Plans to build almost 100 homes on the site of a former manufacturing plant in Buckley have been refused amid concerns about the loss of employment land.

Proposals were put forward in July 2020 to develop land on Drury New Road, which was most recently home to Irish company Glen Dimplex.

The electrical goods firm relocated its operations to a purpose-built facility at its main headquarters on Merseyside in early 2019.

The factory has stood empty ever since and an application seeking permission to create up to 94 houses in its place was considered by Flintshire Council's planning committee at a meeting this afternoon (Wednesday, June 15).

It came after Mold-based housebuilders FG Whitley and Sons claimed the site, which was originally created for Japanese eyeware manufacturers Optec, was no longer viable for employment use.

The Leader:

However, Buckley Pentrobin councillor Mike Peers questioned whether it had actively been marketed and said it was still an attractive option for businesses.

He said: “I come past the site almost on a daily basis due to living in the area.

“There haven’t been any signs outside this site advertising any opportunity for a business to locate there so I would doubt it's actively being marketed.

“The notification of the planning application which I received as local member said that this application departs from the development plan.

“If we look at the officer's report, it says the northern part lies outside the settlement boundary within a principal employment area.”

Ahead of the meeting, Cllr Peers sent a written response highlighting the lack of available space at Flintshire's main industrial estates.

The Leader:

A total of 16 letters of objection were also lodged against the proposals, despite a planning agent acting for the developers telling members there had been no interest in the building since Glen Dimplex left.

Guy Evans said: “The site has stood vacant for in excess of three years. Part of this time frame was during the pandemic but there have been normal market conditions prior to and after the pandemic.

“The site has actively been marketed throughout with no uptake to date.

“The council’s own economic development team and the Valuation Office notes that it is their view that a future reuse of the existing facility is unviable and there is little demand in this locality for land for employment use.

“The local planning authority endorsed this view at the pre-application stage in late 2019 and encouraged the submission of a planning application.”

Andy Roberts, the council's planning strategy manager, said in response that Flintshire's housing situation had changed significantly since the advice was given.

It comes as the authority's Local Development Plan, which sets out land for housebuilding in the area, looks set to be formally adopted later this year.

Mr Roberts added the site was still classified as employment land within the planning blueprint.

Meanwhile, Cllr Chris Bithell, cabinet member for planning, expressed hope a business would soon step forward to take over the site.

He said: “I note that the commentators are saying that it’s been vacant for a couple of years now.

“But that’s against the background of Covid lockdowns, and so on and so forth.

“As the economy begins to pick up, hopefully, there will be an uptake for this particular parcel of land for commercial purposes.”

Councillors decided to refuse permission by twelve votes to one at the end of the debate.