A HUGE business park is planned for the site of the former Peter Black factory in Keighley town centre.

Developers announced plans to demolish most of the Airedale Mill buildings on land bordered by Lawkholme Lane, the railway track and Showfield houses.

Companies will be invited to create new units on the site to meet their own specialist needs.

The original stone mill building will be retained, along with Aire Valley Business Centre and Original Factory Shop buildings at the junction of Lawkholme Lane and Alice Street.

News of the ambitious project, which could help meet huge demand from local companies wishing to expand, was this week welcomed by politicians.

The site was originally the home of footwear and accessories manufacturer Peter Black which at its height employed more than 1,000 people.

MCR Property Group this month submitted a planning application to Bradford Council to partially demolish the site.

MCR, a real-estate investment and development company, said it hoped demolition work would begin this autumn, with a planning application in late 2019 for the wider development of the site.

MCR asset manager Martin Brown said the regeneration of the Airedale Mill would comprise of multiple commercial units where buyers could design and build space to meet their own requirements.

The original mill building would be retained to preserve the local heritage, with ground-floor and first-floor office suites within the original stone building, and off-road parking and loading facilities.

Mr Brown said: “We intend to restore this commercial area to its former glory, when Peter Blacks was a major employer in Keighley. Local businesses are important to us and we will appeal to these businesses to ascertain their requirements for the space.

“Airedale Mill means so much to the people of Keighley. We want to maintain the integrity of the buildings and their history. The original stone building will remain, as well as the building currently occupied by the Original Factory Shop.”

Keighley MP John Grogan this week said he hoped the project would be like a “phoenix rising from the ashes” of the old Peter Black site.

He added: “This major new investment could be a real tonic for the local economy. At last week’s Keighley Business awards the number one complaint made to me from successful companies of all sizes was the lack of new business units in the town.”

Khadim Hussain, who represents Keighley Central ward on Bradford Council, said Peter Black had a history in Keighley, but he welcomed redevelopment of the site.

He said: “Bespoke units will serve the needs businesses that crying out for space and otherwise might have to relocate outside Keighley.”

Cllr Hussain hoped the project could mitigate the effects of the recent withdrawal of plans to build a £60m industrial park off Royd Ings Avenue.

Fellow Keighley Central councillor Zafar Ali said: “I like that businesses will come to Keighley, there are a lot of youngsters who need employment. It’s good news if we are going to create viable buildings, but we must not offend people living nearby.

He said it was vital the new commercial units could be accessed only via Lawkholme Lane, rather than using the old Peter Black entrances along narrow Strawberry Street and Holker Street.

He said: “For a number of years residents told me big articulated lorries made a noise in the mornings, and stopped traffic as they turned from North Street.”

“There must also be car parking spaces on site so people don’t have to park in nearby streets. I hope the developers will consult with people who live nearby.”

Abid Hussain, the third Keighley Central councillor, said he was glad the original multi-storey mill building would remain.

He said: “The stone building looks nice for Keighley, but if the other bits need to come down, I fully support that. That will be good for business in Keighley.”

The iconic Peter Black name disappeared from Keighley in 2012 when parent company Li & Fung decided to move its remaining 62 workers to Manchester.

Peter Black was founded in the 1940s, using old army webbing to make shopping bags, and went on to employ more than 1,000 workers.

The firm grew to be one of Marks & Spencer’s leading suppliers, but by the 990s times were changing in Black’s key markets, with the footwear business particularly affected by evolving tastes and cheap foreign imports.

Hundreds of jobs were lost in the early 1990s, and another 285 in 1995 as footwear manufacturing closed.