Residents get ready to restart fight against petrol station plan for former village pub in Mellor Brook

Residents of a village on the border of South Ribble and Ribble Valley have vowed to renew their fight against plans to build a petrol station and convenience store on the site of a derelict pub – which have already been rejected three times.
The Windmill Hotel in Mellor Brook closed down in 2014 - and it has been eyed as the site of a new petrol station for the past five yearsThe Windmill Hotel in Mellor Brook closed down in 2014 - and it has been eyed as the site of a new petrol station for the past five years
The Windmill Hotel in Mellor Brook closed down in 2014 - and it has been eyed as the site of a new petrol station for the past five years

A group of locals in Mellor Brook hoped that they had finally seen the back of the controversial proposal for the former Windmill Hotel, on Preston New Road, when it was thrown out by South Ribble Borough Council back in March.

Councillors on the authority’s planning committee unanimously refused the application – from Preston-based Spar retailer and wholesaler, James Hall and Co. – which would have seen a forecourt and shop spring up on the corner plot, at the junction with Branch Road

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Members concluded that the development would have caused “increased disturbance” and had a “detrimental impact” on those living nearby.

A group of Mellor Brook residents celebrating the refusal of planning permission for the proposed redevelopment of the Windmill Hotel SiteA group of Mellor Brook residents celebrating the refusal of planning permission for the proposed redevelopment of the Windmill Hotel Site
A group of Mellor Brook residents celebrating the refusal of planning permission for the proposed redevelopment of the Windmill Hotel Site
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Windmill pub petrol station plan is driven out by villagers - again

It was the second time that the committee had dismissed the boomerang blueprint for the site, after first refusing planning permission in February 2018. Later the same year, a planning inspector upheld that decision, ruling that residents would be unable to get any “respite” from the noise generated by the proposed operation.

The company argued that the 2021 version of its plans was a “100 percent improvement” on what had originally been put forward – and council planning officers recommended that the bid be approved on that occasion, having previously advised it be turned down – but councillors were unconvinced..

However, the firm has now lodged a last-minute appeal against the latest refusal – making this the fourth time it has attempted to get permission for the redevelopment of the site.

Locals say that the building is an eyesore - but they still don't want to see a petrol station in its placeLocals say that the building is an eyesore - but they still don't want to see a petrol station in its place
Locals say that the building is an eyesore - but they still don't want to see a petrol station in its place
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Ann Wainwright, one of the residents opposed to the proposal – which attracted over 400 objections earlier this year – said that locals were gearing up their efforts to drive the petrol station plans out of the village once and for all.

“We’re going to battle like they’re going to battle. We are disappointed [with the appeal], but from [James Hall and Co’s] point of view, it’s the last throw of the dice for them – they have no doubt put so much money in and tried so hard to get permission.

“But the roads are busy enough – [this would cause] a six-fold traffic increase on Branch Road.

“And where else would you find 22 homes literally facing onto a petrol station? Look at any petrol station in Lancashire and you might get eight properties surrounding it, not 22.

The disused pub is in an increasingly dilapidated stateThe disused pub is in an increasingly dilapidated state
The disused pub is in an increasingly dilapidated state
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“There are six homes that are going to have headlights in their bedroom and living room windows every time a car leaves these premises – so they’re going to have no peace whatsoever.

“I’m just at the side [of the site] and I’ll have a big fence next to me and all the noise. Another lady’s bedroom and bathroom windows are just feet from where the petrol station would be – I can’t imagine what her life is going to be like if it gets passed,” Ann added.

The planning committee’s most recent refusal was based, in part, on concerns about “increased activity, both within the site and [on] the highway”.

However, Lancashire County Council – the authority responsible for most of the region’s roads – has not objected to the plans in any of the forms in which they have been presented.

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During the March meeting, David Wallbank – a transport and highways consultant for James Hall and Co. – stressed that the suggested six-fold explosion in traffic did not mean that there would be six times as many vehicles using the surrounding roads.

“The majority of these [customers] will be passing the site along Branch Road or Preston New Road in any event,” he said.

The agent for the application, Deborah Smith, told members that the latest proposal was “very different” to the earlier iteration – and that there were no grounds to refuse it again after council officers agreed that it would not have a significant adverse impact on residents, provided the appropriate mitigation measures were put in place.

Ann says that, this time around, villagers are going to have to raise the cash to fund their part in the public inquiry which has been sparked by the appeal, after a benefactor supported them at the last such hearing four years ago.

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“We just have to hope [the fact] that an inspector has already turned it down and a unanimous [planning committee] decision has turned it down is enough for the new inspector to say, ‘Why is this even here?’

“The building is an eyesore and a lot of the neighbours are [fed up] of looking at it – but the thought of [having] a petrol station there is keeping us going.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that the inquiry will take place in mid-December, after which a planning inspector will decide whether to uphold the council’s refusal of permission or reverse it.

James Hall and Co. declined to comment on the appeal.