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Should any Green Belt planning applications be getting heard ahead of Local Plan?


EDDIE Stobart may have won the planning battle for permission to build a New National Distribution Centre on 39 acres of Green Belt land at Appleton Thorn – but the war is set to rage on.

Those who have been campaigning against the development have been left outraged and disgusted by the decision which was voted through 8-2 by members of the planning committee earlier this week.

Objectors have already sent a letter to the new Secretary of State asking for the decision to be called in, while others are complaining that members of the committee were actively encouraged by officers to recommend approval, without proper consideration of all the objections.

I have to say I was somewhat surprised by one councillor (Brian Maher) not appearing to know the site in question when he asked if it was the old Greenall’s site! Moments later he seconded that the plan should be approved!

I was also surprised to hear Executive Director Andy Farrall urging members of the committee to approve the application after saying it was little different to the previous one which had been refused and subject to an appeal.

This following on from the council deciding not to defend the reasons for refusal on the grounds of it being premature ahead of the Local Plan and not enough special circumstances to protect the Green Belt.

Eddie Stobart has already announced they are pressing ahead with the proposal following the approval of planning permission – but if the Secretary of State decides to call it in this planning saga could drag on for quite some time.

With Langtree waiting in the wings with their planning application for an even bigger logistics hub on nearby land, this planning application will undoubtedly have a major impact on the release of Green Belt.

In reality should any of these planning applications be getting considered ahead of the Local Plan?

At Wednesday night’s Development Management Committee we heard Mr Farrall tell members that the council’s QC had advised them that being premature was not a valid reason to object to the development. But we also heard from the parish council’s planning consultant John Groves, that their QC, based at the same chambers, said being premature was a reason for refusal. They can’t both be right so surely we need a totally independent  judgement by a Government appointed inspector?

That sounds like common sense to me!

Eddie Stobart planning battle set to rage on


About Author

Experienced journalist for more than 35 years. Managing Director of magazine publishing group with six in-house titles and on-line daily newspaper for Warrington. Experienced writer, photographer, PR consultant and media expert having written for local, regional and national newspapers. Specialties: PR, media, social networking, photographer, networking, advertising, sales, media crisis management. Patron Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. Trustee Warrington Disability Partnership. Former Chairman of Warrington Town FC.


  1. Why is a council, which was elected by the people of Warrington, so seemingly desperate to approve planning schemes that will devastate what remains of our green belt, ahead of determining the borough’s Local Plan? Surely the LP should, after proper public consultation, be its first priority, with planning approvals of schemes incorporated in it being later considerations?

  2. The scale of the 2 applications – stobart and 656 – clearly indicate that a bit more time and joined up thinking is required . The much criticized plan is still not adopted -the key LTP4 remains nothing more than a wish list for roads so why the WBC “rush” to get these through . It continues to heighten the perception that this really is a developer led plan. Why doesn’t the council leader prove us all wrong and slow these applications down – not least of all after witnessing the incompetence of labour Cllr brian Maher this week ? Mr bowden has told us in the past fortnight “we need to take time to get the travellers site sorted” and “we must get WWL” right … he’s happy to have let signing off last years accounts to be delayed a year … so why the unholy rush to give away greenbelt ?

    • Belatedly, Council leader Cllr Russ Bowden is elsewhere reported as admitting “the authority has previously failed to ‘provide enough information’ over the controversial local plan.” Adding:
      “We are talking too much about this bit of land and that bit of land,”
      “We didn’t provide enough information – this is another example of me saying the council doesn’t always get it right.
      “Now, what I’m trying to do is slowly wind some of that stuff back.”
      But not winding back anything that is developer related obviously. Since WBC rushed ahead under questionable circumstances with the Stobart second, but ‘virtually the same’ (paraphrasing Andy Farrall) submission, after stating it would not be objecting to the application, as it had done to Stobart’s first proposal. Is anyone persuaded by Cllr Bowden apparent Damascene conversion?

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