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250 affordable homes may appear on Salthouse Mills site

NW Evening Mail, 30 April 2010

A COUNCIL U-turn could see hundreds of affordable homes built on a derelict site.

In Barrow Borough Council’s 2007 Local Development Framework plan, the council insisted that housing development at Salthouse Mills would not be permitted until 2015, after the completion of the council’s own 650-home waterfront Marina Village.

But Phil Huck, director of regeneration and community services, admitted the council had since had a change of heart after the owners of the site objected.

Mr Huck said: “We changed it inresponse to representations from the owners of the site.”

The council altered the area action plan in May 2009.

The action plan was then submitted to the Secretary of State in August 2009.

Inspector Jeremy Youle, of the Planning Inspectorate, is due to publish his report next month, which could grant permission to allocate Salthouse Mills as a housing development.

Mr Huck said: “Salthouse Mills is in an area action plan, it’s in there for an allocation for housing.

There are issues with the site, access is one. There is an element of flooding risk, so there are constraints on the site.”

Mr Huck said the changes to the framework plan meant the owners of Salthouse Mills would no longer have to wait until the completion of the marina.

He said: “There are no constraints in terms of time for its development. The area action plan was heard by an inspector in March this year, and we are expecting his report in May or June.

“If the inspector agrees with the plan then the owners could begin seeking planning permission to develop the site.”

According to the framework, homes at the industrial eyesore would have to be eco-friendly and respect Cavendish Dock’s future as a nature conservation water park.

The area action plan says that the existing access to Salthouse Mills from St Luke’s Avenue and under a bridge would be unacceptable and a new one would have to be built on the east of the site, off Rampside Road.

The U-turn has been welcomed by Barrow fire chiefs, who say that existing cylinders and the insecurity of the building are currently putting firefighters’ lives at risk.

Mark Ducie, watch manager at Barrow fire station, said firefighters have been ordered not to enter the building when attending fires.

Mr Ducie said: “Salthouse Mills is a nuisance, it is a derelict building and the last thing we want to be doing is pouring Cavendish Dock on to an empty building.

“At the moment our orders are issued to defensive fire fight only. Under no circumstances are we putting personnel at risk. This creates a moral dilemma if there is someone trapped inside and we would respond to that.”

The fire service has held regular discussions with the council, police and owners of the site in a bid to prevent future nuisance fires.

Mr Ducie said: “We had a meeting last week with the owners, the council and the police, to try and improve the situation. We want increased security and changes made to prevent youths from accessing the site and building and starting anti-social fires.”

Since January, the fire service has been called to the site on 16 occasions, a total of 14 hours.

Those 14 hours could have been used to complete up to 30 home safety checks in Barrow.

Mr Ducie said: “We would welcome improvements to the site because it is a huge drain on resources. We would welcome some sort of progress, whether that be demolition or regeneration.”

There are currently three businesses based at Salthouse Mills – Furness Heat Treatment, Dixon’s Forge and Furness Joinery.

Furness Heat Treatment is owned by Steve Atkinson, producing hardened metal products for customers including BAE in Barrow.

Mr Atkinson, a father-of-three, said: “The first I knew about all this was when you (Evening Mail) told me. I’ve been here 15 years and I’ll have nowhere else to go. The rent here is very reasonable and it would be hard to find somewhere as an alternative.

“I’ve got a big mortgage and three kids, and I’m going to be out of work.”

Mr Atkinson shares his 4,000 square foot unit with Dave Dixon, who owns Dixon’s Forge and also lists BAE as one of his clients. The pair pay a total of £470 rent each month.

Mr Dixon said: “It will be hard for us to find somewhere else, we only need a small site but we use a lot of power and our work is quite noisy.”

Michael McMurtha, owner of Furness Joinery, has been in his unit at Salthouse Mills for more than 20 years, employing four members of staff.

Mr McMurtha said: “I’m not one for stopping progress, we just have to accept it. We’ll have to look for somewhere else but we won’t be able to find anywhere as cheap.”

The site’s owner, Tudorwin, a subsidiary of Manchester-based development firm Amstone, confirmed that it would be seeking planning permission to build 250 mid-range homes on the site.

A spokesman for Amstone said: “We have a process of planning to go through, once we get that application we would give current business tenants at the site as much notice as possible and that’s the most important thing.

“The development we would be looking to create on the site would be geared towards what would be required in Barrow, there is an awful lot of affordable housing, so we would be probably looking at building 250 two, three and four-bedroom semi-detatched properties.

“It will take some time, it’s not going to happen overnight, but we are quite confident the
Planning Inspectorate inspector will say we can have the site for housing. At the moment we are increasing security on the site but the problem is that people are very determined and that makes it hard.”


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