THE former owner of a notorious Great Harwood nightclub, gutted by arsonists in 2005, has applied for permission to build a housing estate at the same location.
Ian Jackson wants to build 37 three and four-bedroom houses and 12 two-bedroom apartments on the blighted site of the former Monroes nightclub and The Showground, the former home of Great Harwood Town FC.
Monroes closed amid accusations of drug-dealing on the premises but, shortly after Clitheroe-based Mr Jackson won a marathon court case in which he was cleared of turning a blind eye to drug-taking at the club, it was destroyed by a huge blaze after arsonists drove a car through the front door.
If the new plans go ahead he has offered to invest £300,000 to fund changing rooms for use by Great Harwood Rovers FC’s 18 youth teams and the wider community at the nearby Lyndon House playing fields.
Currently the players have to come ready changed and officials change in a steel shipping container.
Great Harwood Town FC, which was unconnected to Rovers, folded three years ago after vandals torched the stand and demolished the dug-out.
A previous application for 32 two-storey houses and six bungalows on the site was withdrawn last August.
That had been recommended for refusal by planning officers under the council’s open space policy as it involved developing green field land. There were also concerns raised by the environmental health department over noise and smells from a nearby abattoir.
The new application states that the nearest house to the abattoir is now protected by a 70 metre buffer zone.
It also proposes that the Lyndon House fields, for which Rovers signed a 25-year lease two years ago, should be reclassified as recreational land to overcome any open spaces objection.
The application cites claims that police raids at the nightclub in 2003 recovered drugs including amphetamine, heroin and Ecstasy, and weapons including an axe, knives and baseball bats.
It adds: "The site has caused residents many problems over the years from vandalism to noise levels and drug abuse associated with the nightclub. The local community is in strong support of the proposal."
Sarah Walmsley, of agents AJH Associates, said: "The site has a very colourful history which is well known within the local community. The proposed development is to give it a new lease of life, allowing it to be of benefit to the community rather than its current eyesore and hindrance."
Andy Counsell, Great Harwood Rovers club secretary, claimed that one FA representative had described its current facilities as the worst he’d ever seen.
He added that if the plans were rejected the Community Charter Standard club could be set back by up to 10 years, due to the need for alternative financing.
He added: "The Showground is a mess and it’s probably becoming dangerous. It’s either an eyesore or a housing development, I don’t see that there are any other options.
"When the changing rooms have been completed we plan to offer the facility out to local schools, clubs, societies, pubs and community groups."