Plans to develop a multi-million pound business and recreation park creating 2,000 jobs are set to be decided by council planners.
Hyndburn council planning officers have recommended the development next to Junction 6 of the M65 motorway for approval, despite objections from Blackburn with Darwen Council, county highways bosses and letters from more than 20 local residents.
The final decision will be made by councillors at a planning committee meeting on Wednesday, July 22.
The Observer reported earlier this year that proposals were drawn up to transform the 85-acre agricultural site into a new mixed-use employment zone, including a pub or restaurant, hotel, hot food takeaway, petrol station and industrial units.
Commercial property developers Praxis said they are hoping to create ‘the largest future employment site in Lancashire’.
If approved, work could start as soon as October this year with the first buildings being occupied by 2017 and the whole site completed by 2021.
Up to 2,000 permanent jobs are expected to be created, including more than 400 office-based roles and an extra 200 temporary construction jobs.
The developers would provide £283,000 under a planning agreement for cycleway links, a travel plan and a public art scheme.
A further £950,000 of highway works are also proposed and would be implemented through an agreement with the county council.
Blackburn with Darwen Council has objected to the plans due to a ‘lack of appropriate phasing in terms of the proposed “main town centre uses”’ and warned more consideration needs to be given to ‘potential transport impacts’.
Lancashire County Council highways department has also objected, citing no access or parking being available from the south of the site.
The lead local flood authority at county hall is also against the scheme due to the ‘removal and building over’ of watercourses and the ‘significant loss of habitat for species’.
Documents sent to Hyndburn council show that more than 700 nearby homes and businesses have been notified about the plans, with around 20 letters of objection submitted.
The objectors claim the development would devalue their properties, cause extra traffic and noise pollution and increase in HGV deliveries during the day and night.
They also claim there are enough pubs and takeaways in the area and it should be created on other brownfield sites or in Accrington town centre.
Documents previously sent to the council by agents Ancer Spa Ltd said local businesses were ‘generally very positive’, however a ‘majority of residents’ on the south side of the site are opposed to the plans.
It follows a public consultation day at The Red Lion in February attended by 125 people where 15 out of 19 response forms were negative.
Ancer Spar said amendments have been made to the scheme following the comments to ‘address some of the concerns raised’.
They said: “There are few other similar opportunities in the local area and indeed the surrounding sub-region and it is vital that such investment is not lost to the area.”
A report prepared for the planning committee meeting by Hyndburn council said the site at Whitebirk has been allocated for employment use ‘for many years’.
It said although the plans are ‘not entirely consistent with those envisaged by the Hyndburn Core Strategy’ it would deliver ‘significant economic benefits’ to the area and ‘should be supported’.
The report also said the scheme would ‘not have an adverse impact on local town centres or nearby town centres’.
What do you think of the plans? Write to our letters page.