Councillors in South Ribble have made a cross-party call for a rethink of the latest plans for the Lancashire Central development near Bamber Bridge.
Lancashire County Council unveiled a revised vision for the 65 hectare plot – which was previously earmarked for a flagship IKEA store – back in April.
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It was revealed that the scheme, close to the junction of the M6 and M65 motorways, was to shift from being a retail-led development to a distribution hub. The change was brought about by IKEA’s decision to withdraw from the project last year.
The new plans indicated that the site – formerly known as the Cuerden development – will be dominated by warehouses and light industrial units when the first phase opens in 2021.
But at a meeting of South Ribble Borough Council’s cabinet, the ruling Labour group – which recently took control of the authority – and their Conservative predecessors both suggested that planners needed to think again about the revamped proposals.
“South Ribble has a clear vision for what we would like to see at that site and there are some discussions to be had with [the county council], because that vision seems to have [deviated] slightly,” Labour council leader Paul Foster said.
“Cuerden is at the heart of our borough and it must be developed in an appropriate manner which is acceptable to our community,” he added.
Lancashire County Council estimated that around 3,000 jobs could be created by the new scheme – 1,500 fewer than when it was due to be a retail-based development. However, the authority’s director for growth, Stephen Young, said earlier this year that they would be “higher value” jobs than had previously been envisaged – and that logistics was one of the main growth industries in the county.
But Margaret Smith, Conservative opposition leader at South Ribble, agreed with Labour that the county council should go back to the drawing board.
“We had a vision for that site to become one of the premier sites in the North West and we’ve got to stick to that,” Cllr Smith said.
“It’s important that we don’t have just another distribution hub in the centre of our borough, because it’s not what we want.”
Responding to the comments following the meeting, Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver said he was happy to engage with the district authority.
“I recognise, of course, that there has been a change of administration at South Ribble, but it’s most unfortunate that the council did not get involved in a meaningful way in discussions on the City Deal [of which the Lancashire Central project is a part].
“It is reassuring that South Ribble now want to engage in discussions on the scheme and I am happy to do so,” County Cllr Driver added.
Cllr Foster previously criticised County Hall for revealing its new plans for the site during the politically-restricted “purdah” period, in the run up to May’s last months local elections. At the cabinet meeting, he added that the timing of the announcement meant that South Ribble Council had not been able to comment on the changes when they emerged in April.
A hotel, car sales showroom and food retail units are all still mooted as potential occupiers of part of the site, in spite of the planned shift away from retail.
Plans for 210 homes as part of the development are unaffected.
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
Source: Lancashire County Council