Fishing firm site part of house-build plans

The site plan of the proposed redevelopment of Willowburn Trading Estate, with Pure Fishing in the red zone.
The site plan of the proposed redevelopment of Willowburn Trading Estate, with Pure Fishing in the red zone.

The home of a world-famous Alnwick fishing brand has been included in a residential-development plan for up to 125 homes in the town.

Pure Fishing, which bought the Hardy and Greys brands in 2013, is among a number of existing businesses to feature inside a proposed building zone at Willowburn Industrial Estate.

However, agricultural and horticultural company Rickerby Ltd, as well as Lion House, which has housed various Government staff, including from Defra, are outside the boundary.

Project management and technical consultancy firm WYG is working on a planning application for the site, on behalf of landowners Northumberland County Council, Northern Commercial Properties and the Harris & Sheldon Group Limited.

As part of the core strategy of the county’s local plan, the trading estate, on South Road, is in line to be de-allocated for continued employment use due to high vacancy rates and the poor condition of existing premises. The key planning document is out for consultation until Wednesday, July 27.

The homes proposal will go on show at Alnwick Cricket Club on Monday and the site plan – pictured right – shows the units included within the proposed building zone.

The vision is to start on site in 2018 – if the scheme is approved – and work would take place in a phased approach, ‘to allow for existing businesses to be relocated’.

But the news that the Pure Fishing premises has been included in the proposal area has prompted concern and calls for clarity over its future.

Pure Fishing – a major employer – and its landlord, Harris & Sheldon Group, said they could not comment at this time.

A WYG spokeswoman said the aim was to submit a planning application this year. She said that the application would be lodged as an outline bid – which establishes the principle of development – and the finer details of the scheme would be discussed at a later date.

She said that it was expected that the proposal would include a range of two, three and four-bedroom properties, and a mix of housing types; detached, semi-detached and terrace. Affordable housing provision ‘would be discussed through determination and subject to viability’.

She added: “The county council, through its emerging local plan process, is seeking to de-allocate the Willowburn Trading Estate from employment use owing to high vacancy rates and the poor condition of existing premises, which largely make the site unviable for continued employment use.

“This proposal is seeking to secure future residential development, delivered in phases to reflect the staged vacant possession of units on the site.”

She confirmed that the Pure Fishing premises was one of a number of existing businesses included within the proposed development boundary.

She reiterated the intention of a phased approach, and added: “Equally, there could be elements that won’t be delivered/come forward at a later date.”

She said the trading estate was an ideal site for housing, as it is ‘very centrally located to services in the locality’.

Alnwick town and county councillor Gordon Castle said he wasn’t against the principle of development at the site, but admitted he was shocked when he saw that Pure Fishing was included within the proposed building zone – especially when the company recently unveiled its revamped shop, The Compleat Angler, and a five-year lease for its Alnwick offices and factory.

He said: “Hardy is synonymous with Alnwick and we need to know and hear from Pure Fishing what their plans are. It is also important that the existing businesses are given that opportunity to relocate.

“The trading estate appears not to have much for industrial use and a rebuild would be needed for employment purposes – and it doesn’t justify that. The site is not unsuitable for housing; it is next to a major road and it is close to shopping facilities, so in principle I can’t see an issue with that.”

But fellow Alnwick county councillor Heather Cairns questioned the need for more housing. She said: “We have got a number of potential and current building sites in Alnwick. I feel Alnwick is growing very rapidly and it is going to change the nature of this jewel.”

She added that Pure Fishing was a key business in the town.

The current county-council depot is included within the development boundary, but is due to move to a new ‘super depot’ at the town’s Lionheart Enterprise Park next year.

The plans will go on show at a public consultation event on Monday at Alnwick Cricket Club, on Weavers Way, between 3pm and 7pm. Robert Murphy, senior planner for WYG, said: “We are inviting local residents to take part in this consultation process , to have their opportunity to influence the proposals prior to the application being submitted to the county council.”

If you are unable to make the event, contact WYG with your questions/comments by emailing newcastle@wyg.com or writing to WYG, 2 St James Gate, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4AD.