Homes plan hope for factory site

BICC Cables. The site could now be turned into up to 400 houses
BICC Cables. The site could now be turned into up to 400 houses

Hopes are high that ambitious plans to transform a former factory site into more than 400 houses could finally get off the drawing board.

Wigan Council planners have been in talks with developers for months about an agreement to re-develop the former BICC Cables site in Leigh.

Hopefully we are at the end of a long journey. We’ve wanted the site developed with the Tesco on the other side of the canal, but there’s a lot of demolition work to do and contaminated land to sort out

Dave Rawsthorne

Proposals have been submitted to build up to 424 new houses on the West Bridgewater Street site, but discussions have been required on how much money will be given to the local area due to the large amount of demolition and preliminary work needed.

Developing BICC’s former works has been an ambition at the town hall for several years, but a planning application passed in October 2011 lapsed without work beginning due to the complexity of the operation.

Residents’ groups say they are not objecting to the ex-factory site being built on, but they do have concerns about the impact of hundreds more homes and vehicles on the local infrastructure.

Wigan Council principal planning officer Dave Rawsthorne said: “Hopefully we are at the end of a long journey. We’ve wanted the site developed with the Tesco on the other side of the canal, but there’s a lot of demolition work to do and contaminated land to sort out.

“We’ve come up with a different section 106 agreement and we’re hoping the developer will be able to sign it.

“This will be the final piece of the jigsaw around the Loom development and the links to the town centre. I think at this stage the success of the cinema and the guided busway will also help, because Leigh really is turning the corner.”

The latest report prepared for developers says the existing industrial buildings, currently marketed as Bridgewater Business Park, are in poor repair and there is very low demand for them among businesses due to the number of better-quality facilities in the borough.

It then suggests the whole 10-hectare site should be used for housing, whereas earlier proposals had suggested mixed uses for the site.

Residents’ organisations have expressed reservations about whether the surrounding area can cope with such a large housing estate, and have asked local councillors to put questions to town hall officers.

Lowton East Neighbourhood Development Forum (Lendf) chair Ed Thwaite said: “We don’t mind 450 houses being built on BICC, it’s better than building on the fields, but when everybody has to get to the East Lancs Road or the motorway it is going to affect Lowton. The roads simply aren’t there because the only routes are the Greyhound island out of Leigh and Lane Head.

“These problems wouldn’t exist if they did something about the infrastructure. Extending Atherleigh Way down to the motorway would relieve things immensely.”

The BICC development will have to go before the planning committee and Wigan Council hopes the application can be heard within around six weeks of the section 106 agreement being signed.

To find out more, search for application A/15/80681/OUTMAJ at the planning section of Wigan Council’s website.