WARRINGTON based logistics company Eddie Stobart has come under fire from angry councillors and residents after sending out an email circular to staff encouraging them to support a controversial plan to build a new National Distribution Centre on Green Belt land.
With the cut off date for comments looming this Thursday (May 24) the email, which was leaked to those campaigning against the plan, resulted in a sudden surge of support for the application which has already once been rejected by members of the town’s planning committee and also gone to appeal.
The email has been described as a “cynical ploy” to win support for the application on green belt land opposite Eddie Stobart’s existing HQ.
The emailed circular read: “As you’ll be aware, Eddie Stobart has made proposals to build a new National Distribution Centre next to our Warrington HQ in Appleton Thorn, creating 730 new full-time jobs. As part of the development, we will invest over £6 million in improving local roads and junctions. This multi-million pound investment will secure the future of our business now and in the long-term.
We first applied for planning permission last year and, despite support from Warrington’s planning officers, the scheme was turned down by councillors.
We are now applying again and as an employee of Eddie Stobart we would like your help in supporting our application. It’s quick and easy to do, just click the link below and complete the form, making clear in the comments section that you would like to see our plans approved.
Your help and support is much appreciated.”
Appleton Thorn Ward parish Cllr Gerry Palmer said: “This is a cynical ploy by Stobart’s. If you look at these supporting documents, there are duplicates and false addresses.
“I hope the council will differentiate between the well researched and heartfelt views of the objectors from those giving support as glib as “please approve” from given addresses such as 11111111 or Eddie Stobart’s own address in Warrington.”
Borough Cllr Sharon Harris said: “I am absolutely horrified to see the cynical depths of manipulation in which this particular application is being carried out by the Applicant.
“Last week Stobart’s sent out a communication to their staff encouraging them to support the application and, as a result, since May 15, when the communication was sent out there have been 36 representations in support. Many of these representations give no reasons as to why they support the application and several give the Applicant’s address rather than their own.
“Furthermore, I fail to understand why this application has been brought to the Council yet again whilst there is still an appeal pending in respect of the last application. It is my understanding that the Applicant will withdraw that appeal if this new application is approved. Once again, a cynical manipulation of the process and this does nothing to uphold Stobart’s reputation as a clear and transparent business – it is a shameful way to do business and I am sure that Warrington Borough Council will see through these tactics.”
Local resident Bill Roberts, who has been one of many actively campaigning to protect the Green Belt in the Appleton Thorn/Grappenhall area said: “Stobarts have scored a massive own-goal with this desperate letter or “veiled threat” as I would call it.
“The management memo to all workers calling on them to provide “fake support” for their new build headquarters is unwelcome, biased and at best ethically questionable!
“It’s an unwelcome move as it’s a clear attempt to swamp the legitimate protests of local people living with the problem with corporate e-mail power and effectively corrupt the appeal process.
“It’s biased as the author “forgets” to tell the workforce WHY the initial application was legally rejected. Lets remind ourselves and the workforce – that it was primarily rejected by WBC on the grounds that it was an application to destroy designated greenbelt that was not supported by any Exceptional reasons including financial benefit for the area.
“This is an application that is vehemently opposed by local communities and parishes councils on many grounds – No new exceptional reasons given – Increased noise and light pollution – poorer air quality – increased HGV movements – more stress on road infrastructure that is already broken (£6m quid won’t fix it ) to name but a few . Let’s hope those sitting on the DMC take into account this disgraceful behaviour by Stobarts and do the right thing for the local community and again deny this application.
A spokesperson for Eddie Stobart said:”“Eddie Stobart is committed to keeping all our employees updated on the various initiatives and projects we work on.
“Sharing the plans and proposals for our National Distribution Centre is part of our ongoing engagement with employees, keeping them abreast of progress, as well as asking for their support on a project which is critical to securing the future of Eddie Stobart in Warrington.”