Lancs Central Illustrative CGI, Lancashire County Council and Maple Grove, p Lancashire County Council

The site is allocated for employment uses. Credit: via LCC

Lancashire approves 1.6m sq ft commercial scheme despite looming legal challenge 

The 160-acre Lancashire Central is being delivered by Maple Grove Developments for the county council, but there is an ongoing dispute about the lawfulness of the partnership. 

Lancashire County Council voted to approve plans for the 1.6m sq ft South Ribble development yesterday despite calls from developer Brookhouse Group – which owns 43 acres across three parcels next to the site – for the decision to be deferred pending the outcome of a High Court challenge. 

Located south of Bamber Bridge at the confluence of the M65 and M6, Lancashire Central would comprise 1.6m sq ft of employment space and 116 homes, as well as retail, leisure, and hotel uses. The county council estimates that the project would boost the local economy by up to £390m a year. However, the Brookhouse Group challenge could put a pause on those plans.

Brookhouse Group is seeking a declaration of ineffectiveness from the High Court that would declare void LCC’s contract with Maple Grove to deliver the scheme. 

Brookhouse claims the contract was not procured correctly and relies on an earlier agreement struck 10 years ago with Maple Grove’s parent company Eric Wright Group. 

Lancashire County Council maintains the contract is lawful and sought to have the case thrown out on the grounds that Brookhouse’s challenge had come outside of the statutory appeal window. 

Following an initial hearing on the matter, Martin Bowdery KC ruled that LCC has a case to answer, meaning the case will be heard in full at the High Court. 

Lancashire County Council was also ordered to pay Brookhouse £65,000 in costs. 

As well as pursuing the county council through the courts, Brookhouse has objected to the Lancashire Central project due to concerns that it could prejudice the redevelopment of the wider Cuerden Strategic Allocation. 

The developer and South Ribble Council, which has also objected to the project, agree that the plans as they stand do not make the most of the site’s potential. 

Brookhouse has also questioned why Lancashire County Council has declared itself the determining authority for the application.  

Under Regulation 3 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1992, Lancashire County Council claims it must act as the determining authority “given that it is the interested planning authority seeking to jointly develop land of the authority”. 

Prior to yesterday’s meeting, Simon Ricketts, partner at Town Legal, which represents Brookhouse Group, “urged caution” over a potential conflict of interest arising from LCC being both the determining authority and developer. 

When asked for comment, a spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: “We are considering applying for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal. We’re unable to comment any further on ongoing legal proceedings”.

Maple Grove Developments and Brookhouse were also contacted for comment. 

Consent for an earlier iteration of the project was granted in 2017 and featured plans for 2m sq ft of commercial space, including an IKEA and 840,000 sq ft general employment space. 

IKEA withdrew from the scheme in 2018, prompting a rethink. 

Your Comments

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It’s an obvious site for the new hospital, excellent access and plenty of room for adequate car parking, which will make a nice change.

By Anonymous

Yay. Another site for warehouses, next to the other three sites with warehouses.
Residents totally ignored by Lancashire County Council – no consideration of really poor traffic infrastructure.

By Katie

Great news for the area. It’s good to see that a very capable and local developer will be delivering this. It’s disappointing that there is a challenge from a party who didn’t get selected, but it’s clear to see that this falls into the ‘bad loser’ category.

By Michael Oxard

If this farmland is to be sacrificed then make sure that whatever is built also looks after the environment and supports wildlife in every way possible. Many species will be displaced or destroyed for this scheme – we cannot continue to encroach on precious wildlife areas without reparations.

By Nicola Robertson

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