A PUBLIC inquiry has begun examining Trafford Council’s handling of plans for the former B&Q site in Stretford.

The vacant site on Great Stone Road was once home to the hardware store and before it was a nightclub and gig venue. It sits next to Lancashire Cricket Club, close to Old Trafford Metrolink.

The brownfield site’s landowners, developers Accrue Capital, submitted numerous sets of plans for hundreds of new apartments between 2019 and 2020.

But the council, who said in early 2020 it was happy to use compulsory-purchase powers ‘in principal’ to secure the land from Accrue to build a leisure centre on it, has rejected them.

The council’s proposals had been to develop the site as part of its masterplan for Stretford and build a high-quality leisure centre and car park with close links to Lancashire Cricket Club.

But Accrue’s lawyers wrote to the council in 2020 to make it clear they would be ‘robustly defending’ any attempt to compulsory purchase the land.

A public inquiry into the matter began on January 11 and is ongoing.

Her Majesty’s Government’s Secretary of State appointed chartered town planner Andrew McGlone to oversee the inquiry, which will continue over the following weeks.

Accrue Capital had previously submitted plans for 433 homes on the site in March 2019, but those plans were refused permission by the council due to concerns about the height and density of the development.

Proposals for two blocks of between four and nine storeys in height with a total of 333 one and two-bedroom apartments with 10 per cent affordable housing were then submitted by the developers in March 2020, but the council never decided on these plans.

Accrue then lodged an appeal against the council’s indecision on the proposals and, since the council could not issue a formal decision following the appeal, in October 2020 the council’s planning committee voted that it was ‘minded to refuse the application’ if it had been able to determine it.

The proposals had been recommended for refusal by Trafford Council’s officers due to the potential harm the development could have on the Longford Park Conservation Area nearby.

Other reasons for the recommended refusal included the fact that the building would ‘dominate’ over nearby Lancashire Cricket Club, had ‘poor design’ and insufficient affordable housing, alongside concerns over the size, scale and mass of the development.

During the meeting, on October 15, 2020, council officer David Pearson said: “We consider that the adverse impacts of the development on the local area significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.

“The layout, the form, the height, the scale, the massing and the density of the proposal are considered to be wholly inappropriate within the context of the site. It’s considered that the proposed development would result in significant harm to the character and appearance of the area.”