From the Accrington Observer
Owners of a retail park have warned the site will continue to be used by Traveller camps unless refurbishment plans are given the go-ahead.
Developer Peel Holdings, which operates Whitebirk Retail Park, said Traveller groups have set up there twice in the last month with the latest group of around ten caravans arriving last weekend. The group have now left the site after an enforcement notice was issued — however Peel Holdings said it will continue to act as a ‘magnet’ to Travellers unless improvements can be carried out.
It comes a week after Hyndburn councillors unanimously backed recommendations from planning officers to refuse a £16m plan to revitalise the park and expand the range of businesses. Officers said that a certificate of lawfulness could not be granted due to a previous agreement on the site restricting the range of goods that can be sold there. Peel Holdings bosses said they are now reviewing the decision with their legal team but warned the situation on the site will only get worse as the park deteriorates.
A spokesperson for Peel said: “Peel Holdings is hamstrung as to what actions it can currently take to improve the site by the draconian approach currently adopted to planning by the local authority. “A positive decision would have unlocked £16m of new investment into the area and created over 250 new jobs for local people. “This investment would have gone a long way to create a much enhanced physical environment and improved security to combat these types of problems. With the current restrictions on the types of retailers who can trade from the retail park it will continue to be under occupied with vast swathes of the car park left wide open which is unfortunately a magnet for further Travellers and a host of anti-social behaviour.”
Whitebirk Retail Park, which houses stores including PC World and SCS Sofas, currently has around 15 units, around half of which are vacant. Site bosses want to increase the units to 18 and are currently in talks with a number of firms to attract them to the site.
Deputy council leader Councillor Clare Pritchard said the Travellers moved to Clayton but have now left the area. She added: “It’s up to the individual land owner to ensure their sites are not open to Travellers. I don’t think there is a link between this and the application.