Planning Applications

By the mid-1970s, with the firm’s financial position perilous, severely overdrawn and haemorrhaging money, they hit on one potential way out of the dilemma; that was to sell off an unused part of the site, for use as a potential haulage depot.

The firm had been approached by an undisclosed third party keen to purchase the unused portion of the site opposite the timber storage sheds, at the western end of the site. Chartered surveyor and estate agent Gartons, of the Market Place, Loughborough, handled the planning application[1] on behalf of the firm, which was submitted in June 1976. After the inevitable questions and responses regarding parking, etc., outline planning permission was granted in November 1976. Before the unknown firm could go ahead, full planning permission was required, detailing the exact use, etc. Therefore, it appears that the negotiations with the third party to purchase the site fell though.

The firm subsequently changed tact; instead of selling the unused portion they would instead use it for industrial units. Therefore, in April 1977 through architects, Francis W. Keyworth, of Melton Mowbray, they started the process of trying to win authorisation to develop 21,652 sq. ft. of the site to build ten single storey industrial units[2]. Six of them on the south side running adjacent to and parallel with the existing footpath. The other four were to be located at the end of the old timber drying sheds, parallel to the site of the old Charnwood Forest Railway line. Each unit was to have an office, toilet facilities and a roller shutter doors, providing access for large objects. The six units close to the footpath were divided into two blocks, one of four units, measuring 60ft. x 46ft. (2,760 sq. ft.) and one of two, one 48ft. x 42ft. (2,016sq ft.) and the other 44ft. x 35ft. (1,540 sq. ft.). The four units close to the old railway line were divided into two blocks, one containing two units, each measuring 62ft. 6in. x 32ft. (2,000 sq. ft.) and the other with units measuring 48ft. x 32ft. (1,536 sq. ft.). They also planned to provide an additional 90 parking spaces, located between the two sets of units[3].

They initially contacted the Department of Industry in Nottingham, regarding an Industrial Development Certificate (IDC)[4]. However, the Department’s response was that as it was a private speculative development in a non-assigned area, an IDC could not be issued. Instead they suggested that development might be possible within the balance of any free limit (then limited to 15,000 sq. ft.) and that Charnwood Borough Council Planning Department could probably answer the question. Therefore, the firm decided to reduce ten units down to five to come within the 15,000 square feet. limit.

By the end of July 1977, having been awarded an IDC, covering 13,000 sq. ft., they were making plans to submit a full planning application, once the sale of the piece of land to Messrs Arthur Bennett’s Ltd., of Swingbridge Road, Loughborough, had been completed. This occurred in early 1978[5], whilst at almost the same time, the owners of the old Arora site, off Roseberry Street, had, independently, submitted plans for a warehouse. Whilst the two applications were considered separately, it did raise the whole question of alternative vehicle access to the adjoining sites, to reduce traffic movement along Cumberland Road; particularly if the site was likely to undergo further development as it was designated an industrial site within the Draft Local Plan. The other difficulty was regarding the surrounding residential area, which was in the process of being declared a General Improvement Area, meaning that additional traffic movement to an industrial site, would be frowned upon. This being recognised, the then Chief Planning Officer put forward several suggestions including extending the existing industrial allocation out to meet Garendon Way (now Epinal Way). This would enable a new access to have been made to the site, potentially relieving additional traffic movement along Cumberland Road. Before that could happen, several obstacles had to be overcome. The first was that Garendon Way was a trunk road, therefore no new access would be permitted; however, it was thought that the Trunk Road Order was likely to be rescinded before the end of the year. The second was that if a new access way was built, it would result in loss of some allotment land; however, it was argued that part of the underutilised playing fields could be taken over. The third was that it would require a deviation from the policy in the Draft Local Plan.

Whilst discussed at the next Planning Officers’ Meeting, and subsequently acted upon, the planning application was rejected, for predictable reasons. Firstly, if allowed, it would intensify the industrial use of the site, even though it was designated an industrial site in the Draft Local Plan. Secondly, it would lead to an increase in vehicular traffic along Cumberland Road. Thirdly, the additional traffic would have a detrimental impact on an otherwise residential neighbourhood and its amenities. Although the firm subsequently decided against lodging an appeal to the Department of the Environment, its representative argued that the additional traffic movements would be negligible. They pointed out that Messrs Bennett Bros., didn’t want to erect a building greater than 10,000 sq. ft. for manufacturing joinery. They also argued that the amount of additional traffic movement would be limited. At the time, Messenger’s owned two lorries, having steel deliveries twice per month, coke twice per week and sand once per week. Bennett’s also had two lorries, which would make deliveries, as would other vehicles delivering raw materials, but these would be limited. It was calculated that jointly there would be four to five lorries movements Cumberland Road per day.

