South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee has deferred a decision over the proposed development at the old Windmill Hotel on the A677 Preston New Road in Mellor Brook. The hostelry closed down seven years ago.
A similar retail plan was refused permission in 2017 and was the subject of an unsuccessful appeal the following year. A planning inspector at the time concluded that it would be out of character with the area and risked causing a noise disturbance to residents.
More than 270 objections have been lodged to a revised proposal by James Hall and Company Limited, which would see the shop relocated from the rear of the site to the front and the petrol forecourt set further back in an attempt to address the inspector’s finding that the filling station canopy would be at odds with the rest of the street scene.
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The main exit would be onto Branch Road, where a second entry point would also be created along with the existing one from the A677.
Highways bosses at Lancashire County Council have not opposed the current application – and neither did the planning inspector raise any issue about the roads when refusing the appeal in 2018 – but objectors claim that the junction plot is a dangerous location for the proposed scheme.
Sheila Wright, from the Mellor Brook Matters group, told a meeting of the planning committee that little had been done to address the previous reasons for refusing the proposal – other than “tokenistic window dressing”.
“No amount of tinkering can address the fundamental unsuitability of this site for this type of development,” said Ms. Wright, citing the inspector’s conclusion that noise generated would lead to “social harm” for those living nearby.
“The applicant’s own noise report specifically states that these matters are not capable of measurement – that means they are not capable of meaningful mitigation either,” she added.
Committee member James Flannery said that councillors were in a difficult position, because the authority’s own planning officers had concluded that the tweaked proposal meant the application was now in line with local policy.
However, he suggested “a compromise” – supported by the committee – of postponing a decision in order to seek further comment from the county council about the suitability of the plans from a highways perspective.
“The site has been redundant for seven years and now this is a solution to a problematic site. If we go against policy-compliant applications, it puts the council at risk [of losing an appeal], but nevertheless the feeling is strong from the community,” Cllr Flannery said.
Deborah Smith, the agent for the application, said that “considerable effort has gone into creating a scheme that is appropriate for the site”.
She added that the rethought plans were “significantly different” from those previously submitted – and accepted that the original blueprint for the store building was “bland and uninspiring”.
“The design and layout that’s been settled on seeks to reflect the location of the existing pub and in my view is a very well-designed, high-quality building,” Ms. Smith said.
However, referring to the last time the committee considered and refused the application. Cllr Barrie Yates demanded to know: “What has changed?”
The meeting also heard concerns about the potential impact of the new venture on an existing petrol station nearby, but councillors are unable to consider the effect of planning applications on other businesses.
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