Controversial plans to build new housing estate on former chemical works site resurrected

Date published: 20 September 2021

Controversial plans to build a new housing estate on a former chemical works site have been resurrected.

Vistry Partnerships have submitted proposals for 169 properties at the former Akzo Nobel factory, close to Hollingworth Lake, in Littleborough.

It comes after nearly 15 years of failed attempts to get the 20-acre plot cleaned up and transformed into a new residential development.

The most recent scheme to fall by the wayside by another developer was brought forward by housebuilder Countryside. Despite planning permission being granted in 2015, the project ultimately stalled. 



Plans to redevelop the site, off Hollingworth Road, have proven highly controversial in the small Pennines town.

A Rochdale council ‘review’ was forced by resident Barry Cropper in 2012 after new information came to light about old mine seams, and there has been fierce local opposition, with residents raising fears over flood risks, contaminated land, increased traffic and unmapped mine works.

In 2017 Homes England acquired the site – which was contaminated by asbestos and other harmful chemicals – for £10m in order to clean it up for future developers. Vistry was, in 2021, selected to develop the site with 171 new homes.





Together with developer Vistry Partnerships, Homes England has now submitted a fresh new set of proposals, including ecological, flood risk and health risk assessments.

A planning statement accompanying the application summarises the proposals.

It reads: “The proposed development comprises 169 dwellings with two vehicular accesses off Hollingworth Road. 

“The southern portion of the site will become public open space including the provision of a play area and feature biodiversity enhancements. 

“There are also two main areas of public open space located within the site. One to the south west corner and the second along the northern boundary providing an attractive green frontage with the canal which extends centrally into the site to provide a village green focus for the development.”

The development would feature a mix of house types – ranging from two bedroom to five bedroom homes – with the majority being those of the three-bed (73) and four bed (52) variety.

Some 26 of these will be classed as ‘affordable’ according to planning documents.

These add: “The proposed development will facilitate the redevelopment of a brownfield site, providing a range of housing types and tenures, public open space and biodiversity enhancement.”

A coal mining risk assessment adds that there are two shafts at the site which have been capped using ‘industry accepted methodology.

A ‘no-build zone’ immediately around each shaft would be adopted to the satisfaction of the coal authority.

However the risk of past mining activities for clay is regarded as being ‘low’  and therefore ‘no mitigation is considered necessary’.

The Akzo Nobel factory, which processed chemicals for use in fabric softeners, closed in 2004 with the loss of 70 jobs and was demolished in 2008.

In 2005 Bellway Homes scrapped plans to build 280 homes on the site amid fears over contamination and later plans by the Woodford Group to construct 165 homes, a hotel, pub and showground were also dropped.

Rochdale council will decide whether to grant the proposals full planning permission.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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