Inspectorate said there was no evidence to suggest road safety issues on Harras Road near the proposed access to the site.

It also found no evidence of a cluster of accidents or injuries at a ‘pinch point’ under the narrow bridge carrying the A595 known as the Park View underpass, which is only wide enough for vehicles to travel in one direction at a time and has no footway.

The Planning Inspectorate concluded that the proposed vehicle access would not give rise to any unacceptable effects on highway or pedestrian safety, nor would the additional traffic increase the risk of crashes on the surrounding highway network.

A number of conditions have been imposed by the Planning Inspectorate, which include providing a pedestrian crossing on the A595, improvements to the Park View underpass and safeguarding land required to link the development to the Highlands estate.

Joseph Ghayouba, who represents Bransty on Cumberland Council, said: “I have raised concerns on behalf of residents about access and egress on to an unclassified road at every stage of this application.

“The planning inspectorate has acknowledged this in their report insisting that the developer builds up to the boundary of the Highlands to keep the possibility open of connecting through and providing a bus route for the area.

“This strengthens the case for a compulsory purchase of the ransom strip of land. I hope the council explores this opportunity. I, along with residents, will be keeping a close eye on the reserve matters stage to ensure the developer sticks to the application.”

Brian O’Kane, who represents Whitehaven Central North on the town council, said: “I must express concern that permission has eventually been given. I could always see the benefit of the development in that area.

“However, I don’t see the logic of the traffic decisions that were passed as part of the planning process. I don’t understand why the main access route wasn’t via the Highlands which would probably have placated many of the residents’ concerns.

“I have severe reservations about the Harras Road and Caldbeck Road access points where severe congestion already occurs.”

A spokesperson for Homes England said: "Homes England welcomes the recent decision made by PINS to allow planning permission for the delivery of up to 370 new homes at Harras Moor.

"Since acquiring the site in 2017, we have collaborated with partners and the local community to deliver these plans for over 300 market homes and over 50 new affordable homes, local highway improvements and an artificial grass pitch at the nearby Whitehaven Academy.

"The site will also act as a catalyst for sustainable development in a remote location, providing active travel connections with existing neighbourhoods and the town whilst delivering the homes necessary to support the Council’s aspiration to sustain and grow its local economy."