The former Stanton Ironworks site has been vacant since 2007 after the former industrial hotbed produced its final pipes, having previously been one of, if not the region’s largest employer.
Now plans from Verdant Regeneration – a partnership between Ward Recycling and Trust Utilities – have been unanimously approved by Erewash Borough Council to bring 200 acres of the site back to life after 15 years of “neglect”.
The project is said to potentially be the largest the borough has ever seen, covering an area the size of 100 football pitches and creating circa 2.5 million square feet of warehouse and industrial unit space.
At a borough council planning meeting, councillors said that while they had their concerns over traffic they felt that an opportunity to bring the site back into use could not be passed up.
Cllr Paul Shelton said: “It is only when you visit this site that you appreciate how big it is and how much it is in need of redevelopment.
“It has been in need of redevelopment practically as long as I can remember.
“It is the largest brownfield site in Derbyshire and seeing this brought back into use and being redeveloped is an opportunity we can’t pass on.”
Cllr Kevin Miller said the applicant should try and keep the remaining shells of the exhibition and training centres which sit close to the roadside in Lows Lane, opposite the Seven Oaks Inn.
The plan put forward by Verdant is to demolish every remaining building on the site, with the only buildings to share some of the plot to be four houses off Lows Lane, next to Unbrako Pre-cast Concrete.
Cllr Miller said that at the very least the façade of the buildings should be retained and also objected to the plan to fill in 400 metres of canal through the site and a historic bridge, calling these acts a “tragedy”.
Cllr Kevin Phillips said: “We cannot allow this opportunity to be allowed to go to waste, I do have concerns about traffic.
“This is going to be a huge project, the only benefit is that the development is going to be happening over a number of years, so we have time – but not much time.
“I don’t want to see it wasted but the traffic issue is going to be a big thing in the future.”
Cllr Margaret Griffiths said: “This was probably the biggest employment site in Derbyshire, I’d imagine, and it is long past time that it is brought back into proper use.
“I hope traffic can be restricted in some way. It would be better if employees can be brought in by rail, and not just freight.”
At its height, the Stanton Ironworks site employed 7,000 people, but on its last day on May 24, 2007, just 185 workers were left. The site had been in use for more than 160 years, serving as a landmark industrial hub for the region.
Cllr Lyn Harley, on behalf of Trowell Parish Council, told the meeting the authority had concerns about any increase in traffic, particularly from HGVs, on the village and surrounding area.
Lois Partridge, on behalf of Verdant, said the project had the capability to cater for the entire of the borough’s employment site needs for the next couple of decades.
She said the firm felt the “genuine weight of responsibility” and that it could “give the site a new beginning”.
Ms Partridge said: “The business rates from this could be highly beneficial to the area. We have already connected the site to the Midland Mainline and have had a three-train trial.
“This site has been empty for many years and now has the chance to be cleaned, remediated and provide jobs for the borough.”
Steve Birkinshaw, the council’s head of planning and regeneration, said the remaining historic exhibition and training buildings “have been described to you as functional and capable of reuse, but as you can see they are not functional and capable of reuse”.
He said the now “neglected” state of the buildings, including widespread vandalism, happened before the applicant took over the site.
Mr Birkinshaw said the county archaeologist has agreed that the best way forward would be to “record” the buildings and demolish them.
In response to contamination concerns raised by councillors, Mr Birkinshaw said that because it is to be used for industrial purposes, there is not as much of a need to treat the site before it can be used.
There are said to be at least 26 mine shafts on site, not all of which have been located.
Mr Birkinshaw said: “Many mine shafts located on the site and there will not be any buildings built over the mine shafts. Some of the mine shafts have proved elusive.
“We fully appreciate that extensive remediation work will facilitate the location of the mine shafts.
“This is not a gentle development, it is going to be handled quite roughly in order to facilitate development.
“We know contamination is a significant issue and is a concern to residents and the local community in general.
“So far, we are told that much of the land is at the sort of level where it will be suitable for reuse.
“There will be ‘voids’ on the site that have been infilled with ‘material’.
“Nobody is going to be growing carrots in this, you don’t need to get it to that level (of remediation).”
Richard Snow, the council’s development manager, said the developer would be digging out two metres underground across the whole 200-acre plot and cleaning, reusing or disposing of all the thousands of tonnes of contaminated soil and materials.
The remediation and demolition of the site and its buildings is expected to take 30 weeks. No warehouses can be built until reserved matters applications are submitted and approved, but work can start on the new access points, roundabout and internal roads.
Part of this overall approval includes maximum build heights, agreed at 24 metres on the western third of the site, 31 metres in the central third and 24 metres in the eastern third.
Verdant’s project will include a range of warehouse units from 15,000 square feet, up to one million square feet.
The project would also see the reintroduction of the Midland Mainline rail connection through a 17-acre rail hub.
This would provide direct access for companies transporting their goods to and from the site and across the UK – taking more vehicles off the roads.
The developer details that the pandemic has effectively pressed fast-forward on the surge towards online shopping within a vastly increased need for distribution centres around the UK.
Papers submitted by the firm say the construction and demolition stages of the development would create 562 jobs each year and that, when complete, this would increase to 4,000 jobs on-site and 400 jobs elsewhere.
Planning documents detail that the main site access would be through a proposed new four-arm roundabout near the junction between Lows Lane and Oaks Road, close to the Seven Oaks Inn.
Meanwhile, the secondary road access to the site would be next to the former primary entrance off Lows Lane – close to the Saint-Gobain premises and Littlewell Lane – which is currently blocked up with huge concrete pipes.
The remaining portion of the former ironworks site not taken up by this scheme, which lies south of Lows Lane, is to be earmarked for 1,000 homes by the borough council in its core strategy for the next couple of decades.
As part of an eventual scheme for that site, which has not yet been proposed by a developer, junction improvements would be made to the point where twelvehouses on Sowbrook Lane meets Lows Lane. This would most likely involve a new roundabout, but would only be “triggered” by the housing scheme, not the industrial development.