Plans to super-size a pizza factory look set to get the thumbs up, even though locals are cheesed off.
German company Dr Oetker wants to double production of its frozen Chicago Town and Ristorante brands by expanding its plant at Leyland - with the promise of more than 100 new jobs.
And even though council officers admit the development is bound to have an impact on residents living nearby, the project has been recommended for approval, chiefly because of the economic benefits it will bring to the area.
Dr Oetker, one of South Ribble’s largest employers with 433 staff, says the expansion is needed to increase its slice of frozen pizza sales from 50m to 100m a year.
The company’s application goes before the planning committee on Wednesday, with councillors urged to pass it.
But members will be told “concerns” have been raised by some local residents about overshadowing, density, impact on the area, noise, air quality, ecology, parking, increase in HGVs and landscaping.
“The proposal would have an impact upon the residential amenity of the adjacent properties on Longmeanygate,” admits a report to be presented to the committee.
Yet, on the other hand, officers say Dr Oetker has scaled back its initial scheme after talks with the council - a 28-metre high warehouse has been reduced to 17.4 metres.
And the report insists: “The National Planning Policy Framework advises that significant weight should be placed on the need to support economic growth.
“Subject to conditions . . . the application is, on balance, considered acceptable.”
The company plans to demolish a 28-metre high water tower and an existing warehouse on its 10.5 acre site on the Moss Side Industrial Estate.
They will make way for a new two-storey production building, with a link bridge and a new cold storage unit. Two water coolers and four silos will also be built. In addition car parking will be increased by 47 spaces from 206 to 253.
The expansion is expected to be topped off with an extra 107 jobs as pizza production doubles.
Councillors will be told letters of objection from homeowners living close to the site included a long list of worries.
One of the chief concerns was noise, with one resident claiming the area of the site dealing with the movement of goods, which currently operates from 5am to 11pm, would be moved closer to houses.
In a summary of the locals’ claims, the report says: “The residents are currently woken up by the noise associated with the movement of pallets. Noise would be made worse due to the building being built significantly closer to the residential properties on Longmeanygate.
“Concern is raised that there would be an increase in the number of HGVs. Concern is raised about the parking on Longmeanygate and reassurances are required that workers associated with the development will not park on this road.
“The factory is lit like a Christmas tree - there are bright spotlights which are on 24 hours a day, even at Christmas.”
In addition, one bungalow would be overshadowed by the height of the new buildings and concern was raised that during the colder part of the year the residents of Longmeanygate “may not see sunlight.”
The summary adds: “Longmeanygate is a country lane with small commercial and residential properties. Surely there are other areas that could be developed by this company which would not impact on the character of the area.”
And finally a resident claimed a meeting between locals and Dr Oetker had been “hostile, patronising and verging on the aggressive.”
“The economic argument that there would be more workers contributing to the local economy is not strong enough to discount other issues,” it says. “A more suitable place within the industrial estate should be considered.”
In recommending approval, officers say: “The new development at Dr Oetker is a further investment in the borough by a business in one of the growth sectors, which is recognised by Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and the Department for International Trade.”
Reducing the warehouse height from 28 to 17.4 metres had “helped to reduce the impact in terms of overshadowing and massing on the existing neighbours and properties on Longmeanygate.”
“Therefore it is considered that there would be limited harm in terms of overshadowing to the small number of properties and on balance the proposal is considered acceptable.
“The council’s investment and skills manager has advised that the business is a significant local employer creating valuable jobs and apprenticeships.”
WHAT IS PLANNED?
Dr Oetker wants to build a new two-storey production building, 14.6m high and with 2,032 sqm of space on each floor.
In addition the company’s plans include a new cold store building, 17.4m high, with 1,098 sqm of floor space.
A, 11.2m high link bridge connecting buildings will also be constructed, along with a plant room, a drivers’ amenity block, two water tanks measuring 12.3m high and four silos, also 12.3m high.
To make way for the expansion, a water tower and existing warehouse will be flattened.
Based in Bielefeld, Germany, the company has an annual turnover of more than 10m euros and has a presence in more than 20 countries from New Zealand and Australia to India, Norway and Canada.
It was founded in 1891 by Dr August Oetker to initially produce baking powder. Now it sells cake mixes, cake decorations, cornflakes, puddings and, of course, frozen pizza.
Dr Oetker took over the Leyland site in 2008 when it bought out another frozen pizza maker Schwan’s Food, which employed 300 people and owned the Chicago Town brand. Schwan’s had been in operation at Longmeanygate since 1989.
The buy-out gave Dr Oetker’s, already one of Europe’s largest frozen pizza manufacturers, a UK production base where it now employs 433 staff.
At the time managing director for frozen and chilled foods, Peter Franks, said: “Manufacturing is important to us, but we are making our products outside the UK and we are committed to having a UK production base for all our businesses.
“This is the first step on that journey. We are very committed to Leyland, it is an important part of what we are manufacturing and the future is bright, no question.”
After the latest expansion was announced, a spokesman for Dr Oetker said: “This development is in addition to £30m of capital investment over the last decade.
“The recent developments, coupled with the plans for further expansion, demonstrates Dr Oetker’s commitment to its Leyland location and to providing long-ter, employment opportunities for the local community.”