A DEVELOPER has been accused of insensitivity and stifling public protest after launching a public consultation over controversial plans for a new housing development during the coronavirus crisis.

Leaflets have been delivered to residents living in the vicinity of the proposed 115-dwelling development off Wigan Road in Clayton-le-Woods, seeking their views.

But many of them made their feelings known last year when a previous application attracted criticism for proposing to create a temporary access point for construction traffic from the rural Nell Lane – removing 100 metres of hedgerow in the process.

Chorley Council’s planning committee granted permission for the estate – but only if the then applicant, Redrow Homes, provided access from its neighbouring, completed development on Parkhurst Avenue.

Locals have now learned that that site has been acquired by a new company – Monaco Nell Lane Ltd – which has submitted a fresh application reverting to the original plan to provide access from Nell Lane itself.

But under the latest proposal, the controversial entrance would not just be for the duration of the building work but would serve as the permanent route into the new estate.

Ward councillor Mark Clifford said it “stuck in his throat” that the company had made its move now.

“They have written to residents at a time of national emergency when people have enough to worry about.

“Based on what happened the last time these plans were put forward, we know that residents would be organising meetings and protests in opposition – but of course they can’t do that at the moment.

“I’m not trying to stop the company submitting a plan, but there is a time and place – and this isn’t it,” Cllr Clifford said.

Planning committee meetings are currently suspended because of lockdown restrictions, but the new application is still expected to be lodged later this month.

Planning agent Lichfields, acting on behalf of Monaco Nell Lane Ltd, rejected claims that the timing of the submission was convenient.

A spokesperson said:  “We initiated pre-application discussions with Chorley Council in October 2019. Following these discussions, and in order to prepare the necessary plans and reports, we programmed a target submission date of April 2020.

“The preparation and submission of the application has therefore been ongoing [for five months] – it is unrelated to the Covid-19 global emergency."