Within two months of the planning rejection, the firm, again through architects, Francis W. Keyworth, of Melton Mowbray, submitted another outline planning application[6]; this time, for a 10,000-square foot industrial joinery workshop, together with offices and toilet accommodation.

Running in parallel with the application, the Borough Council were still looking at the feasibility of opening access onto Garendon Way. In June, they contacted Leicestershire County Council, who, through the County Estates Surveyor, rejected the idea of developing any part of the under-utilised playing fields for industrial use. Their letter, dated 25th September 1978, stated that the area formed part of the Rosebery Infant and Junior Schools site, and was also used the University. The long-term objective of the County’s Director of Education was to use the site as a replacement for the existing Limehurst Girls School on Bridge Street. However, since the Cumberland Road site was only 13½ acres and that required for the new school was 17½ acres, the County Council would need to extend the site rather than allow any of it to be used for industrial purposes. In response to both the County Council’s letter and the firm’s new planning submission, the Borough Council again wrote to the County Council on 4th December 1978, suggesting that the application would again to turned down due to the reluctance to allow additional commercial vehicle movements along Cumberland Road. The Borough Council were also of the opinion that they would continually be under constant pressure from the firm to allow their unused land to be developed. Therefore, the Borough’s Chief Planning Office suggested a way out of both problems, by recommending that the County Council purchase the unused portion of the site form the firm, thus providing the additional space required to re-locate Limehurst Girls School, whilst at the same time removing the pressure on the Borough Council to allow planning permission. This would also provide the firm with the much-needed cash it required. The Chief Planning Officer identified the problem of the footpath separating the playing fields from the potential new site, but indicated that the Borough Council intended to provide a linear walkway along the track of the old railway (as implemented to the west of Epinal Way beside the fire station) and in his view, the existing footpath (known today (2014) as Hospital Walk) could be diverted in a northerly direction along the edge of the firm’s site to link up the linear walk. He also indicated that the Borough Secretary was confident that “the Council would be able to take all the necessary steps in order to achieve such a situation[7]. The County Council’s response, dated 22nd February 1979, appeared encouraging. The County Estate Surveyor had received authorisation from the Education Committee to enter negotiations with the firm over purchasing the unused portion of the site. However, the plan to move the Limehurst Girls School had not been approved and was at the time considered a low priority. Indeed, the Education Committee had not reached the stage of confirming the choice of site, although it was expected to be made that April. The Committee had considered using the Craggs Farm site, off Berkeley Road and would only contemplate the acquisition, if the Craggs Farm site could be sold off for development. In the event, it appears that neither option was implemented; Limehurst Girls School[8] remained in Bridge Street, becoming co-educational in 1981 and is now known as Limehurst Academy.

In January, 1979, the Borough Council duly refused outline planning consent because of the detrimental effect on the local residents, safety concerns and that the development was likely to inhibit the free flow of traffic.

It appears at this point that the firm decided not pursue the planning applications any further; whether they got into any discussions with the County Council is unknown.


References:

  1. Charnwood Borough Council Planning Application No: 76/1376/2.
  2. Charnwood Borough Council Planning Application No: 78/0441/2.
  3. Charnwood Borough Council Planning Application No: 78/2926/2.
  4. The industrial development certificate was introduced in the Town and Country Planning Act 1947. It was issued by the Department of the Environment to an industrial organization wishing to build or extend a factory and had to accompany a planning application. IDCs were formally abolished in 1986 under the Town and County Planning Act 1986.
  5. Charnwood Borough Council Planning Application No: 78/0441/2.
  6. Charnwood Borough Council Planning Application No: 78/2926/2.
  7. Charnwood Borough Council Planning Application No: 78/2926/2.
  8. The school opened in May 1931, built at a cost of about £30,000, it replaced the old Church Gate School. It was built to accommodate 800 pupils, 400 girls and 400 boys. Later, it became a girl’s only school.