Amazon shed fate could be decided next week

A crucial hearing in the legal battle between two Merseyside councils that will determine whether the online retailer creates 1,000 jobs at a new distribution centre in Widnes will take place on Monday at the High Court in Manchester.

Hale Bank Parish Council alleges Halton did not follow proper procedure and has contravened planning guidance in approving plans for a 1.2m sq ft warehouse by Prologis on land neighbouring the existing Mersey MultiModal Gateway, or 3MG, logistics park.

A High Court judge will decide whether Hale Bank Parish Council can have a limit set on the costs it must pay if it loses the judicial review case against Halton Council.

A date of 28 and 29 May has been set for the judicial review to be heard in Manchester but the case could be dropped after Monday if the judge decides Hale Bank would have to pay all of Halton's costs if Halton wins and Hale Bank feels it cannot face the financial risk.

Prologis won consent for the scheme last summer and has public funding from Regional Growth Fund and Growing Places Fund for a new road bridge over the west coast main line into the 45-acre site.

However, Hale Bank argues the site cannot be removed from green belt for development before the links are completed. The land was subject to an earlier challenge at a public inquiry in 2003 into Halton's unitary development plan, when the inspector ruled it could be removed from green belt under certain conditions. Hale Bank also claims the public consultation during August 2011 into Prologis's planning application was not adequate, as it did not hold a meeting that month.

Amazon and Prologis have remained fiercely private during the legal fight but industrial agents close to the situation said Amazon had started considering other sites for its regional depot as a contingency in case the judicial review does not go in its favour.

This week Liverpool Local Enterprise Partnership confirmed Prologis would receive £5.4m from the government's Growing Places Fund for the road bridge, to add to the £4.5m already in place from the RGF for rail freight infrastructure. The site has previously benefited from European Regional Development Fund and North West Development Agency funding.

Other occupiers already on 3MG include Tesco with a large chilled warehouse developed by Stobart.

Halton is represented by Vincent Fraser QC of Kings Chambers in Manchester alongside in-house solicitors. Hale Bank is represented by Dan Kolinsky of Landmark Chambers in London and Richard Buxton solicitors of Cambridge.

Your Comments

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typical public sector jobsworths, holding back enterprise for the sake of red tape. no wonder we’ve double dipped!

By Richard

Hardly private enterprise when so much public money has been pumped in to make it possible. And greenbelt provides wider social benefits so it is right that any potential incursions are properly examined. Public sector jobsworths or private sector parasites?

By for real?

Surely the longer term message is that Halton is not an easy place to do business in. The consequence of that will be even more green space, where industry used to be.

By Mind The Gap

The principle is surely one of precedent. If the courts do not protect greenbelt land, or only allow exceptions given strict conditions and in exceptional circumstances as here, then we are likely to see even more urban sprawl which is extremely costly to society in both economic and social terms. However these costs (externalities) are seldom borne by the developer apart from through token s106 agreements. Also was there some controversy recently about how the occupier, Amazon organise their tax affairs?

By for real?

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