It was reported here last week that canal historians and enthusiasts were dismayed to hear, at very short notice, that one of the old waterway stable blocks at Burscough was to be demolished.
Although local residents have been involved in consultations about the site, the wider waterways community was not included, which has caused some concern that yet another piece of waterways heritage is to disappear.
British Waterways' Development Surveyor, Ian Sprott, has made a detailed respose to the issues raised:
"At one time this building was a main BW office and yard on the Leeds and Liverpool canal. In recent times it has been used mainly for storage and a mess facility and British Waterways has been trying to identify a developer for the site for over 10 years.
"West Lancs District Council has identified Burscough as a key area of development and has spent a significant amount of money on environmental improvements in the town. They identified the Yard complex and the Council car park and library on the opposite side of the canal as key opportunities to assist in the regeneration of the town.
"In 2006 British Waterways and West Lancs District Council commissioned Brock Carmichael to undertake a Feasibility Study of these sites. Brock Carmichael worked closely with British Waterways, West Lancs District Council and Burscough Parish Council to identify potential uses for the properties. Brock Carmichael identified that complete demolition of the site and new build residential would provide the best end value but would not fit in with the client's objectives and would have a strong negative impact on the village. Other uses apart from residential would struggle to generate sufficient funds to make redevelopment viable. When this report was carried out, property market conditions were much better and even then, the view was that a non residential redevelopment of the
site would struggle to be viable.
"Having looked at potential uses for the site, the view from the consultants was that due to the size and layout of the stable block, it did not lend itself to conversion to other uses. As part of this work they also identified that there were signs of infestation in the timbers in the building and the cottage that forms the end of the stable block was in poor condition and the Southern wall was bowing significantly and appeared to separating from the inner masonry. In light of this, they suggested demolition of this building, to be replaced by a larger new
build which would be appropriate for alternative uses to assist viability and enable retention of other buildings on site. Accordingly, it was reluctantly agreed that demolition and new build would assist in retention of the remainder of the complex.
"Following completion of this Study, West Lancs District Council included
it in their consultation work on proposed works in Burscough.
"The Local Plan states "the reuse of the buildings could contribute positively to the regeneration of Burscough. The uses envisaged by the policy include community facilities (including meeting facilities or a relocation of the library), a heritage centre and other tourist / leisure facilities including possibly a café".
"The complex of buildings is not nationally listed and is not in a conservation area. It is locally listed as being of local or historical
"In 2008 the BW operational mess facility and storage were transferred to an alternative location and British Waterways began a re-marketing of the site. When the bids were made for the site, the preferred developer set out their proposed uses for the site. British Waterways and their agents reviewed this and considered this would secure the long term future of the majority of the Wharf complex and create a base for a mix of uses that would meet the aspirations of British Waterways, West Lancs District Council and the Parish Council. The site was sold in December 2008. The BW Heritage Assessment was provided to the developer.
"Following appointment of the developer British Waterways have been in discussions with them and also Burscough Moving Forward, who are heavily involved in bringing this opportunity forward. Burscough Moving Forward was established in 2006 with the primary aim of developing a range of partnerships to assist in delivering the aspirations of the community expressed in the Burscough Parish Plan in 2005. In discussions the developer has indicated how important they consider the complex to be within Burscough and has been keen to retain as much of the complex as possible. The poor condition of the cottage and stable block and existing layout has meant that it was not viable to retain these buildings. The proposal is to replace this with a new larger building in the same location which would help subsidise the retention of the rest of the buildings on the site. British Waterways is continuing to work with the developer on how the completed development will integrate with the canal.
"The developer submitted a planning application for the mixed use development which includes a restaurant, micro brewery, small scale retail and craft workshops, community use, office space and a gallery.
"As part of the planning process the Council consulted interested parties and the developer held an open day at the site on 22nd August to show their plans and take comment. The local Parish Council has been very involved with the developer and his proposals. Planning consent was granted and the Head of Planning and Building Services at West Lancs District Council stated about the cottage / stable block "The replacement of the building enables its redevelopment which will provide enhancement to an otherwise tired Burscough Bridge frontage and as a
result serve as a focal point from both road and canal approaches. On that basis I consider the proposal to remove the original building is acceptable.
Ian Sprott summed the situation up by adding "By developing it for a mixture of uses it will open the site up to the public and allow a linkage with the canal. Due to the lower values of a mixed use development the developer is demolishing the
stable block and is replacing it with a modern building suitable for commercial uses. The values generated by this will allow for the retention of the large warehouse, former barn and workshops.
"In our view, the proposal represents a compromise in order to safeguard
the majority of the buildings on the site which would otherwise have
continued to fall into disrepair."
The former stables to be demolished. For another photo, see earlier item. (Photo: Mike Clarke)