Feb 13 2014 by Sophie McCoid, Ormskirk Advertiser
PLANS for flood defences and a wetland habitat to be built at Hesketh Bank are expected to be approved by councillors tonight.
The plans for the 154 hectares of estuarine wetland habitat and a new embankment 7.8m (25ft 7in) high were first put before the West Lancashire Borough Council planning committee in December last year but the decision was deferred until tonight’s meeting.
An extension to the car park area and a new bird hide have also been proposed to be built on Green Belt land as part of the development and if the plans are passed work will begin in early 2014 and will be completed in 2016.
The applicant was given extra time by the committee to continue negotiation with the Canal and Rivers Trust and local aviation groups to overcome their objections to the proposals.
There were major objections to the plans from the Ministry of Defence, Blackpool Airport and Wharton Aerodrome, which fear the wetland will have a significant impact on aviation safety, saying there would be an increased risk of bird strikes on aircraft.
The development would also have an impact on the River Douglas as sediment build-up may cause navigation issues.
The Douglas Boatyard and Preston Marina have expressed concerns about sedimentation as their businesses rely on Preston docks trade.
However the Canal and Rivers Trust has now removed its objection after signing a legal agreement with the Environment Agency.
The agreement will ensure the river is dredged by the Canal and Rivers Trust if the sediment accumulation becomes too high.
But according to the planning report the aviation objections have still not been overcome. The MoD believes that “proposals to monitor and manage the site are not considered broad in terms of the type of bird and not frequent enough”.
The MoD also questions whether the proposed measures to prevent flocking and roosting would be sufficiently effective and feel that it could not discharge its responsibility for safeguarding Warton Aerodrome.
Blackpool International Airport also still believes the development presents a hazard to the safe operation of aircraft.
The planning officers’ recommendation is that the decision to grant planning permission is delegated to the assistant director of planning in consultation with the chairman and vice chairman of the planning committee subject to the aviation authorities raising no objections.