Preston village office park approved on site which has been a foot and mouth response centre and air traffic control base

Dozens of office units are set to be built in rural Preston on a site that was at the centre of the response to the nationwide foot and mouth disease outbreak more than 20 years ago.

Sunday, 5th June 2022, 11:03 am

The new facilities will spring up on land south of Barton village, just off the A6, Garstang Road. The plot – part of a wider area known as Barton Hall – is already occupied by a series of buildings, the majority of which will be demolished to make way for the new scheme.

The location is classed as open countryside under Preston’s local plan and, although already developed, would not normally be deemed suitable for the scale of construction proposed.

However, the blueprint was recently given the go-ahead by Preston City Council’s planning committee, after members heard that permission already existed for the current premises to operate as offices – meaning that the applicant could take advantage of this so-called “fallback” position if councillors refused to approve the modern replacements proposed.

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How some of the new offices at Barton Hall will look (image via Preston City Council planning portal (agent: Cassidy + Ashton Group Limited)

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“The buildings are in a decent state of repair and…could reopen tomorrow and be used for offices,” planning case officer Claire Booth told the committee.

She added: “Part of the proposed development is to retain…[a] two-storey building within the site and refurbish it – and that building will form a communal meeting room hub for the proposed office units. They also propose to retain a single-storey building to be used for storage purposes.

“The proposals…will not have a detrimental impact on the landscape.”

The site – currently in partial use by the applicant, Midas Land Limited - was previously used by the Royal Air Force and, in the 1970s, as an air traffic control centre.

In later years, it was taken over by the government’s Ministry of Agriculture and, under its successor – the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) – became the main office base for co-ordinating the control of foot and mouth disease in 2001.

The approved plans will see 38 new single-storey offices created on the plot. With glazed frontages, they will be split across two levels within the site and will range between 42 and 97 square metres in size.

The site is accessed from an existing narrow track and 131 car parking spaces will be available following the redevelopment At the request of Lancashire County Council highways officials, electric car charging points will be included, while two open-air bus stops on Garstang Road will also be upgraded to fearure shelter.

County Hall had raised concerns over previous plans for the scheme which would have seen the new units offered for industrial use – putting a question mark over whether the HGVs likely to be required for that purpose could have accessed the site.

Planning committee member, Cllr Javed Iqbal, asked what was to stop the applicant from bidding to build more offices on the surrounding land they own “a few years down the road”.

Claire Booth said the fact that the wider area had never previously been developed would mean that “the countryside protection policies of this council would come into force”.

The committee also heard that a group of trees suffering from ash dieback on the site would be removed during the redevelopment and replaced.