Gove backtracks, calls in £180m Warrington industrial
Langtree and Panattoni’s 3.1m sq ft Green Belt logistics scheme has hit a roadblock after the secretary of state moved to hold a public inquiry into the project.
Warrington Council had voted to approve the outline application for scheme, known as Six56, in March. The project calls for the building of seven warehouses, designed by SGP, that would create 4,000 jobs. Developers Langtree and Panattoni said Six56 would generate more than £7m annually in new rates income for the council.
Six56 had been contentious from the beginning, receiving more than 900 objections from members of the public.
The primary issue is the scheme’s location on 242 acres of Green Belt. The area in question, which sits off Junction 20 of the M6, is allocated for employment in Warrington’s draft local plan – but not in the currently adopted one.
Andy Carter, MP for Warrington South, is one of the critics of the scheme and has voiced his opposition to the development on Green Belt before the conclusion of the new local plan.
In a Facebook post, Carter wrote: “The local plan has yet to be adopted and decisions on building major logistic hubs should only be made when the infrastructure needs for the wider area are assessed rather than simply looking at it in a piecemeal fashion.”
Secretary of state Michael Gove’s decision to call in the application is a reversal from six months ago, when Gove had told Warrington Council he would not exercise his right to call the application in. Instead, he would defer to the local authority’s decision. At the time, Gove had written that he “believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible”.
A month later, Warrington Council received a letter from Gove asking the authority to refrain from officially approving the application so that he could have the option to call it in.
It is an option that Gove has taken, as per a letter received by Carter from Lee Rowley, the parliamentary under secretary of state for local government and building safety. The letter, published on Carter’s Facebook, said that arrangements for a public inquiry for the application would be made shortly.
“In general, planning applications are only called-in if planning issues of more than local importance are involved,” the letter reads. “The secretary of state has indicated, however, that there are occasions when it is right for him to decide the issue, normally following a public enquiry.”
A separate letter to Warrington Council contains the issues the secretary of state will be considering during the inquiry. These are the extent to which Six56 is consistent with government Green Belt policies and the development plan for the area. A copy of the letter can be found on the borough’s planning portal using application reference number 2019/34799.
John Downes, group chief executive of Langtree, said a review of Six56 was “not unexpected” given the size of the scheme.
“Our application is in-line with Warrington’s emerging local plan, which has identified the site as necessary for meeting its statutory employment land obligations,” Downes said.
“We can demonstrate a clear and compelling economic case for the site and, as the economy enters a period of volatility, the ability to deliver job-creation on this scale will be vital to sustaining our communities. So, too, will be the fillip it will provide in terms of the rates income generated.”
Downes continued: “We’re ready to invest more than £180m in a local supply chain to develop the site, which, when completed, will generate more than £216m a year in new economic output.”
Downes went on to say that his team was working to prepare all the information that the secretary of state and Planning Inspectorate will require for the inquiry.
A spokesperson for Warrington Council said: “We note the decision of the Secretary of State to call in the planning application for Warrington Six56 and look forward to working with the Planning Inspectorate in due course.”
Spawforths is the planning consultant for Six56. The project’s application reference number with Warrington Council is 2019/34799.