Call for full consultation over revamped plans for former IKEA site

The new plans for the Lancashire Central site (image courtesy of Lancashire County Council)
The new plans for the Lancashire Central site (image courtesy of Lancashire County Council)
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A group which campaigned against bringing an IKEA store to a major development in South Ribble says locals must be consulted “every step of the way” on alternative plans which were unveiled earlier this week

It was revealed on Monday that the Lancashire Central project will now be dominated by logistics and distribution operations, after the role of retail in the scheme was reduced.

READ MORE >>> What is planned for the former IKEA site in Central Lancashire?

IKEA had been due to build the flagship shopping attraction on the site – previously known as the Cuerden development – but pulled out last May.

John Jones from a group called Limit Cuerden has called for the new proposal to be curbed. He said residents felt “ignored” during the planning process for the previous scheme, sited close to the junction of the M65 and M6.

“It’s disappointing to learn of these new plans through the media. There’s been no consultation and the news has come out of the blue,” John said.

“Again, the big issue is traffic. Anyone who travels from junction 29 of the M6 along Lostock Lane towards Leyland and Penwortham will know it’s already severely congested. This will add hundreds of dirty polluting diesel lorries into the daily mix.

“Will lorries be prevented from travelling along Lostock Lane? Will the roundabouts be widened? There’s a lot of detail missing.

“The very real concern is about the pollution the diesel lorries will bring. How will the council deal with rising pollution levels?”

A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: “The indicative proposals for Lancashire Central were shaped through discussions with the private sector, to look at changing market opportunities and strong market interest.

“The newly announced plans will require further detailed work before anything could happen on site. This will include consultation as the scheme progresses.

“The development of this site would generate more than 3,000 jobs and £200m of economic benefits to Lancashire.”

A petition calling for the number and size of the units on the development to be “limited” – along with the vehicles servicing it – attracted 18 signatories after 24 hours on-line.

THE PURDAH PROBLEM

Margaret Smith, leader of the ruling Conservative group on South Ribble Borough Council, said it was not appropriate to comment on the revised plans, because of pre-election rules which restrict the statements that public bodies can make about politically controversial issues.

The so-called “purdah” regulations apply to local authorities, but not to individual political parties. Local elections are taking place in South Ribble on 2nd May.

The borough’s Labour opposition said that it was “reviewing” the new proposals, but warned that it would not support them if they did not meet the group’s “high standards” regarding air pollution.

“We will be looking very closely at the environmental impact in respect to congestion and air quality,” Labour group leader, Paul Foster, said.

“We also believe that there must be a thorough, detailed public consultation, where the views of the local community are considered fully. We are supportive of the creation of new, well-paid employment, but not at the detriment of public health,” he added.

But Cllr Foster criticised County Hall for making the announcement during the purdah period.

“We are really disappointed that Lancashire County Council have seen fit to release [the details] in the middle of an election campaign where South Ribble Borough Council is bound by strict regulations and cannot officially respond,” he said.

However, Lancashire County Council leader, Geoff Driver, rubbished the suggestion that the authority had acted improperly.

“Purdah has nothing to do with it – this was simply an announcement by the county council and no politicians of any political persuasion are mentioned or quoted.

“No local authority can come to a grinding halt because there are elections coming up – business has to go on.

“But we have abided by the purdah rules fully and it’s absolute nonsense to suggest otherwise” County Cllr Driver said.

The Liberal Democrat group in South Ribble was contacted for comment.

REINVENTING THE ROAD NETWORK

Tens of millions of pounds will be invested in redesigning the roads close to the Lancashire Central site – with much of the work focusing on traffic movement at junction 29 of the M6, where it meets the M65.

A cap on spending has been agreed by Lancashire County Council’s cabinet, but the exact figure cannot be revealed because contracts to carry out the work be put out to tender.

The authority’s executive director for growth, environment and transport, Stephen Young, has pledged that the infrastructure will be completed before the development opens.

“We want to improve the local economy, but we don’t want to upset other road users passing by the site and coming into the city – or to make their journeys more difficult,” he says.

“The vehicles will come off the motorway, fill up and they’re back on the move straight away. “It could not be better other than having the motorway running through the centre of the site.”

County Hall has carried out twelve months of traffic modelling work to ensure the roads in the area can cope.

Last year, Geraint Johnes, professor of economics at Lancaster University, said that logistics sites like the one now planned in South Ribble can provide employment opportunities without the traffic congestion often associated with traditional retail developments.

Lancashire County Council is expected to retain the business rates generated by the industrial plots and any levies laid on the housing developer in order to fund the road upgrades.

KEEPING CONTROL – AND CREATING LOCAL JOBS

Lancashire County Council says that one of the reasons that it chose not to sell the Cuerden site outright and generate a one-off cash windfall was so that it could influence who helps to build it.

The authority is planning to make local jobs and apprenticeships a key part of its plans.

“If we had sold the site undeveloped, we would have lost control of it,” County Hall’s economic development chief, Stephen Young, explains.

“A key part of the conversation with development partners will be to insist that they work with local schools to get young girls, particularly, into engineering and construction.

“We will work more generally to encourage young people to take up science, technology, engineering and maths.

“And we can insist that apprenticeships are reserved for, say, looked after children, or Lancashire children in general – and that’s really important to us.”

SCALE OF THE SITE

840,000 square feet – general employment, including warehousing, logistics and light industrial units

600,000 square feet – other logistics and non-retail use

260,000 square feet – mixed commercial use, including food retail, a hotel and car sales