New Lidl and hundreds of homes confirmed for Penwortham on former pub and mill site - but no extra school or GP places
South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee granted permission for two separate applications - one of which involves the levelling of the Sumpter Horse on Leyland Road.
The hostelry served its last drinks just over five years ago and is now set to be replaced with a 25-dwelling estate of affordable homes.
Meanwhile, an adjoining plot - formerly home to Penwortham Mills, off Factory Lane - will be transformed with the creation of 301 new properties and a Lidl foodstore on land where the Vernon Carus factory once stood. The discount retailer’s arrival in the area is expected to generate up to 30 jobs, committee members were told.
The firm had originally wanted to open 18 hours a day - between 5am and 11pm - seven days a week, but agreed to a compromise with council officials of 7am to 10pm Monday to Saturday and on bank holidays, while the store will trade from 10am to 7pm on Sundays. The outlet will have a 124-space car park.
Twenty-six letters of objection were received about the two applications - 20 of which were related to the Penwortham Mills plot and six to the plans for the Sumpter Horse. Amongst the concerns were the potential impact of the developments on traffic - and a lack of facilities such as schools and GP surgeries to support the influx of new residents.
The latter point was directly addressed by the council's development management team leader, Debbie Roberts. She said that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) had been approached “many times” to see if they wanted to comment on the plans with regard to healthcare provision, but had not responded.
Ms. Roberts added that Lancashire County Council - as the local education authority - had not requested a contribution towards the creation of school places, explaining: “[They] haven't asked for [any] money and if we have it, they won't spend it - they don't want it. If they don't want it, we can't ask for it [from the developer].
Committee member Will Adams said that the position on school and GP facilities was something which would “infuriate” the people of Penwortham.
Cllr Adams also concurred with a resident, John Wilson, who bemoaned the loss of the Sumpter Horse, questioning why it was not considered viable and describing it as a “great community pub”.
However, Debbie Roberts said that in its current state, the derelict venue was “doing nothing at all for the character and appearance” of the area.
Ellie Greatorex, senior commercial manager for Trafford Housing Trust (THT) - the registered housing provider behind the proposals - said that the developments would bring a raft of benefits to the area.
A reservoir on the mill site is to be handed over to the council, free of charge, together with a £500,000 payment from the trust to cover the cost of future maintenance..
Ms. Greatorex said that THT also had a charitable foundation which Penwortham residents would now have the opportunity to access.
She added: “The proposed homes include 17 different types . This varied mix of unit types, sizes and tenures will assist with meeting the requirements of a wide range of residents of varying family size, age and income to contribute positively towards the development of a sustainable, mixed and balanced wider community.
“There will be a net gain in biodiversity, a network of green and open spaces surrounding residential areas, connective corridors, open space to Leyland Road and [also] surrounding the Lake Wood reservoir.”
The estate to be created on the Sumpter Horse site will be made up of three cul-de-sacs, off Leyland Road, and will include a 20-space communal car park for existing Leyland Road residents.
The properties - all 25 of which will be classed as affordable - will range from two to four bedrooms and include four semi-detached bungalows and eight two-bedroomed apartments
A first phase of housing on the Penwortham Mills plot will see the construction of 117 homes, accessed from the cross-borough link road, while phases two and three will later deliver a further maximum of 184 dwellings, up to 40 of which could be accessed from Factory Lane - although the meeting heard that that arrangement has not yet been confirmed and will be subject to a more detailed application at a later date.
An approved plan by a previous potential developer of the site, Bovis Homes, to access the mills development through the Sumpter Horse land has been abandoned.
At least 30 percent of the 301 properties on the site of the mill building - which was demolished in 2019 - will also be in the affordable category.
Committee member and cabinet member for planning, business support and regeneration, James Flannery, acknowledged the difficult topography with which THT was having to contend - which members were told had required significant investment - and said that there was “no doubt” that the area was in need of development.
The committee resolved that it was “minded” to approve the applications, but delegated the final decision to the council's director of planning and housing and the committee chair and vice-chair upon completion of legal agreements to secure public open space and affordable housing.
Once those are finalised, full planning permission will be granted for the Sumpter Horse site, along with Lidl and first housing phase on the Penwortham Mills land, while outline approval will be given for the remaining tranches.
Sports England had objected to the Penwortham Mills plans on the basis that it wanted more clarity about what a £150,000 “sports development” contribution from the applicant would be spent on - and whether it was sufficient to cover the increased demand likely to be generated by the new homes.
The Vernon Carus Sports Club, which lies to the north of the development, is - like the reservoir - also to be transferred to the council in due course from Lane End Development. But papers presented to the committee note that, unlike under a previously approved application dating back to 2015, the facility is not within the boundary of the current proposals.
In spite of that - and the fact that the sports club is not owned by THT - it was noted that the £150,000 contribution agreed as part of the previous planning permission remained unchanged and would help improve the venue. The money paid out for the remediation of the reservoir was also considered to be helping to create “a major area of outdoor amenity space”.
Officers were therefore satisfied to recommend approval of the applications - irrespective of the Sports England objection - concluding that that promised payment was an “acceptable and appropriate” means of upgrading Vernon Carus. Any land deal or payment relating to the sports club was “wholly independent of any [planning] permission granted”, members were told.
Having sought further assurances on the sports funding during the debate, Cllr Will Adams said that he believed the overall scheme would benefit “not just Penwortham, but the wider area in terms of what this could bring…and what [it] would do for people’s health and wellbeing”.
As the Post revealed earlier this year, the Vernon Carus Sports Club forms a major part of South Ribble Borough Council's bid for cash from the government's Levelling Up Fund. The authority is seeking £7.6m to bring to life a blueprint that it unveiled last year to create what deputy council leader Mick Titherington described as a “centre of excellence” for sport - including a new two-storey pavilion building, a 3G pitch, two multi-use games areas, the refurbishment or rebuilding of the boxing club and the construction of a new bowls shelter.
The plans also feature options for a new BMX track and upgraded parking facilities - and the potential for a 4G pitch to be created on adjoining Cardinal Newman College land, subject to their agreement.
Meanwhile, new viewing points and picnic spots could be developed overlooking the Lake Wood Reservoir on the plot – as well as a storage area for equipment to be used for water sports.
The council has proposed to create new ‘active transport’ links to form better connections to the Vernon Carus site by bike. For that, the authority is requesting a further £2m, as part of a £13m overall bid - to be supplemented by £1.65m from its own coffers - which would also see Penwortham's main shopping areas given a radical overhaul.