The Grill and Grain, off Bolton Road in Hoghton, was badly damaged in a huge blaze in April 2017. At its height, more than 60 firefighters were tackling the inferno at a location known as The Boatyard in Riley Green.
Chorley Council’s planning committee has now given the go-ahead to the demolition of the shell of the pub and its replacement with a two-storey building, which will become the head office of the currently Little Hoole-based developer Kingswood Homes.
An annex block – which is set into a slope on the site – will be retained and converted for either retail or office use.
The plot lies alongside the Leeds/Liverpool Canal, to the north, and is flanked to the east by Finningtons Marina.
However, a planning officer report presented to committee members described the spot as an “eyesore” which detracts from the potential visual appeal of the area.
Councillors were persuaded to approve the plans for the greenbelt location – in spite of the fact that development on the scale proposed would usually be prohibited.
For that reason, the matter will now have to be referred to the National Planning Casework Unit to determine whether the local government secretary wants to “call in” the council’s decision and either rubber stamp or overrule it.
The committee was told that the former owner of the pub had confirmed that it would not be viable to rebuild and reopen the hostelry, which had undergone a £1m refurbishment just months before it burned down.
Senior council planning officer Amy Aspinall said that the application had demonstrated the “very special circumstances” required to justify what would otherwise be considered inappropriate development in the greenbelt.
“It would…provide a high-quality, sympathetic design which reflects the historical use of the site as a boatyard, whilst also minimising its impact [via] the topography of the site.
“It would also remove a significant area of hardstanding adjacent to the canal and provide landscaping to improve biodiversity and the visual [appearance] of the canalside,” said Ms.Aspinall, who acknowledged that the new development would have a greater impact on the openness of the greenbelt than what is left of ther pub.
Committee member Cllr Harold Heaton said he had “fond memories” of the venue in previous incarnations.
“It used to be a good night out on Friday nights, [with a] DJ, karaoke and all that. I’m glad to see there is an application.to tidy the site up and build something on there,” Cllr Horton told his colleagues.
Fellow committee member Cllr Martin Boardman said that while he would not usually support greenbelt applications which involved the construction of a significantly bigger building than one which was being demolished, he believed that this particular plan served to improve the location.
“I think the building design is really appropriate for the setting, it is sympathetic to the surrounding areas. The reduction in the hardstanding is significant and I think the use of landscaping and regeneration of some of the green areas by the canal is pretty good,” he added.