QUESTIONS have been raised over the need for more housing in a rural area after intentions to build a 170-home development were outlined by football club bosses.

Blackburn Rovers have spoken of their plans to integrate their two Brockhall Village-based training centres into a single ‘state of the art’ facility which would bring all players, coaches and facilities together under one roof.

Doing so would mean the current site of the Senior Training Centre would be vacated and razed to the ground, making way for a development of 170-homes in the Ribble Valley Borough of Brockhall and Dinckley.

However, questions have been raised over the need for more housing both within the gated community of Brockhall Village and in the wider civil parish area of Billington and Langho.

Ward Councillor for the area Stephen Atkinson said: “The housing needs for this area and Langho have already been exceeded by 24. We have got to ask the question, do we really need more houses?"

The council leader added: “We also have the issue that when the original site was developed, a key element of approval was based on the fact this was employment land which was something Blackburn Rovers provided.

“This raises questions over the level of employment the area will bring with the two sites being consolidated with one used for housing.”

The training facility is built on the site of the former Brockhall Hospital, which has been described in council documents as a site of ‘sub-regional significance’.

The facility employed as many as 1,000 people up until the 1980s, something which has been described as ‘an aspect of value that must be reflected in its comprehensive reuse’.

It is understood that a consultation for the development of the 19,000 acre site will be launched in March, giving those who live in the area an opportunity to have their say on the proposal.

Documents seen by the Lancashire Telegraph suggest developers would build 170 homes on the land, as well as providing a local convenience store and children’s play area, grouped together to form a ‘community hub’.

Intentions appear to be to build a mix of detached and semi-detached properties which would be predominantly two stories in height, with the chance of some three-story townhouses.

A statement from the club released over the weekend reads:“The new facility would be built on the site of the current Academy, which will be financially assisted by redeveloping the Senior Training Centre site for new homes and community facilities.

“The club wishes to make clear that the two pre-planning applications are inextricably linked, meaning the residential development can only go ahead in conjunction with the building of the new training facility on the Academy site.

“The club have enlisted the support of specialist consultants, who are in the early stages of engaging Ribble Valley Borough Council and the local Parish Council, and have submitted a screening request to inform a future potential planning application.”

Applications were submitted to the Ribble Valley Borough Council, and published on Friday, regarding the club’s two Brockhall training bases.

Currently, the first-team train at the Senior Training Centre, next to The Avenue hotel, Old Langho, while the Academy site is situated inside Brockhall village itself.

Detailed on the RVBC website outline the application is a ‘screening opinion’ – a process which lets an applicant establish whether an environment impact assessment is needed before making a full planning application.

Such applications usually consist of a brief description of the nature and purpose of the development and subsequent impact on the environment.

The application for the Senior Training Centre reads: “Request for screening opinion relating to the demolition of the existing buildings and construction of up to 170 dwellings with associated infrastructure, a local convenience store, open space and children's play area.”

The Academy application reads: “Request for screening opinion relating to the demolition of existing buildings and the construction of indoor training facilities, ancillary residential accommodation, grounds maintenance building and car parking.”

In 2017, the Rovers Trust saw an application to list Brockhall as an asset of community value (ACV) rejected.

The trust, who were successful in making Ewood Park an ACV in 2013, revealed in June 2017 their plan to do the same with the club’s senior and Academy training centres at Brockhall.

An ACV would have acted as a barrier to the sale of the land without notice being given to any community interest group who would have had the opportunity to be a potential bidder.

Rovers objected to the granting of the ACV with the council rejecting the application due to Brockhall being a ‘private facility’ and that ‘activities on the site do not involve the local community’.

A statement from the Trust, in response to the club’s plans, said: “In June 2017, the Rovers Trust applied to make the Blackburn Rovers’ Training Centre at Brockhall an Asset of Community Value; to provide an opportunity to prevent a discreet or quick sale of this facility by the club. This was strongly opposed by Blackburn Rovers and, subsequently, Ribble Valley Council rejected the application.

“So, it comes as no great surprise to read that the club now propose to sell the land where the Senior Training Centre is located and allow developers to build up to 170 dwellings in its place.

“While the statement from the club paints a very positive plan for the future of the training facility, the Trust cannot but feel there are many questions to be asked about this worrying news; therefore, it welcomes the club’s statement that it is to run an ‘informative and inclusive consultation process’.”

Those questions centre around a covenant placed by the Walker Trust upon the sale of the club in 2010, as well as the cost of the new training facility should it go ahead, whether the club’s Category One Academy status will be affected and also any plans to refurbish Ewood Park.