Jobs on cards as Wykeland snaps up coal sites

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WHEN the colliery at Glasshoughton closed, there were fears that the town’s close-knit community would die with it.

Hundreds of jobs are now expected to be created on the former coalfield site in West Yorkshire, which has become attractive to manufacturing firms because of its strong road and rail connections.

The Wykeland Group has bought three sites that form part of the Glasshoughton regeneration project for an undisclosed sum.

The land will be developed for commercial use as part of a multi-million pound investment by the Hull-based business.

Wykeland, which is one of Yorkshire’s biggest property and land development companies, has acquired 24 acres of serviced industrial land from Waystone, the company that began the Glasshoughton project in 1994.

Since then, Waystone has transformed the area into one of Yorkshire’s biggest regeneration projects. Around 3,500 jobs have been created on the 330-acre site.

Wykeland’s managing director, Dominic Gibbons, said the acquisition was part of the company’s plans to expand along the M62 corridor.

It builds on the success of Wykeland’s new business parks at Europarc, near Grimsby, and Melton West, near Hull.

Wykeland has also started speculative office construction at its latest scheme – Bridgehead Business Park at Hessle – which is a £100m development that could create 3,000 jobs.

Mr Gibbons said: “At Glasshoughton, we will be looking to develop more quality office, trade counter, manufacturing and warehousing space to make the most of the site’s proximity to the A1 and M1.

“While we have acquired the land, we will continue to work in partnership with Waystone to develop the rest of the land.”

He praised the “tenacious way” Waystone had regenerated the former colliery.

Mr Gibbons said it was a good time to start building work on bespoke schemes, because construction costs had reached sensible levels.

Stuart McLoughlin, Waystone’s managing director, said that Wykeland would help to complete and promote parts of Glasshoughton that had remained dormant during the economic downturn.

Waystone has worked in partnership with the Homes and Communities Agency, the Government’s national housing and regeneration agency, to develop the site.

Funding from the National Coalfields Programme, which was required to remediate the site, has been re-paid.

For decades, Glasshoughton was home to a thriving colliery and coke works.

Surface coal extraction took place in Glasshoughton in the 16th century, and the colliery opened in 1869,

In 1978, the coke works ceased operations and the colliery closed in 1986.

The buildings were demolished and the 336-acre site stood derelict for almost 10 years.

The area had many environmental problems linked to its long history as an industrial site, which made it hard for developers to come forward with viable proposals.

Abandoned mine shafts also presented obstacles to potential developers, and the southern side of the site was dominated by large black spoil heaps.

Waystone’s preliminary proposals to regenerate the site were submitted to British Coal in 1994.

After consultation with Wakefield Council and English Partnerships, Waystone was appointed as the site’s official development partner.

The acquisition at Glasshoughton marks the latest phase in Wykeland’s expansion plans.

Last month, Wykeland revealed that it planned to develop sites in West Yorkshire after Mr Gibbons said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the prospects for economic recovery.

The company, which is behind the £120m Flemingate development in Beverley, also revealed that its pre-tax profit rose over the last financial year from £4.1m to £4.51m. The group turnover in the year ended April 4 also increased from £4.96m to £9.1m.

Last month, Mr Gibbons stressed that there was a “long hard road” to recovery, and Wykeland would focus on sensible development in the right places.

The Flemingate scheme, which could open by the end of 2014, includes an 80-bed Premier Inn, office accommodation, an independent cinema and a Debenhams store.

Wykeland is the lead developer for the scheme. The plans were approved by councillors in July, but had to be referred to the Government.

In August, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles told East Riding Council that he would not call the application in, which means Wykeland can press ahead with the development.