Plans to develop the heart of Eccleston has divided locals
PUBLISHED: 17:57 06 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:40 20 February 2013
This picturesque village is going through major change and it has divided opinion among the locals. Amanda Griffiths reports Photography by Kirsty Thompson
Times are changing in Eccleston and the next few months will prove to be interesting for local people and visitors.
The focal point of the village, just west of Chorley, is the Carrington Centre, an old weaving mill housing a mix of shops, offices and light industry. Few would deny it has seen better days.
Now, there are plans by the current owners, Northern Trust, to replace it and build around 40 new houses. The company believes the plan is a realistic answer to redeveloping the centre.
But the plans have divided the community with some residents fearing the effect more housing will have on the long-term character of the village. Its a scenario being played out in towns and villages across the county.
Steve Fifoot and Frank Stoner are members of EC3, a group set up to keep local people informed of what is happening.
Weve had a number of public meetings, including a recent open weekend at a club in the village where people could come along and discuss the plans, said Steve. There was a minority on the day who felt new housing was good for the village because it could provide new homes for their children, who cant afford a home here. But we believe they are still very much in the minority.
There is development elsewhere in the village with 11 new houses on Lawrence Lane as well as 71 about to be built at Sagar House, the former Pontins office.
The latest plan involves the Carrington Centre being rebuilt with a supermarket at the rear, improved car parking and a parade of 11 shops for existing retailers including the post office, pharmacy and the library.
We cant stress enough the importance of maintaining our current retail offer and enhancing it for future generations of the village, says Steve.
I dont think its an exaggeration to say that the majority of local people are concerned about the long-term impact of building new homes in the village, says EC3 fellow member, Frank Stoner.
I believe 20 per cent of the houses are being classed as affordable. The definition of affordable as I understand it is properties that are sold below market value and only for people with links to the village. However, we understand that Northern Trusts definition is that they are the smaller two or three bedroom homes, on sale at market value.
Our concern is that if the council allow planning permission for these homes it will set a precedent for developers to build on other green space on the outskirts of the village, which in time could lead to Eccleston becoming a small town rather than the large village it is now.
There are concerns about traffic, it will also put more pressure on local facilities like the schools and doctors that are already full, and were worried about things like drainage and flooding, not just here but in villages down the river, like Croston.
But Mike Grindrod of Northern Trust believes more people are in favour of the development than EC3 suggests. Weve had more positive than negative feedback, he said. We have worked extensively with the tenants to make sure weve listened to their concerns.
Changes to the plans mean the new shops can be built while tenants remain trading in their current units, moving into their new premises before the Carrington Centre is demolished.
We realise the village needs its central services like the post office, pharmacy and library and have done everything we can to make sure that all the businesses can keep trading as long as possible, says Mike.
Were not a faceless London developer, were here, five minutes down the road. Most people who work for us live locally; we have staff living in Eccleston - were not about upsetting people. Its not in our interest to do so. We sincerely think were doing the best for the village that we can.
Most of the tenants are in favour of the development and the improvement of their working conditions. Were in a very difficult market at the moment and are spending a lot of money to create something special for the village.
This development represents a 10 million investment for the village; a percentage of the housing is affordable housing for locals; were replacing the newt pond with a deeper, larger surface area one to address ecological concerns and the new supermarket is likely to create around 100 new jobs for the village. Its also a resource for the surrounding villages, not just Eccleston.
If there are issues with highways they will come back during this planning process. Weve done our own surveys and believe there will be no impact on traffic in the village.
The Carrington Centre is a 100 year old former weaving mill. By no stretch of the imagination is it viable to carry on repairing the building. Were trying to build on the facilities Eccleston has already got and improve them.
Where is it? Eccleston can be found off of the A581 between Chorley and Southport.
Where to park? There is free car parking at the Carrington Centre which offers a number of retailers and is central for the village and the rest of the traders.
What can I do there? No visit to Eccleston would be complete without a visit to Bygone Times, in the second of the villages old mills. With more than 200 stalls selling everything from the unique to the antique there is plenty on offer for everyone. Theres even an old penny arcade and replica World War Two air raid shelter to discover as well.
The print version of this article appeared in the July 2011 issue of Lancashire Life
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