PNE owner's company to be billed by council for bush-cutting on the site of the club's new training ground
A company controlled by the billionaire owner of Preston North End Football Club, Trevor Hemmings, is to be sent a bill by Lancashire County Council - for trimming shrubs on its land.
The council says it attempted to contact the owner of the former Ingol Golf Course after concerns were raised about foliage from the site overhanging surrounding public footpaths. But the authority is now in the process of carrying out the work itself, after one councillor said he feared an accident.
A spokesperson for the landowner said Lancashire County Council is “well aware” of the company which owns the site and that neither the firm, nor its agent, has received any communications on the subject.
The golf course was closed last year, just months before PNE was granted planning permission to build a new training ground on part of the site. Up to 450 houses are set to be developed elsewhere on the land, whilst the remaining 42 hectares will become public open space.
Significant work on the training facility is yet to start. Last month, PNE’s chief executive, John Kay, told a fans’ forum that it could not be built “overnight” and that issues with drainage, water supply and the ability to access the site” still had to be overcome.
But Liberal Democrat councillor John Potter - who represents Preston West on Lancashire County Council - says he is more concerned with the safety of pedestrians outside the site than when players will finally be able to train inside.
“We’ve had concerns raised by residents that they just can’t safely get past [on part] of Lightfoot Lane. There is so much plant life overgrown, that the pavement - which is narrow anyway - is now completely covered.
“It’s hard for an able-bodied person - imagine if you were in a wheelchair, or you’ve got a pram, a toddler or a dog. Eventually there’ll be an accident,” Cllr Potter said.
And he added that Lightfoot Lane is often busy with construction traffic from nearby housing developments, making it unsafe to cross onto another very narrow pavement on the other side of the road.
Lancashire County Council has already cut back bushes on the Walker Lane side of the site and plans to carry out work on Lightfoot Lane shortly.
Rob Wilson, Highways Manager for the authority, said: “The overhanging shrubs close to Ingol Golf Course are all on private land.
"We've cut the shrubs back to remove the danger to vehicles and pedestrians. We'll be contacting the landowner to recover the costs for this work."
Mr. Hemmings’ spokesperson added that the company’s agent regularly visits the site and “has not experienced any problems”.
John Kay told the recent fans’ forum that ownership of the section of land on which the training ground is to be built has now been transferred to the club.
Mr. Hemmings, a businessman and racehorse owner, was ranked joint tenth in the Sunday Times regional rich list for the North West this year.
Cllr Potter - who also sits on Preston City Council and opposed PNE’s training ground application - says the “grand promises” made during that process are not being lived up to.
“It’s the responsibility of the landowner to maintain their area. This is non-public land spilling out and making it harder for the public to actually walk safely in this area.
“And whether it’s your garden or my garden, you have a duty to make sure it’s safe for people outside your land,” Cllr Potter said.
Preston North End Football Club was approached for comment.