A plan for nearly 50 homes and changes to a former Pendle cotton mill site, which has an old engine house and chimney, have been deferred for further talks.

Pendle Council’s West Craven Area Committee considered an updated plan at its latest meeting for the former Brook Shed engine house and surrounding land at New Road, Earby.

The site was once home to a larger mill but some parts were demolished over time.

Gleeson Homes is seeking permission for new houses and to change the old engine hall’s use classification. Plans also suggest demolition of an old chimney. a northern wall of a former weaving shed, a boiler house and water tank. Gleeson’s original application was first submitted in 2022 but has been changed.

But some recent questions have been raised about potential flood risks to waterways in Earby, roads, the engine house and birds which maybe nesting at the site.

At the area committee, Pendle’s head of planning, Neil Watson. said: “The committee asked us to have discussions with the developer about what could be done with the engine hall and other matters, such as a roundabout. There are now some sketches showing two houses at the engine house. They are also looking at the roundabout with [county council] highway officers.

“They have to look at ideas from a developer’s point of view, to make some money. But they will consider things and have not slammed the door in our faces. Their engineer is going to talk to the county council about configuration and will report back.”

Lib-Dem Coun David Whipp noted an updated Environment Agency concern about the potential risk of flooding elsewhere in Earby although the agency is satisfied with the latest amended plan from Gleeson regarding homes on the site.

A recent comment from the Environment Agency stated: “We are unable to withdraw our objection outlined in our letter in March as the flood risk assessment and model review show increase in risk to others up Victoria Clough culvert. To overcome our objection, the applicant should update their model which demonstrates that the development is safe for its lifetime without increasing flood risk elsewhere. Where possible, it should reduce flood risk overall.”

Mr Watson felt the Environment Agency’s comment was rather ‘odd’. The agency seemed to believe Victoria Clough could potentially be at risk but the committee felt another watercourse, a beck, was more relevant.

Lib-Dem Coun Susan Land said: “Regarding what [comments] came back from the Environment Agency, I looked at it and thought ‘what next’?”

Coun Whipp said: “I think there’s too much up in the air to make a decision at this meeting. The applicant is not chomping at the bit. I think we should defer this again.

“There’s also another point I want to raise. It’s been said that there are swifts nesting in the engine hall environment. We need to bear this in mind, if there’s a habitat we don’t want to lose. They are a protected species.”

Coun Whipp added: “To be fair to the developer, I think they have given quite a lot of thought to the environment. When the Environment Agency talk about the other site in Earby, I’m confused."

Lib-Dem Coun Tom Whipp supported a recommendation to delegate the application to a council planning officer. He said: “We know what we want.”

However,  David Whipp and Neil Watson recommended it come back to councillors again.

Mr Watson said: “The engine house may be an issue the area committee wants to talk about again.”

David Whipp added: “My preference would be to keep the engine house, maybe as housing. It would be loss [if it was not kept]. But I accept there is a balance to be achieved.”

Councillors deferred the application to the next area committee meeting.