BOSSES at a Lancashire caravan park which carried out groundwork without authority near a historic viaduct has been refused retrospective planning permission.

Work was undertaken at Bridge Hey Wood Caravan Park near the grade II listed Martholme Viaduct,  The soil embankment and old viaduct once carried the Great Harwood loop of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.

The caravan park wanted retrospective consent from Ribble Valley Council to change the use of the land, minor engineering works and landscaping works to on the railway embankment for a recreational amenity area for customers.

The business also cut down mature trees on the embankment, prompting complaints about the loss of woodland habitat and fears about rainwater running faster from the land into the Calder, heightening flood risks.

The caravan park’s supporting information stated the works involved the ‘excavation of a channel and mound adjacent to the viaduct to avoid trespass together with benches and picnic tables, and the reseeding of areas with a wild-flower meadow mix for a nature walk.’

But borough planners have refused permission.  Nobody from the caravan park spoke at the meeting – or a previous one in October, when councillors first discussed the application and indicated they were ‘minded’ to refuse it.

Back in October, Greens Cllr Malcolm Peplow and residents spoke against the caravan park’s actions. Some people also feared it could hamper ambitions for a new footpath and cycle ‘greenway’ along the old route area.

Planning officers and some councillors had suggested approval but also wanted action to insist new trees were planted and other measures taken.

But an updated council report included a recommendation for refusal, based on the harmful visual impact on the landscape and area’s character and because of the removal of a ‘significant number of trees and the substantial earthworks installed, which are considered to be ‘overbearing and out-of-scale and character in a rural setting’.

The second reason was because of the excavating of a trench immediately next to the viaduct. This resulted in the removal of fill material abutting the viaduct and exposure of stonework, at risk of deterioration. Insufficient information, such as an engineering report, was submitted by the caravan park to show how the work would preserve the structural integrity of the viaduct –  a designated heritage asset.

Conservative Cllr Kevin Horkin said: “I would like us to refuse this application and go along with points one and two in the report.”

Independent Cllr Ian Brown said: “I agree. But I don’t think it’s as simple as that. We also need to get the people to replace all the trees they cut down and the gaps need filling-in.

“The applicant should also pay for a viaduct survey, to find out if it is damaged or not. e should take into account the number of trees cut down, the big gap and the possible damage to the viaduct.”

A Ribble Valley planning officer said the council would have to take into consideration a potential appeal process by the caravan park. And a forestry body had not taken any action yet, which was another consideration.

In a vote, councillors refused the retrospective application.