County hall spending on doomed IKEA site revealed

Council spending digging up the proposed site for Ikea stands at almost 1m, the Post can reveal
Council spending digging up the proposed site for Ikea stands at almost 1m, the Post can reveal

County Hall bosses have splashed out almost £1m on digging up the abandoned IKEA site near Bamber Bridge, the Post can reveal.

And there are plans to throw even more cash at it in the next few days, even though the Swedish furniture giant has no intention of returning.

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Today a district councillor, whose ward includes the 160-acre Cuerden plot, called on the county authority to "stop and think before squandering any more public money on their hopes and dreams."

Tory Paul Wharton, who represents Farington East on South Ribble Council, stormed: "This whole situation is a farce.

"It’s shocking to hear the vast amount of public money wasted by the county council in my ward at a time when my residents are being told road safety measures won’t be implemented due to lack of funds, and roads desperately in need of resurfacing can’t be done due to no money in the pot."

Preparatory work on the Lancashire Central site near the end of the M65 was abruptly halted in May when IKEA, who had been seen as the "anchor" firm to attract other big retail names, caused a huge shock by pulling out.

LCC has said the bill for preparatory works on site, which began months before the IKEA announcement, had reached £927,522 by the time the company abandoned its plan for a megastore.

It has also been revealed £2.4m in total has been spent so far on work at the Cuerden ‘Lancashire Central’ development.

The IKEA spending, up to May 19, was revealed after the Post submitted a Freedom of Information request to County Hall.

This week, in a statement, LCC insisted the money was not lost, as the work already done on the site was an "important investment that will be of benefit to future investors."

And the council's spokesperson revealed work is about to restart to protect the temporary roads and drainage from the ravages of a Lancashire winter.

"The site preparatory work we've carried out so far is not abortive work. It is an important investment that will be of benefit to future investors, enabling new development activity to pick up quickly with the infrastructure already in place.

"Our firm intention is that this site will be developed and we are working with our partners including Eric Wright and Brookhouse, to develop the best options now IKEA is no longer involved.

"The preparatory work was temporarily stopped while we took stock of the IKEA decision. However later this month, the county council will be recommencing work to protect and weather-proof the temporary roads and drainage on-site so that new work can start again as soon as the way forward has been agreed.

"This work will take a few months, with the majority of the activity taking place within the area of the previous temporary work."

Talks have been going on during the last three months to try and find a replacement "anchor" business to draw in shoppers from a wide area.

Without one it is feared other retail giants may be reluctant to move to Cuerden, despite its location close to major transport links.

The LCC statement added: "The council and our partners are in discussion with businesses about locating to this site and once these are confirmed we will provide an update.

"The council is very clear that Cuerden continues to be a key development site. It is an excellent economic development opportunity, strategically located at the start of the M65 and just off the M6, with planning permission and with excellent access throughout the whole of the county.

"Creating new jobs for people and developing the economy in Lancashire, including on this site, continues to be one of our key priorities.

"As previously stated by the council, IKEA has made it clear it will no longer be coming to this site and this positon has not changed."