A FURIOUS row has erupted over plans to develop an historic Victorian manor house just one month after it was gutted in a blaze believed to have been started by arsonists.
The 140-year-old Owl Hall, off Plantation Street, Accrington, which was built by the Hargreaves family, suffered 75 per cent damage to its roof.
At the time, owner Peter Broadley said he was looking to develop it by building 18 houses on the site – but his plans have now met with fierce objections from residents and councillors.
They involve converting a section of the building into four dwellings, with another three being built on the site of the former coach house which would be extended.
Blocks of four and five cottages would be built in the grounds along with two semi-detached houses.
But nearby residents are furious and this week they called in Hyndburn’s MP Greg Pope to look at the site. Their objections include:
- The site being overdeveloped.
- Inadequate access along the cobbled track at the top of Plantation Street.
- Increased traffic along the access road, causing danger for children using the parkland around nearby Arden Hall.
- Loss of trees on the site.
- Problems for wildlife with the loss of natural habitats.
In a statement they added: “The only argument in favour of this development seems to be that the site has for a long time been a location for various forms of illegal activity and it has suffered from neglect from a series of occupants.
“If this was a reason for granting planning permission, anyone with a plot of land on which they wanted to build could neglect it until they were given permission.”
The residents are being backed by the council’s Labour group leader, Graham Jones, who said: “I have battled in the past against dubious owners who have had no interest in the historic importance of the site.
“I feel that this scheme is being motivated by profit and greed.
“I don’t know anyone who is in favour of it. The idea of felling all these trees is just abhorrent and it is an example of historic and environmental vandalism.
“This is a really beautiful area.”
Mr Pope said: “It is clear people want to protect this area of beautiful countryside and I hope that when it goes before the council’s Planning Committee they will listen to the people and not simply ride roughshod over them.”
Mr Broadley has previously converted the old church at St John’s, Stonefold, into a private home.
He said: “The trees on the site are not the subject of any tree preservation order, so I would have been quite within my rights to chop them down – but I haven’t as that is not the way forward.
“When you start a project like this there is always some resistance as there was with the church – but that now looks far better than it did.
“These plans are for the good of the site.”