A PUBLIC inquiry into a plan which could ‘merge Longridge and Preston’ is set to start.

The inquiry, which is due to start on Wednesday, regards a proposal from Fox Strategic Land and Property Ltd to build 200 homes, offices and a swimming pool in the Ribble Valley town.

The inquiry is not being contested by Preston City Council, whose jurisdiction the area of the town falls under, after they received legal advice.

The plan for the former Ridings Depot in Whittingam Road is also subject to another application for 220 houses from the same developer.

That proposal was due to be discussed by Preston City Council’s planning committee on Monday but was withdrawn due to the public inquiry being held two days later.

The application will now be discussed at a future council meeting.

The city council’s planning committee said in September that if the appeal had not been made, they would have refused the application because the development would have an ‘unacceptable detrimental impact’ on the open countryside character of the area.

They also said that it would impact on ‘the distinctiveness of the separation of Longridge and eastern Preston and would facilitate the merging of these areas’.

A similar application for the site was rejected in January 2012 over concerns of the cumulative impacts of traffic from the development.

The appeal against the refusal was dismissed by a planning inspector in August 2012 after they concluded that the negative impacts of the development on the highway network were so severe that they out weight a shortfall in the five year housing land supply.

Ribble Valley Borough councillor, Ged Mirfin, who sits on the area’s planning committee, said: “Longridge is beginning to feel the affect of over-development that Whalley has been experiencing for the last 18 months.

“There is the same amount of opposition in Longridge as there is in Whalley.

“If passed, the development will have a big impact on the town.”