Barnoldswick’s three-way supermarket saga took a sensational twist on Monday night at a special meeting of Pendle Council’s West Craven Committee.
Councillors unanimously approved an outline application for a 3,500 sq. m. industrial unit, a 3,348 sq. m. food store and a 233-space car park on Albert Hartley’s Crownest Mill site off Skipton Road.
This, after planning officers had recommended it to be refused on grounds of cumulative size with two other applications for supermarkets down for approval.
That would have meant a “detrimental impact on the vitality and viability of Barnoldswick’s existing town centre”.
Instead, both applications from Pendle Projects Ltd to demolish on a conservation area and then to build a 1,472 sq. m. Aldi and 70-space on the Skipton Road Business Park were refused despite a recommendation for approval.
Fears were raised about the suitability of the Aldi store design on ground that is a conservation area and the fact the “deep-discount” nature of the store could take away some town centre trade.
An application for a 3,344 sq. m. Tesco on the L and P Springs site off Wellhouse Road was also refused, against recommendations for approval, on the grounds the then cumulative size of the store along with the approved application at the Albert Hartley site would be too much for the town.
Albert Hartley Ltd’s bid seemed to find favour with councillors after hearing bosses were to create an apprenticeships school on site to provide skills and jobs for the next generation.
Ahead of the meeting, bosses at Albert Hartley said they would be left with “no option” than to relocate the business if the application was turned down, which, according to the firm, would result in 122 jobs lost in the town.
Pendle Council planning officers, West Craven Committee chairman Coun. David Whipp and Albert Hartley bosses are now in negotiations on the legal agreement, notably the amount of Section 106 funding as part of the deal, which Coun. Whipp pushed to raise for increased “promotional activities” for Barnoldswick’s town centre.
The application will then be referred to the Secretary of State who may choose to make a decision on the application or refer it back to Pendle Council for a decision notice.
The meeting, which lasted four hours, heard from 20 different speakers in front of a packed audience at the Rolls-Royce Leisure Club.
Evidence in support of a supermarket included a statistic that 80% of people did their main shopping at supermarkets in nearby Colne and Skipton which resulted in up to £25m. a year going out of Barnoldswick’s economy.
On news of an approved plan, Chris Soper, Managing Director of Albert Hartley said: “We are delighted the council is supportive of our application to enable us to stay and build a new Albert Hartley in Barnoldswick and protect the jobs of our loyal workforce and secure the future of textiles in the area.”
Marketing of the food store is already underway and inquiries about occupying it have already been received by developer Capital and Centric.
However, not everybody was left happy with the result.
Mark Taylforth, from Pendle Projects Ltd, behind the Aldi bid, said: “We are disappointed that after all the work between us and the planning officers which resulted in a recommendation for approval, this was ignored by the committee.
“We are now considering our position.”
Meanwhile, an L and P Springs spokesman said: “We are devastated by the committee decision and the setback on planned investment is a serious blow to our business in Barnoldswick and we will need to review our plans.
“It was disappointing that the material facts of our detailed application were not debated by members, in particular, our local skilled engineering workforce along with our significant commercial links with Silentnight.”
Doug Wilson, from Tesco, added: “We are in a contract with Liberty Properties and the L and P Springs site remains our preferred site for a supermarket store.”
Before a decision was made by councillors, Simon Williams, representing to Co-op store at the meeting, said the Co-op would consider its own long-term future in Barnoldswick if one of the larger supermarket applications was passed.
An appeal for a previous Tesco application submitted in November last year is also due to be heard on Tuesday, October 2nd.