Fury over 42 homes at eyesore

Sharron Murphy at the Initial Washrooms site
Sharron Murphy at the Initial Washrooms site

A property developer is hoping a long-running planning battle can finally be resolved with his application to build on the site of one of Chorley’s worst eyesores.

Elmwood Construction have submitted plans to Chorley Council for 42 two-storey properties on the ex-Initial Washrooms factory site on Harpers Lane.

It is almost three years since the iconic building was demolished leaving one office block still standing.

In October last year, the Guardian reported that Elmwood Construction wanted to put 50 homes on the site but it was later withdrawn.

Now, Philip Noblett of Elmwood Construction, hopes it will be second-time lucky.

He said: “The last scheme we were advised by Chorley Council at the 11th hour that we needed to withdraw it or it would be refused.

“The frustrating thing is that we had several meetings with the planners and they seemed happy with the plans.

“However, just when the application was going to be decided, the council found minor problems with it and we don’t know why we could have been told sooner.

“It has cost us a lot of money in terms of architect’s fees to get plans re-drawn and designed.

“We are hoping that it will be agreed this time and then work can start.

“The site has been lying as a vacant since we put in the initial planning application and three years down the line it is still there.

“We are in the middle of a recession so the potential for the site is even less now as not as many firms are building houses.”

Elmwood Construction say they’ve faced similar problems with another one of their projects at the former W M Lawrence and Sons building off Lyons Lane.

Mr Noblett added: “We submitted plans and they (the council) found problems with it.

“A new application is in the planning system and we are just waiting to find out if it has been successful.

“All we are trying to do is improve these eyesore sites.”

Locals say something has to be done to sort the former Initial site out as its only purpose has been as an unofficial pigeon shelter.

Sharron Murphy, 42, said: “This has been a long drawn out process and we have had to have the owners out a few times because of the weather.

“We were frightened of the corrugated roof blowing off and falling into ours.

“It looks like a rubbish tip and seems to have been going on for a long time.

“They need to do something about the buildings.

“Pigeons and all sorts could be there and I don’t want my five-year-old seeing a rat in my back garden.”

Another neighbour Thomas Dickinson, 78, said: “We have had one or two youths on the site and they have been throwing stones at our houses.

“It is a shambles and I think it looked better before some of the buildings were knocked down.”

Coun Alan Cullens, who is responsible for planning at Chorley Council, said: “It’s good to see a developer looking to build on this derelict site but it’s important that any planning application is suitable for the area.

“Last time there were a number of issues, including the layout, so the developer withdrew the application before it was turned down.

“A new planning application has been submitted and this will go through the usual procedure to be decided by the council.”