Campaigners from Fleetwood reacted with outrage after a controversial planning application was given the green light by Wyre planners today.
And they have vowed to try and fight the decision.
Councillors gave the go ahead to proposals to build 15 apartments for the over 55s on the former Fleetwood Pier site.
The application, put forward by Simmo Developments, was strikingly similar to one rejected by Wyre planners in January. Campaigners from Fleetwood reacted with outrage after a controversial planning application was given the green light by Wyre planners today.
Opponents say the ultra-modern building, being proposed to replace the much smaller pier building which burned down in 2008, would ruin Fleetwood’s much loved seafront forever.
Before the committee meeting at Wyre Civic Centre in Poulton, around 100 residents and Fleetwood councillors had staged a silent protest with placards when planning committee members made a site visit to the former pier land.
And at the meeting later in the day, four opponents of the application spoke strongly against the scheme, a large glass and steel art deco building whose development is headed by businessman Mike Simmons (aka comedian Joey Blower).
Margaret Daniels (Fleetwood Civic Society), resident and flooding adviser Iain Johnstone, Councillor Terry Rogers (Fleetwood Town Council, Pharos ward), Councillor Mary Stirzaker (Fleetwood Town Council) and resident David Walsh all spoke out against the plans for three minutes each, within the 12 minutes permitted.
Also speaking out was Fleetwood’s Labour County Council member, Councillor Lorraine Beavers and Fleetwood Labour MP Cat Smith, who was unable to attend but sent in an email.
They stressed that nothing had notably changed from the application which was refused in January on the grounds that its height, scale, mass, design and appearance would be out of keeping with its surrounds in a conservation area.
Mr Johnstone, who accapted he was not a professional flood risk assessor, nevertheless argued that the flats would be in direct risk of flooding, as the same site had been hit by flooding in 1990.
However, the application was approved by eight votes to four.
Councillor Paul Moon, who voted for the plans, said there was insufficient grounds to reject it.
He said: “None of the consultees, English Nature, the Environment Agency, United Utilities, Lancashire County Council highways, Lancashire County Council flood authority and Wyre Council engineers, have any objections.
“New buildings will always change the appearance of an area.
“Some years ago, there was outrage in Paris when they decided to build a glass pyramid next to the classic buildings around the Louvre, they thought it was horrendous
“Later on, they came to think that the glass pyramid enhanced the old buildings.”
Councillor Ron Greenhough, chairman of the planning committee, who praised the dignified nature of the morning’s silent protest, said: “This site is a mess, if anything is spoiling the seafront, it is what is there now.
“We can’t just leave it, something has to happen. I’ll support it.”
And Wyre chief executive Garry Payne, acting in a planning capacity due to the unavailability of the chief planning officer, also rejected claims that by building on the sea side of Fleetwood sea front, it would set a precedent for other developers to build on such land.
“He said: “Precedence is not grounds to reject a planning matter, each case is dealt with in its own merits.”
Councillor Lorraine Beavers, of Fleetwood, spoke as a Lancashire County councillor and lambasted the proposals, saying: “The first sign of madness is when you ask the same question again and again and you expect a different answer.
“Well, we’ve had the answer and the answer was “no”.
“The only difference between this application and the last one is twelve and three quarter inches in height.
“We rejected it the first time because it just doesn’t fit.
“This application is discordant and lacking in harmony with everything around it.
“Nothing has changed from the scheme which was rejected in January.
“Why are we even here discussing this?”
And Fleetwood planning member, Councillor Evelyn Stephenson, echoed fears about flooding and told fellow planning councillors: “Because of the real flooding risk, this is an accident waiting to happen.
“I don’t want to have my name on it.”
The four councillors voting against the plans were Labour members from Fleetwood, Councillor Brian Stephenson, Councillor Evelyn Stephenson, Councillor Ron Shewan and Thornton Labour member, Councillor Terry Lees.
The decision to approve the scheme was greeted with anger from the Fleetwood members of the public in the chamber, and Coun Brian Stephenson shouted out “party politics!”
After leaving the hall, Fleetwood Town Council member, Coun Mary Stirzaker said: “Wyre Council is a disgrace, it has put money before the people of Fleetwood.”
Fleetwood’s Conservative County Councillor, Stephen Clarke, said: “This is a stitch-up. When the pier burned down and it turned out it wasn’t insured, the lease should have been taken off Mike Simmons there and then.”
Fleetwood Civic Society chairman, Margaret Daniels, said: “I can’t’ understand how such a minute difference to the height meant that its height, scale, mass design and appearance, would no longer be very obtrusive on Fleetwood Esplanade.
“I also couldn’t understand the Chairman’s opinion that it had been left for far too long and therefore it should be passed.”
With the scheme granted, there is no automatic right to appeal against the decision.
Coun Beavers insisted the fight wasn’t over, but there appear to be few avenues for the opponents to take.
Mike Simmons was unavailable for comment.