The Forest of Dean will gain hundreds of new jobs and millions of pounds in investment after plans to transform two key employment sites were backed by councillors today.
The district council's planning committee has approved two proposals to bring new modern employment space and improved access to the former Northern United Colliery site and Forest Vale Industrial Park, near Cinderford town centre.
The decisions are expected to unlock around 300 jobs and bring in about £11m in investment in the Northern Quarter project, to add to the £60m partners have already secured for Cinderford's wider regeneration programme.
The outline planning applications submitted by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) are set to deliver: • Around 11,000sqm of new office and employment space at the Northern United site. Nearly 40 business units are proposed and there is potential to create a new facility linked to the area's mining heritage. Full planning permission was also granted to create an improved entrance to the site from the A4136.
• Two new purpose-built buildings at Forest Vale Industrial Park, which would provide 2,800 sq m of employment space. Improvements along Newtown Road and its junction with Broadmoor Road are also planned to provide better access to the site.
A separate planning application to deliver the £10.5m Northern Quarter Spine Road project is expected to be made to the district council in June.
As part of the planning agreements, the HCA said it will take stringent measures to protect species of newt, bat, dormice and other wildlife identified by its team of ecologists. Measures will include new 'hotels' and special lighting for bats and proposals to move other animals to suitable replacement habitats nearby. These measures are expected to cost around £50,000.
David Warburton, HCA Head of Area, said: "These are crucially important projects for the Forest of Dean and support the council's aim to regenerate the area by bringing new employment and investment into the district.
"I've been encouraged, but not at all surprised, by the level of support we have had for the proposals to regenerate the Forest and it's great news for local people that councillors have approved our plans.
"We are taking all necessary measures to protect wildlife around the development area and will continue to do this during the next phases of work planned for the site.
"We recognise the importance of the heritage of this area and are already taking steps to improve access to the memorial at Northern United. Now that the plans have been approved we will be looking to improve access to the memorial on the site."
Councillor Patrick Molyneux, leader of Forest of Dean District Council, added: "One of the key principles we are looking to support is driving economic growth in a sustainable way through new homes, jobs and infrastructure.
"Both planning applications have been the subject of extensive and wide-ranging consultation which has found strong support for the principles of bringing sustainable businesses and investment to the Forest of Dean.
"I'm delighted that these plans have been approved and can think of no better tribute to the heritage of this area than providing a bright new future for the next generation of Foresters."
Coun Graham Morgan, chairman of the Cinderford Regeneration Board said: "I am absolutely over the moon. This will be a huge help to the town – the majority of people welcome this and they tell me this every day in the street. Cinderford has been waiting for this since the mid-1980s and I've spent much of my time on the council working towards it. It is wonderful at last to see big steps forward like this."
Detailed designs for both schemes will be made once outstanding ecological issues have been addressed and wildlife protection measures are in place.The new site access arrangements at Northern United will begin this month with landscaping work, the demolition of two buildings and creation of new habitats for newts.
These projects are being delivered in line with the district council's Core Strategy and the Cinderford Northern Quarter Area Action Plan , which have been adopted following extensive consultation with the local community and have cross party political support.