Hotels and shops plan for landmark mill site

Tim Knowles, the property tycoon who owns Botany Bay at Chorley
Tim Knowles, the property tycoon who owns Botany Bay at Chorley

A Lancashire landmark could be part of a ‘significant development’ of hotels, restaurants, cafes and shops.

Botany Bay, which is just off the M61 motorway near Chorley, has been earmarked for a massive overhaul over the next 15 years under a new local plan.

The development, drawn out under the Chorley Local Plan, would also include a new bus service to the landmark and a new bridge over the nearby Leeds/Liverpool Canal.

Entrepreneur Tim Knowles, who bought Botany Bay in 1994 and spent £9m transforming it, said: “We started this 20 years ago and we are so pleased that we are where we are today.”

Chorley Council has now requested a ‘masterplan’ from developers which set out their intentions for the 20-hectare greenfield site, together with a parcel of land to the west.

In planning documents, bosses said they wanted a ‘high quality, sustainable development solution’.

The overall scheme has however drawn objections from bosses at Lancashire County Council, who say the development would undermine retail opportunities in Chorley town centre.

In a report to their own cabinet members, Lancashire County Council officers said they had concerns ‘as to whether the retail element of the proposal, and its potential impact, has been properly considered in line with the overall retail hierarchy proposed for Chorley’.

It continued: ‘It has been determined through technical work undertaken by county council officers that the existing transport network within central Lancashire is unable to accommodate the level of predicted additional traffic arising out of the level and distribution of development in the proposals without a significant adverse impact on network performance.’

They also said the plans could have ‘wider repercussions for growth and economic development across central Lancashire’ and it could ‘bring the prospect of an additional burden to the public purse’.

Coun Dennis Edgerley, executive member for planning at Chorley Council, has hit back the council, saying a report had been circulated without any discussions between the two authorities.

He said: “The report has not come to us. Someone emailed me with a Twitter link.

“It was at a meeting with them after the report was put out to discuss the masterplan for transport, expecting us to co-operate with that. That is a little different to what is in the report. They have not raised it with us at all yet.”

The northern part of the site to the west of Botany Bay already has planning permission for mixed-use developments including business, general industry, distribution, hotels and bars.

Coun Michael Green, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for environment, development and planning, said: “We were concerned over the potential impact on Chorley town centre.”