CAMPAIGNERS fighting proposals by Eddie Stobart to build a new logistics site on green belt land in south Warrington say they will consider a Judicial Review if members of the planning committee approve the application.
The revised planning application has now been fixed for going to Warrington Council’s planning committee on Wednesday, July 24.
A previous application was turned down by members of the planning committee in the autumn despite officers recommending approval. Since then Eddie Stobart have appealed the decision and submitted a second application for the green belt land opposite their current HQ at Appleton Thorn.
Cllr. Ryan Bate, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Warrington South said: “We are doing everything we can to fight this proposal. The Council Leader claims he is listening to the people and we welcome this, but in this case, he is ignoring the wishes of the vast majority of the residents. The people strongly oppose this application, as he knows from the Leader’s forum he held recently in Appleton. The new application is little changed from the previous one that was turned down.
“The South Warrington Parish Councils’ planning group of which I am a member, has taken on a barrister so legal advice can be presented to the committee arguing that the application is wrong on both green belt and ‘prematurity’ grounds. We will be sharing this legal opinion with members of the planning committee ahead of the meeting.
“We are very disappointed that the Council has backed off from opposing Stobart’s appeal against the refusal of its first application. This appeal will be held in the autumn. Our barrister’s advice suggests they were wrong to do so. It is also really unfortunate that the planning committee had to make the decisions on whether to defend the appeal while the second Stobart’s application was pending. We hope that the planning committee doesn’t allow this to get in the way of viewing this new Stobart’s application in its own right and not feeling that its hands are tied in terms of the decision they make.
“If this application is passed we can expect another one for a much bigger logistics site, Six56, to follow shortly. If this was passed too, it makes an utter mockery of the Local Plan consultation process. It undermines any notion of public consultation, strategic thinking and due process and essentially means the Council is giving the green light to any developer to put in applications now before the Local Plan is agreed.
“If the members of the planning committee reject our barrister’s advice and approve Stobart’s second application, then the application must go to the Tory Secretary of State for his approval which gives us a second opportunity to put our case.”
Cllr Bate added: “We are also considering a Judicial Review to challenge the flawed decision should the committee grant planning permission.”
Council Leader Cllr Russ Bowden responded: “Cllr Bate displays a startling lack of understanding about how the planning system works. The Leader has no role to play in planning decisions and my personal views are irrelevant. It is a quasi-judicial process that is the remit of the cross-party Development Management Committee.
“Unlike Cllr Bate, I have total confidence in elected members to determine a planning application in line with all of the evidence and UK planning law. If he thinks that his Liberal Democrat colleagues aren’t up to that responsibility, then perhaps he should come clean and let us know.
“This is a wholly new application for the Eddie Stobart site. It has to be determined on it’s own merits, irrespective of the pending appeal over the initial application and any decisions made by the Council in respect of that appeal.
“This is simply the latest attempt to weaponise the planning process. We have already had the unwarranted attack on Council officers, who have no right of reply. Now we have an attack on fellow Councillors that have a very serious job to do. Threats of action over unmade decisions at a future meeting are simply outrageous, regardless of the political heat that seems to be getting to his head.”
Warrington Borough Council took the decision not to defend the Stobart appeal after receiving external barrister legal advice.