Thor Specialities (UK) Ltd awaits councillors' verdict on plans to redevelop Victoria Stadium site

Northwich Guardian: Thor Specialities (UK) Ltd paid £600,000 for the Victoria Stadium site last year. Thor Specialities (UK) Ltd paid £600,000 for the Victoria Stadium site last year.

COUNCILLORS will next month give their verdict on a proposal to redevelop land on which Northwich Victoria’s now former home – the Victoria Stadium – is built.

Thor Specialities (UK) Ltd, a chemicals manufacturer based next door that bought the nine-acres plot last January, wants to build two new storage warehouses there.

It hopes members of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s strategic planning committee will approve the change, part of an £11m expansion, at their February meeting.

The stadium, officially opened in 2006 following Vics’ relocation from the Drill Field via a ground share at neighbours Witton, hosted its last match a year ago this weekend.

Thor offered the club a lease to stay on until last season’s climax, but owner Jim Rushe declined to sign it.

Instead the team continues to play home matches in Stafford, more than 40 miles away.

The old pitch was effectively closed in July when councillors agreed unanimously that Thor should be allowed to increase production across the street.

As a result the firm can now to store up to 60 tonnes of n-Butyl Isocynate, classed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as very toxic.

The HSE insisted on a bigger safety zone around the factory, so the site can no longer be used for football.

At the time, the club did not make an objection.

Since then the council, with Sport England, has discussed with Thor ways in which it can compensate – in the form of a legally-binding agreement – for the loss of a ground at which Vics sealed promotion back to non-league football’s top tier at the end of their first season.

The Guardian understands that those talks are close to a conclusion although a new, like-for-like stadium will not be a condition attached to their outcome.

“There are other material considerations that warrant a flexible approach that is unlikely to meet in full the policy requirement for a replacement facility,” wrote planning officer Paul Friston in a report last summer.

“Thor’s [financial] contribution is not expected to meet the cost of one either.”

Sport England, which was against Thor’s request for permission to increase production in July, has yet to comment on its application to change the use of the Victoria Stadium site.

Managing director David Hewitt says the chemicals firm could employ an extra 50 people if its plan is given approval.

“It’s a unique opportunity,” he told Wincham Parish Council.

Cheshire West and Chester Council’s strategic planning committee meets at the authority’s headquarters in Chester on Thursday, February 21 from 4pm.

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