A CONTROVERSIAL property owner has vowed to realise his dream of redeveloping a gutted Accrington manor house despite yet another setback.
Last week thieves stole £10,000 worth of roof slates from derelict Owl Hall, at the top of Plantation Road, almost exactly a year after it was ravaged in an arson attack.
But Hyndburn’s planning department has conditionally approved property developer Peter Broadley’s latest application for five luxury houses at the site. The scheme will go before the Planning Committee on Wednesday.
Shortly after last October’s fire, Mr Broadley withdrew proposals to convert the 140-year-old house into an 18-dwelling housing scheme, following fierce objections from residents, councillors and even MP Greg Pope.
Among fears raised were the volume of traffic on the cobbled road leading to the hall and claims that dozens of trees would have to be cut down, which Mr Broadley strongly denied.
Following a spate of thefts of copper and lead piping, and incidents involving congregating youths, Mr Broadley put up temporary railings to secure the site.
But again these were lambasted by residents and local councillors amid a dispute over whether he needed planning permission to build a fence on an unadopted road.
If his latest scaled-down proposals are approved, Mr Broadley, who lives in Rising Bridge, will be philosophical about the latest thefts.
He said: "Somebody must have seen the thieves. There’s no way they cannot have been seen as they must have been here for at least a full day. It’s just something I’ll have to take on the chin."
He added: "I can only do what the planning officers want me to do. Now I’ve reduced it to five houses so I’m doing the minimum that I can."
John Ledwick, who was among residents opposed to the first application, admitted the revised plans were "a big improvement" but still a compromise.
He said: "I’d ideally like to see the hall reinstated to its original condition. The other major concerns affecting most residents were that a lot of trees have been felled on the site over the years and the cobbled track has been there for something like 200 years and there’s nothing similar in the whole of Accrington.
"His original intention was for 18 houses and that road just isn’t wide enough for that amount of traffic, but for five you could probably get away with it."
Police said they were appealing for information after the theft of 5,000 slates from Owl Hall between Tuesday 14 and Friday 17 October. Anyone with information is asked to contact them on 0845 125 3545 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.