Can people power win the day for huge mill development plan?

An artist's impression of the new look historic Holmes Mill, Greenacre Street, Clitheroe. (s)
An artist's impression of the new look historic Holmes Mill, Greenacre Street, Clitheroe. (s)

Clitheroe residents have come out in force to show an unprecedented level of support for one man’s vision to create hundreds of jobs after planning chiefs threatened to shelve the plans.

More than 1,100 people have so far signed a petition supporting a proposal to transform Clitheroe’s derelict Holmes Mill into a multi-million pound leisure complex.

James and Andrew Warburton at Holmes Mill. (s)

James and Andrew Warburton at Holmes Mill. (s)

And around 450 have left comments of support on signing the petition, started following the news that Ribble Valley Borough Council’s planning officers were recommending the plans for refusal.

But, in a new twist to proceedings, the application, which was due to be discussed at a meeting of Ribble Valley Borough Council’s planning committee on Thursday, was deferred following new submissions.

Applicant James Warburton, owner of Emporia Leisure, presented committee members with additional information to consider which means councillors, alongside statutory consultees such as the Environment Agency and Lancashire County Council highways, will have to be consulted again.

Mr Warburton said: “I am very disappointed the Holmes Mill application was deferred by the Ribble Valley Borough Council planning committee. We had a really positive reception from the councillors during a site visit and presentation earlier in the week and thought we had the support we needed to see the plans approved on Thursday.

James Warburton has his home town’s interest at heart and a ‘can do’ attitude.

Sam Turner

“There was some additional information we provided to committee members, principally with regard to traffic and parking, that due to time constraints and problems with the council’s IT was not readily available to all committee members.

“We are now waiting for confirmation the proposals will be on the agenda for the next committee meeting in early March. Until then the rejuvenation of Holmes Mill remains on hold.”

The proposal to convert the Grade II Listed mill in Greenacre Street into 31 apartments, a 1,500 person capacity gym, a swimming pool, office space, brewing hall, delicatessen, bakery, restaurant and food hall, has been widely welcomed by the community.

Sam Turner, of Leyland, who signed the petition, said: “This is a fabulous proposal for redevelopment of one of Clitheroe’s iconic buildings. James Warburton has his home town’s interest at heart and a ‘can do’ attitude.”

Steve Davis, of Clitheroe, said: “1,000th signature, in less than two days. I think this says it all about what the actual residents of Clitheroe want.”

Jane Burgess, of Clitheroe, said: “I think this will be an asset to Clitheroe. It will generate much needed tourism as well as providing jobs for local people.”

Ben Ferguson, of Manchester, said: “Will be a lovely extension to our town which will open up some history to its locals. It’s a must for our town. And it will provide somewhere for all the people living in the ‘thousands of new homes they have passed planning on’ to go!”

Mr Warburton has expressed his thanks to everyone who has shown their support for this scheme in person, in print or via social media.

Urging people to “keep it up”, he added: “I have never known anything like it.”

The borough council’s planning officers have recommended refusal because of a lack of off-street parking and the likely traffic movements which would be generated by the development which they say would “lead to conditions detrimental to highway safety”.

Their report to the planning committee says: “The proposal has a harmful impact upon the special architectural and historic interest of Holmes Mill, the character and appearance of Clitheroe Conservation Area and the setting of 56-60 Moor Lane (listed Grade II) and Clitheroe Castle Historic Park and Garden (listed Grade II).”

The recommendation says the proposed renovation could lead to “the loss or alteration of important historic fabric and planform intrinsic to the significance and understanding of the integrated mill complex, its functioning and evolution; the prominent and incongruent design of the new ‘weaving sheds’ building and the prominence and intrusion of advertisements”.