Preston's latest Aldi confirmed as part of new district centre for Cottam - this is when work is expected to start

Cottam is finally set to get its long-planned district centre, after councillors approved a bid to build an Aldi store and a raft of other commercial premises on the suburb’s former brickworks site.

Friday, 1st April 2022, 5:01 pm

The development will also see up to another 89 houses spring up on the plot, to add to the 114 under construction elsewhere within its borders.

The blueprint was first given the go-ahead exactly a year ago, but has since been held up by negotiations over the cost of creating a new primary access point from Tom Benson Way, incorporating the existing entrance to the area’s household waste recycling centre.

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Cottam's district centre has been a long time coming - but it has finally taken a step closer (image: The Harris Partnership/Nexus Planning/BXM Cottam Properties Ltd.)

A meeting of Preston City Council’s planning committee heard that the half-a-million-pound bill for delivering that element of the scheme means that the applicant – BXB Cottam Properties Limited – can no longer make requested contributions to school places and affordable housing without rendering the project unviable. That forced the application to come back before councillors for them to reconsider the matter.

The firm will still pay out just over £1m in community infrastructure levy payments to the city authority – and council planning case officer Phil Cousins said that the development would provide “significant social and economic benefits through investment on the site and the delivery of the district centre at Cottam”.

Peter Tooher, the agent for the application, said that the plot had required “very significant upfront investment”, with councillors told of the need for land reclamation work due to its previous use.

However, he said that pending a finalised agreement with Lancashire County Council over the new Tom Benson Way junction, work on the Aldi store and the rest of the development would begin as soon as possible.

“We would certainly hope to be starting on the site this year,” said Mr. Tooher, who explained that Aldi would be responsible for delivering its own building, with his client providing the necessary infrastructure in the form of an access road through the site.

The permission granted will allow Aldi to open between 7am and 11pm Monday to Saturday and from !0am to 4pm on Sundays, although the retailer has not yet confirmed its intentions.

The remaining space for “flexible commercial use” – totalling more than 11,000 square metres – could be filled by other shops, eateries, offices or community facilities, such as a clinic or nursery. This element of the site – along with the residential properties – will be subject to a more detailed “reserved matters” application at a later date.

Parking will be provided for up to 229 vehicles, while around 170 full-time jobs are expected to be created across the site – in addition to 271 during the construction phase. The development is forecast to generate an economic output of over £41m per year.

Committee member Cllr David Borrow said that approval would bring to an end a “10-year saga” over the redevelopment of the brickworks.

The new single-lane access from the Tom Benson Way roundabout will widen within the site to accommodate a dedicated right-hand turn lane for vehicles heading to the waste recycling centre. Two lanes are to be provided for traffic leaving the district centre and waste facility and heading back out onto the roundabout.

A dozen objections were lodged to the proposals, with particular concerns over increased traffic on Cottam Avenue as a result of the creation of a secondary entrance to the retail site from that route. Ingol and Tanterton Neighbourhood Council said that access from the “narrow two-lane road” should be limited to local buses and emergency service vehicles.

Phil Cousins said that the district centre needed to be made “accessible to residents of Cottam”, but added that traffic-calming measures would be introduced on Cottam Avenue and that the main – and “easiest” – access to the site would be from the reprofiled Tom Benson Way junction.

The meeting also heard that construction traffic would need to continue to use Cottam Avenue during the early stages of the latest phase of the brickworks redevelopment – while the access road is created – but that a construction management plan would enable Tom Benson Way to be stipulated as the preferred route as the project progresses.

Lancashire County Council had requested a £676,000 contribution to the cost of creating 34 new primary school places as a result of the housing element of the scheme, while Preston City Council would usually demand that 30 percent of new dwellings on urban estates were classed as affordable housing.

Neither of those two requests will be fulfilled after the council’s own assessor agreed with a submission form the applicant which claimed that the cost of the land remediation and the highway works at Tom Benson Way – the latter now established as being a minimum of £510,000 – would mean that the development was no longer viable.

Papers presented to committee members noted that all of the 114 properties being built elsewhere on the site will be a mix of affordable rented and shared equity homes.

Cllr Borrow said that the authority was therefore “over-delivering” on its affordable housing quota across the site as a whole.

As part of af previous planning permission, the applicant was also judged to have created the equivalent of 180 affordable dwellings by providing 0.6 hectares of land on the former

brickworks site to build the 45-bed Lady Elsie Finney House Care Home back in 2007.

Gary Goodman, of BXB Cottam Properties, said that the fresh planning approval “gives us the comfort to invest in the site’s remediation and discussions are now under way to bring that forward”.

He added: “Delivery of the district centre depends upon our ability to acquire a small portion of land from Lancashire County Council and Homes England and discussions remain on-going in this regard. A deal will unlock hundreds of new jobs, vital retail provision and large amounts of rateable income for the local authority.”

Meanwhile, Adam Robson, property director for Aldi, said that its new Cottam store will “create more than 40 jobs at the UK’s highest-paid supermarket, which we will be encouraging local people to apply for”.

“We will be able to confirm a timescale for the new store opening once discussions with Lancashire County Council and Homes England are complete,” Mr. Robson added.

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