PROTESTERS have lost their fight to block a housing development near Winsford's picturesque Flashes - and taxpayers could be left counting the cost.
Belflower Homes has won its appeal against Vale Royal Borough Council's decision to reject plans to build 17 houses on land off Ways Green.
The developer's director, James Hughes, called the council's original decision 'hog-wash', and threatened to make councillors who rejected their officers' advice to approve the scheme foot the bill for his appeal costs.
Now he wants to carry out that threat. Speaking yesterday (Tuesday), Mr Hughes said: 'We are obviously delighted with the inspector's decision.
'But this whole process has been a waste of money.
'The one thing we didn't want to do was to rub it in and ask for costs, but the councillors have disregarded their officers' advice.
'It makes you wonder if they have any faith in their own officers, which can't be good for morale.'
Mr Hughes was furious when councillors turned down the scheme after a wave of objections from residents.
Families living nearby feared the scheme would open up Winsford Flashes to future development which would eventually erode the town's main beauty spot.
Councillors agreed, turning down the application on the grounds that Winsford already has an over-provision of housing.
Belflower Homes appealed against that decision and a Government inspector has ruled in its favour.
Because the company was advised to appeal against its original proposal for 25 houses, as well as the scaled-down plan for 17 homes it settled on after consultation with residents and that appeal was also upheld, it can choose which scheme to pursue.
'It remains to be seen,' said Mr Hughes, 'although the likelihood is we will go with the scaled-down development. The reason we reduced the number of houses from our original plan was to placate the residents.'
Members of the Flashes Action Group, who sent 48 letters of objection and a petition signed by 95 residents, say they are 'very disappointed' by the outcome.
The group defeated a previous application by Badger Homes to build 21 luxury houses on the land, a scheme which provoked 208 letters of objection.
Flashes Action Group spokeswoman Lauren Scott, who became a councillor after originally helping to found the group, said: 'We are very disappointed by this.
'The overwhelming feeling is people don't want any development. It's still the Flashes and people don't want any building near there.
'There is also still a big issue of the amount of extra traffic which the development would create, and Winsford doesn't need any new houses - it already has over-provision for housing.'
The borough council's decision to quash the Belflower Homes application due to an surplus of housing in Winsford effectively put a block on any developers building in the town on land outside that set aside for housing in the Local Plan, which maps out the borough's future growth over the next 10 years. The Local Plan identified space at Winsford Gateway for homes, and nowhere else.
Ways Green was not included within that site, but following Belflower's victory, the council's plan to keep all future housing provision within predetermined sites could be in jeopardy.
Vale Royal's head of planning Richard Ellison said the appeal was upheld because planning inspector Karen Baker decided the Local Plan could only be given 'limited weight', partly because it is yet to be ratified by a public inquiry and partly because the Ways Green site had previously been listed as suitable for residential development
The inspector decided as the emerging Local Plan is still subject to consultation, she could only give limited weight to the policies for housing provision within it.
Mr Ellison said: 'The inspector also found the development would represent use of a brownfield site in urban area, she did not think it would be visually intrusive on landscape, she did not think it would be detrimental to amenities and that it did not appear prominent.'