Fears over wood mill plans

Major fire at Whitfire Shavings. Picture from Lancashire Fire and Rescue
Major fire at Whitfire Shavings. Picture from Lancashire Fire and Rescue

Serious concerns have been raised over redevelopment plans for a fire-ravaged wood mill.

Whitfire Shavings and Sawdust Supplies Limited, Heatherfield Works, Church Lane, Farington Moss, suffered a major blaze last summer.

Plans to demolish the fire-hit building and replace it with two portal-framed constructions have angered nearby residents who claim there were a number of problems at the site before the blaze.

The plans also include 17 car parking spaces, parking for HGVs and five 10m high floodlighting columns and wall-mounted floodlighting to site buildings

South Ribble Council has received a number of objections to the plans.

Objectors say there were major problems before the fire over a range of issues includng sawdust, loud whining noise from the wood shaving saw which operates from 7am to to 6pm, operating outside hours and health concerns about asthma and other breathing issues which restrict children playing outside.

There is also concern about the proposed 10m high floodlights, and associated light pollution.

Residents on Lodge Lane are worried that the proposals moves the site towards their properties.

Whitfires has been in operation since the mid 1930s and refines, compresses, packages and then bags wood shavings and sawdust.

Following extensive fire damage in June 2016 the application seeks to demolish the existing buildings and construct two purpose-built buildings to the south west of the site.

The redevelopment of the site would occur in two phases which would enable the applicant to start imminently on the construction of the replacement of the most fire damaged building.

To address previous and ongoing issues of dust, noise and smoke the Environmental Health section has requested stringent conditions with regard to the construction and design of the proposed buildings.

The application is recommended for approval by council planning officers.

Ten fire engines were called to Whitfire last June.

Homes were evacuated amid fears of a “toxic threat” as 10 fire crews battled the major blaze.

Other residents were urged to stay indoors as firefighters continued to work at the site.

Lancashire County councillor Mike Otter, who represents Farington division, said he had not received any comments from residents.

But he said: “There have been issues with this business for a number of years, with dust, noise and vehicles.”

County councillor Otter, who is also a Farington parish councillor, added: “This application is for the new units - and additional lighing which suggests they might be extending their operating hours.”

Whitfire declined to comment.