Botany Bay will be used to store Leyland trucks for up to three years – but the operator is committed to the site possibly being redeveloped
Vehicles began appearing in what was once the parking lot for the former shopping and leisure destination in January.
It later emerged that the trucks belonged to Leyland Trucks and were parked there, in agreement with the site operator, awaiting microchip installation, the arrival of which had been delayed due to a global shortage of microchips. components.
FI Real Estate Management (FIREM) has now applied for – and obtained – retroactive planning permission for the use of the land for this purpose. Chorley Council’s planning committee has given the green light for the transport storage operation to continue until June 2025.
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Most of the dozens of vehicles currently parked on the lot are truck cabs, minus the trailers. Committee members were told the trucks were “partially complete” and, although they could be driven, they still needed to be fitted with specialist parts before they could be delivered to buyers.
A report to the committee said Leyland Trucks was – like many companies – having supply chain issues and therefore needed secure storage facilities at all times, so as not to delay production.
Without it, advisers said, there was a risk that the Farington-based company “would have had to stop manufacturing, with more serious consequences for its business and the safeguarding of jobs”.
FIREM is said to have “jumped in to help” the 125-year-old company in the short term.
The Botany Bay site is the subject of a yet to be determined planning application to create new commercial units, which will include space for ‘light industry’.
A previous plan to turn the old mill into a retail outlet village was scrapped in November 2020 due to what FIREM said at the time was the “continuing decline of the retail sector … further aggravated by the coronavirus situation.”
The move came nearly two years after the last incarnation of Botany Bay – as a mall filled with independent retailers – closed in February 2019.
Councilors were told that FIREM intended to present business park plans for the ‘short term’ site – and also that the company and Leyland Trucks expected supply chain issues supply requiring the truck fleet to “shrink until 2022/23”. “. Nevertheless, a three-year temporary authorization for the storage of vehicles has been requested.
Alternate committee member Cllr Adrian Lowe said he had no problem with the site being used for this purpose at short notice, but added that the “cynical part” of him made him question the long-term future of the earth.
“If anything from the history of previous planning for the whole site is to be believed, don’t hold your breath unless we grant permission [for the business park] this [it] will be coming. Because we [gave] their permission for a trading village – which has disappeared – and now this one comes along,” said Cllr Lowe.
Another committee member – and cabinet member responsible for planning – Cllr Alistair Morwood said he hoped the council would not be “held hostage, in the sense that if we don’t pass the [business park] development, this truck fleet will continue for years and years.
The meeting learned that the authority can take enforcement action if vehicles remain after three years and a request for a time extension has not been submitted and approved.
In a statement after the committee granted permission for the truck storage, a spokesperson for FI Real Estate Management told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: ‘We remain committed to the broader development of Botany Bay to create more 400,000 square feet of industrial and commercial space.
“Our current focus is to work with stakeholders and the planning authority to ensure that our development plans serve and complement the local area and Lancashire economy.
“In the meantime, we are pleased to provide essential storage space for Leyland DAF, for which we have received temporary planning permission. As our plans progress over the months and years to come, we will continue working with Leyland DAF to help them mitigate their supply chain challenges while keeping our development plans on track.
Meanwhile, Brennan Gourdie, managing director of Leyland Trucks, said: “We are using the space as a secure compound for the temporary storage of completed vehicles awaiting final delivery to customers.”
Three objections were filed to the truck parking request, which included concerns about the “unsightly appearance” of the vehicles.
However, Chorley council planning officers have recommended the application be approved, with case officer Iain Crossland telling the committee that “although the stored vehicles are visible from afar, the visual impact is not not significantly greater than the parking of vehicles that previously occurred while the site was used for retail.”
According to the business park plans, the original factory building will be retained.