LOCAL campaigners have been left angry after hearing that the Secretary of State is not going to call in the controversial Six56 logistics development on Green Belt land in south Warrington.
Meanwhile, developers Langtree are delighted, heralding 4,000 new jobs and £7.1 million a year in new rates for the borough council.
Secretary of State Michael Gove has confirmed he will not call in the decision by Warrington Borough Council’s Development Management Committee to approve the massive Six56 warehouse development at Appleton Thorn and the junction of the M6 and M56 motorways. He says this should be a local planning decision.
Warrington Council Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Bob Barr said: “There were many options for this site. Most local residents would have preferred it to have been retained in the Green Belt. If it had to be developed, a green science park would have been more appropriate or it could have been used for some of the housing required in the area. This would have been less harmful than most of the sites proposed in the South East Warrington Urban Extension.
“However, the site has strategic importance because of its location near the junction of the two motorways. Both the government and the developers want it to be used for logistics. It will not benefit Warrington but supports the regional economy. Such a decision should have been taken by the government.
“If the government had wanted to stop this development, to help their local Conservatives keep their promise to not build in the Green Belt, they could have done so. They did when Stobart’s applied for permission for a nearby warehouse in the Green Belt.
“Now they are comfortable laying the blame on the Labour Council. Members of the Development Management Committee have an obligation to make up their own minds and not take instructions from their party. However, when the Council Leader, Russ Bowden, stood in on the committee as a substitute for a member who was absent and spoke in favour of deciding the application locally, all the Labour members backed him. All opposition members opposed the decision.
“Had the decision been to turn down the application, there would have been an appeal that would have been judged by the National Planning Inspectorate and the decision would have been taken nationally not locally. We believe that would have been much more appropriate for this controversial development. As it stands, the Labour Council has worked with the Conservative government to impose an unwanted and inappropriate development on Warrington’s Green Belt.
Planning Spokesperson Cllr Ryan Bate added: “We’re hugely disappointed with Michael Gove’s decision not to call Six56 in for an independent planning inquiry. For such a significant and strategic site, we’re not at all clear why no call-in has happened. Having championed our Green Belt for many years, the Lib Dems share residents’ anger that this Tory government has allowed the Labour council to write off a huge swathe of the Green Belt. We will continue to challenge the Local Plan and after this latest news, it is clear that the Liberal Democrats are the only party who will protect our Green Belt.”
But developers Langtree say Warrington has been handed a major jobs boost after the Secretary of State decided not to review a recent planning decision by the local authority to approve a major new logistics development.
The decision gives the green light to 4,000 new jobs and 3.1m square feet of new warehousing, whilst unlocking £7.1m a year in new rates income for Warrington Council.
“In his letter, the Secretary of State has acknowledged that local authorities are best placed to decide what is right for their community and this news will not only unlock £180m of development, but generate substantial rates income each year for investment in local services.”
The scheme is on land bounded by junction 20 of the M6 and junction 9 of the M56 motorways. The focus on the logistics industry makes most sense in that context, says John Downes: “It’s a very sustainable site and the north west is currently suffering from under-supply of logistics space.
“The sector pays well, with average salaries around £29,000 a year. In a development of this size there will be lots of roles available, from entry-level up to senior technical and managerial jobs.”
Mr Downes, Langtree is committed to ensuring its investment is felt across the local economy via its supply chain engagement programme.
“The impact of our investment will be multiplied if we can engage local suppliers in the construction and operation of the scheme and we are committed to ensuring as many contracts as possible go to local firms,” added Mr Downes.
An intensive period of work will now commence before the construction of units can begin, including the agreement of the detailed design elements of the scheme and the introduction of significant highway and public realm improvements in and around the site. Langtree estimates that the work on site is likely to commence late 2023.