Great Eccleston could double in size over the next 15 years

Great Eccleston

Great Eccleston - Credit: Archant

Plans for around 600 new houses to be built in pretty Wyre village

The Square, Great Eccleston

The Square, Great Eccleston - Credit: Archant

It’s a village that has been described as ‘charming’, ‘idyllic’ and ‘a real slice of old world England’. And that was just by us. Other observers have been just as complimentary about Great Eccleston, a rural village in the Wyre countryside that has remained largely unchanged for centuries.

If long dead ancestors of some of the village’s longest standing families were to return, they would no doubt give the present day inhabitants a nasty shock, but they’d also be able to find their way around quite comfortably.

But it’s the spectre of a huge new housing development that’s causing some people nightmares at the moment.

The village currently has in the region of 700 homes for a population of about 1700 people, but there are plans for around 600 new houses to be built in the next 15 years – many of them larger than much of the current stock – which could potentially double the population.

Wednesday Market

Wednesday Market - Credit: Archant

The village isn’t the only one to be facing such a transformation; we have reported previously on the protests against new developments a few miles away in Wrea Green and many more are taking shape – or are in the pipeline – around Lancashire.

The first tranche of 90 new two, three, four and five bedroom homes is now being built on Copp Lane in Great Eccleston, with a public inquiry due to make a decision on 93 more as we went to print. Wyre Borough Council’s local plan includes provision for 400 more to be built by 2032.

Parish Council chair David Astall said: ‘As a Parish Council, we’re not against housing – we realise it has to happen – but we are very concerned about the impact of this housing on the village.

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‘The village has built up over hundreds of years and now we’re going to get 300-400 more people in a few months on the edge of the village.

Great Eccleston

Great Eccleston - Credit: Archant

‘These new houses are not for people from the village, they are for people who want to move to the village and who can afford it. And they are likely to be people who will commute to jobs elsewhere and not spend time or money in the village.

‘These new people will put an extra strain on the resources; the health centre is too small already and now it will have all these extra people to cater for. We will need a new school, a new health centre and there will be issues with infrastructure too.’

Originally from Oldham, David is an incomer himself, having moved to the village from Essex to take a teaching job at Baines School in Poulton.

‘I can see why people would want to move here – I did it myself, after all – but we would like people to contribute to the village. We don’t want 180 new houses stuck on the edge of the village and all those people not to be a part of the village which has always prided itself on being a friendly community.

‘This place has so much history that needs preserving. It’s a village that has not changed in some ways, but it has in others. It’s a friendly place and it still has a thriving village community, with the cricket club, the bowling club, the pubs, the Village Centre – it’s very vibrant.’

At the heart of much that happens in Great Eccleston is the Village Centre, a converted bank where community group meetings are held, as well regular sessions of yoga, pilates and bingo.

The Centre is managed by parish council clerk Hugh Glover who would like the expanding village to have a bigger and better facility in the future.

‘Facilities are under strain at the moment and will come under even further strain as the new houses are built,’ he said. ‘The lease will expire in 2020 and I don’t know what we will do then but my view is that as the village gets bigger it needs more facilities, such as a multi-purpose village hall.

‘What I would love would be a purpose-built village hall with some sort of café facility, a main room and smaller rooms people could hire for meetings.’

All you need is love

The contrast could hardly have been greater for Methodist Church minister David Walsh who moved to Great Eccleston from Toxteth, close to Liverpool city centre. ‘We were in a multi-ethnic area that was quite run down, so Great Eccleston is very different but we love the area and we have been welcomed so warmly.’

David, who is originally from Wigan, moved to Great Eccleston with his wife Carol and brother Gordon and is keen to build on the church’s tradition of community activity.

‘Our church owns 53 acres of land and we want to use it to help people,’ he said. ‘We can’t help the whole world so we’re going to start with people from the immediate area. We want to open a respite centre for people being cared for, or for the carers, and to do our bit to show there is some hope.

‘I call it the Love Project and I want to get it started as soon as possible, hopefully by March. Life is short and I think you just have to get cracking with things.’

Success in any language

Rebecca Fuce can clearly recall the moment she made the decision to leave her job and follow her dream. It was when she had a pencil thrown at her head.

The Durham University languages graduate had returned to the North West after spells living Paris, Berlin and Oxfordshire where she took a PGCE teaching course and was given her first jobs in schools.

‘My dream had always been to run a language school and one day, after I’d moved back north and was working in a local school, I’d had a pretty tough lesson. I’d been sworn at and had a pencil thrown at my head and I thought I would just go for it.

‘People had told me that I’d regret it if I didn’t follow my dream and I opened last June, but I was still working in the school until July. The response has been incredible. I’m working seven days a week, often until 10pm but I’m really enjoying it.’

The 28-year-old is due to marry her partner Rob in September and the couple are planning to honeymoon in Canada where she’ll be able to use her French language skills.

She now runs the runs the Fylde Foreign Language Centre at the Great Eccleston Village Centre where she teaches French, German, Italian and Spanish as well as some Greek as she learns the language herself. Classes contain people of all ages, her register currently includes a three-year-old and a 77-year-old.

‘There is a real range of people,’ she said. ‘Some are businesspeople who want to be able to talk to contacts overseas, others are schoolchildren who want extra lessons, and there are people with homes abroad who want to be able to talk to their neighbours. And people come from all over the Fylde coast and beyond.

‘I want to make language learning fun and to take the fear out of it. I don’t agree that you’re either good at languages or you’re not, I think that with a little belief anyone can learn languages. We have a nice community feel among he students and we hold events – we’ll be having a French cheese and wine evening in February.’

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