Dispute over need for shopping development

Artist impression: How the Carrington Centre could be transformed if the plans go ahead
Artist impression: How the Carrington Centre could be transformed if the plans go ahead

A battle has erupted over plans for a new £10m shopping centre on the outskirts of Chorley.

Developer Northern Trust wants to demolish the Carrington Centre in Eccleston and replace it with new shopping and office units.

A development of houses will also be built at the rear.

Several traders say it will breathe new life into the former mill building but hundreds of residents packed into an action group meeting to oppose the plans.

A formal planning application has yet to be submitted to Chorley Council.

Lisa Jackson has run Eccleston Post Office for 16 years, and said the Carrington Centre is an ‘embarrassment’.

She said: “It’s damp and mouldy, and it’s a miserable working environment for staff.

“I took on a new worker recently, and I was embarrassed to have to show them the conditions, so a redevelopment is long overdue.

“My main concern regarding my own business is the continuity of services during the process and the guarantee from the landlords that what is regarded by many as a vital public service will not be compromised.”

Dr Billy Kochhar, of Fishlocks Chemist, agreed: “We have experienced a number of maintenance issues with the structure of the building, and it has become increasingly difficult to plan ahead with improvements intended to facilitate further patient services from within the pharmacy.

“I suppose as retailers, our major concern would be continuity of trade and service to the Eccleston population. In our case, this is particularly important from the Primary Care Trusts perspective.”

Northern Trust, which is owned by Lancashire multi-millionaire Trevor Hemmings, say it is no longer cost effective to simply maintain the building.

However, a growing number of residents have formed an action to fight to plans.

Julian Campbell, of Towngate, said: “The proposal to demolish a perfectly good and well used shopping facility and redevelop the site into a ‘supermarket’ and housing estate is completely out of keeping with the character of an old historic village such as Eccleston.

“We live in a rural village and would like it to remain so.

“The Carrington Centre is a historic mill building which is part of Eccleston’s heritage, and has been changed into a well used shopping parade with individual shops which are quite sufficient for both Eccleston’s needs.”

A spokesman for Northern Trust said: “We are fully aware of the apprehensions expressed by villagers, but remain concerned about the level of misconception and rumour circulating resulting in some misinformed comments being made.

“We have been working hard to understand the requirements of our existing tenants in the centre both during construction and in the new development.

“We are delighted that it will be possible to accommodate them and ensure these essential village services are not lost.”