WARRINGTON Borough Council will not be submitting evidence to defend the appeal by Eddie Stobart to build a logistics centre on Green Belt land at Appleton Thorn.
The decision not to submit evidence at the appeal was taken behind closed doors at a meeting of the Development Control Committee as a part 2 item.
The appeal by Liberty Properties Developments Ltd & Eddie Stobart Ltd relates to Land north of Barleycastle Lane, Appleton Thorn , Warrington, WA4 4RB.
In a letter to Planning Inspector Robert Wordsworth Warrington’s Principal Planning Officer Marthan Hughes, states: “I write to inform you that in relation to the above appeal the Council have reviewed their case and will not be submitting evidence to defend the first reason for refusal as set out below;
1. The proposed development would constitute inappropriate development within the Green Belt and by definition would be harmful to the Green Belt and has not provided very special circumstances to outweigh the harm and as such is contrary to NPPF section 13 and Local Plan Core Strategy CS5.
Another reason to refuse the application due to it being premature, had already been withdrawn on legal advice.
The Planning application which was rejected last November consists of demolition of all existing on-site buildings and structures and construction of a National Distribution Centre building (Use Class B8) with ancillary office accommodation (Class B1(a)), vehicle maintenance unit, vehicle washing area, internal roads, gatehouse, parking areas, perimeter fencing, waste management area, sustainable urban drainage system, landscaping, highways improvements and other associated works.
The site extends to approximately 15.7 hectares in size and is currently two undeveloped, arable fields divided by a low hedgerow running from north to south.
The site falls within the Green Belt land (as defined by the Adopted Warrington Local Plan Core Strategy) between the Warrington urban area to the west and Lymm to the east. The application site lies within the Appleton Thorn Neighbourhood Plan Boundary.
The appeal is expected to take place this autumn.
Meanwhile Stobarts have re-submitted an application to develop the land which is expected to come before Warrington Planning Committee on Wednesday, July 10.
Local Borough Cllr Ryan Bate (Lib Dem) said: “‘This latest action by the Borough Council regarding the Stobarts appeal is deeply troubling. The local authority made the decision to reject the original Stobarts application last year.
“That decision was taken by councillors on the Development Management Committee, who were fully briefed by officers and who had listened carefully to the case made by the applicant, residents, local representatives and a planning consultant. To now have removed both grounds for that refusal, in a manner lacking transparency, completely undermines the democratic aspect of the planning process.
“As well as lacking transparency, it also suggests that the interpretation of ‘very special circumstances’ being used is highly questionable and misjudged. To imply that Stobarts do meet very special circumstances is setting a very low bar as the precedent for other developers who wish to build on Green Belt.
“Furthermore, when taken together with the removal of prematurity as grounds for refusal, the Council is effectively saying that Green Belt can be released on an ad hoc basis with no reference to the Green Belt review which is part of the long-term, strategic process of making a Local Plan. Quite what the Council’s motivations are for this latest action are bizarre at best, but they certainly do not seem to reflect the best interests of the people of Warrington who want to see Green Belt protected and decisions made in a clear and transparent fashion.,” he added.
Warrington South Tory Parliamentary candidate Andy Carter said: “I’m disappointed and surprised that the council are taking this approach, It seems to fly in the face of planning policy and public opinion.
“Councillors rejected the application and at the first sight of legal challenge they’re folding and changing their mind. There has to be very special Circumstances to build in the green belt, what’s changed since the decision was made?
“This application and the Langtree proposal should be considered together because of the size of the proposals – approving these would render the local planning process redundant
“I’ll be writing to Secretary of State to ask them to call the plans in for review because of the scale and Impact of development.”
Lib Dem Leader Bob Barr, who sits on Development Control with fellow Lib Dem Judith Wheeler said: ” We did everything we possibly could to get the appeal defended on green belt grounds.”
A Warrington Borough Council spokesperson said: “After receiving external barrister legal advice, development management committee members determined not to provide any evidence to defend the first and second reasons for refusal.”