Council leader hits out at plans to build more than 200 homes on a ‘thriving’ business park
Date published: 06 August 2020
Councillor Allen Brett met with traders at Fieldhouse Industrial Estate
The leader of Rochdale Council has hit out at plans to build more than 200 homes on a ‘thriving’ business park .
Countryside Properties says it will be applying for permission for ‘a residential development of 206 dwellings’ at Fieldhouse Industrial Estate, in Rochdale.
The 13-acre site is home to upwards of 70 businesses and worried traders fear that being forced to relocate could put them out of business.
Countryside claims the proposed estate would be a ‘safe and attractive place to live’ and ‘contribute positively’ to the local area.
Rochdale Council leader Allen Brett has now thrown his weight behind a campaign to save the site, declaring ‘we need more firms in Rochdale not less’.
The site, which includes historic Fieldhouse Mill, is earmarked as an employment zone under Rochdale’s local plan and Councillor Brett insists this will not change.
He said: “It’s a prime employment area, we have enough housing sites without taking prime employment sites out for it.
“It’s part of our local plan, all the businesses are thriving there, they can survive there, and we need employment. I’m very much backing these people.”
His comments were echoed by Healey ward councillor Kieran Heakin, who said there were plenty of other sites in the borough more suitable for housing.
“It’s not a priority for housing. The priority at the moment is for jobs especially as, with coronavirus, jobs are scarce and we want to give people in employment as much confidence as possible,” he said.
“If it does come to council it will not get past planning. They will reject it because it’s not part of our policy.”
Business owners were devastated after receiving a letter from BizSpace last year confirming plans to sell the site for residential use were being ‘explored’.
And their anxiety was only deepened after they discovered more detailed proposals had been submitted in response to the latest consultation on the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF).
Now Countryside’s declaration of an imminent planning application has sparked renewed fears among business owners, who say as many as 1,000 jobs could be on the line.
John Horne of Dale Event Hire said: “We have been on the site for 15 years and if it closes it would be impossible to get an alternative site within Rochdale. I am in favour of building more housing, but not at the expense of small businesses.
“If Rochdale is to prosper it needs small businesses. Use brownfield sites to build on but only if they are derelict. This site is not derelict, it has 70 businesses trading on it, relying on it for their livelihoods.”
Sam Hopley, who launched his WallpaperShop.online business in 2018 voiced similar concerns:
“Redevelopment of the site would most likely put me out of business or force me to move out of Rochdale potentially putting my staff out of employment too. With the uncertainty of the site now looming over us I’m not sure what the future now holds,” he said.
“I fear the cost of relocation and the loss of sales whilst we are closed due to relocation, would cripple my business.”
Carol Jackson, of Bright ‘n’ Breezy Cafe added: “The redevelopment of Fieldhouse would close my 15-year-old catering business down. We are well established and worked hard as a family to create this business. But any redevelopment would simply put myself and both my daughters out of work.”
And Ken Lynch of the Serious Brewing Co said the sale of the estate would be ‘a huge blow’ for his firm as relocating isn’t a straight-forward process.
“Even if we find other accommodation it will be very complicated and expensive to move all our large equipment, cold store, and stock. We’d have to prepare new premises, reinstall everything, apply and wait for new licenses and we wouldn’t be able to brew whilst doing all this,” he said.
“Coming after lockdown makes this worse as we have been operating on reserves for the most part due to our entire customer base being forced to close.
“Even now pubs are opening, not all our regular customers have been able to open and none of them are operating at full capacity. We’re a small family business and we fear we may not be able to afford to relocate unless we can be compensated in some way.”
However, Countryside says it intends to push on with its plans which it says will ultimately improve the area.
A spokesman said: “We are in the process of liaising with residents and businesses regarding our plans to provide much-needed housing in Rochdale and we have invited them to comment on our proposals.
It is a priority for us to ensure members of the local community are kept informed throughout the planning process. Our development at Fieldhouse Road will create a safe and attractive place to live, contributing positively to the local economy and enhancing the surrounding area.”
A spokesman for BizSpace added: “We have two business centres in Rochdale and are currently exploring interest in our site on Fieldhouse Road from a housebuilder, which is preparing a planning application to convert it to residential use given the shortage of housing in the area.
“Any sale would be subject to a number of conditions, including site surveys and securing planning consent. We have made customers aware of this process and will update them when there is any firm news.
“For now though, it is business as usual. Whatever the outcome, we are committed to supporting our small business customers, treating them fairly and helping them continue to operate and grow their businesses.”
A petition opposing redevelopment launched by Carol Jackson of Bright ‘n’ Breezy cafe has already attracted nearly 500 signatures.
Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter
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