As your Ramsbottom Councillors, Rob Hodkinson and I recently had discussions and a site meeting with the owners of the former Mondi Paper Mill Site at the end of Bridge Street, Ramsbottom following concerns that the site has become an eyesore.
The site closed in 2008 and since partial demolition in 2013, concerns have been raised by residents and businesses alike about it being a “blot on the landscape” right in the centre of Ramsbottom.
During the site meeting, the owners explained to us that they were seeking to develop the land, but issues regarding safety of the site were preventing them from doing so.
The tall chimney, which is protected in the Ramsbottom Conservation Area, is in a dangerous condition and has been the subject of a Prohibition Notice from the Health and Safety Executive with a 60 metre exclusion zone.
It was explained that the first stage of the development will be to make the site safe which will include an imminent planning application to reduce the height of the chimney by 15 metres as that part of the structure is unsafe, and decontamination of the land.
The site owners explained that they had recently received a number of approaches from developers. The most controversial is from Netto Supermarkets for a food store on the site.
Both Cllr Hodkinson and I confirmed to the site owners that we would be opposed to another supermarket. With Morrisons, Tesco and Aldi also trading nearby, we expressed deep concern that the arrival of another food store would be a hammer blow for small traders.
Ramsbottom already has three supermarkets in the town centre all within a few hundred yards of each other. We already have excellent food and drink shops, butchers, bakers and delicatessens. We have a wealth of small independent shops. There is also the monthly farmers’ market and non-food outlets. Many of these businesses would be significantly affected by the arrival of a fourth supermarket, with irreversible damage to the character of our special market town.
As Treasurer of the Ramsbottom Business Group and a local business owner on Bridge Street, Councillor Rob Hodkinson put forward his concerns regarding the negative impact to the high street should another supermarket be considered for the area earmarked for commercial use.
After extensive discussions, the site owners agreed that the most sensible option, and one which would gain our support, would be to pursue a proposal for mainly mixed residential housing (including retirement and low cost housing) with an area around the chimney and existing stone buildings earmarked for commercial use – craft workshops etc. Indeed, a number of local businesses looking for small sites have already expressed interest to us with potential for job creation on the site.
Overall, it was a very positive meeting, particularly as we were able to promote Ramsbottom to the site owners (based in the Isle of Man) as a unique thriving town centre of small independent shops and secured agreement from the site owners that any development should not undermine the hard fought success created by the existing businesses.
I will keep you updated with developments but feel free to let me know your views on this issue.