Halton loses Amazon Widnes shed judicial review

A High Court judge has quashed Halton Council's decision to grant developer Prologis planning permission for a 1.2m sq ft warehouse at the Mersey Multimodal Gateway (3MG) after a judicial review won by parish councillors.

His Hon Judge Andrew Gilbart QC handed down his judgement at Manchester's Civil Justice Centre on Thursday morning.

Gilbart said Halton misinterpreted its own unitary development plan for the area by awarding consent for a large development on greenfield land before neighbouring brownfield plots at 3MG had been exhausted.

He also said Halton deprived Hale Bank Parish Council of the opportunity to participate effectively in consultation by unlawfully bringing forward the planning committee by a month to the middle of the summer holidays in August 2011 and not alerting consultees properly.

This amounted to a breach of Article 6 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and breach of Halton's Statement of Community Involvement.

The judge threw out counter claims by Halton that Hale Bank did not have authority to bring a judicial review and that it unfairly delayed development.

The judge also criticised the planning department of Halton for not addressing the Green Belt release issues in the officer's report to the planning committee.

The judicial review was heard over three days at the Civil Justice Centre at the end of May. Hale Bank was represented by Dan Kolinsky of Landmark Chambers, London. Halton was represented by Vincent Fraser QC of Kings Chambers, Manchester.

Halton had hoped to secure the land for Amazon and claimed the development would create 1,000 jobs.

Hale Bank Parish Council chairman, Cllr Colin Rowan, said today: "This is a matter that should never have come to court. It is a huge waste of public money in both legal costs and officer time and most importantly these jobs have now been lost to the borough of Halton.

"The blame for all this lies squarely at the feet of Halton Borough Council. Someone at Halton was so eager to push this through that they thought they could ignore the law and indeed, that they were above the law.

"Amazon should have been offered another site, such the one Halton started to offer them when they thought they might lose this case and that is [brownfield] Site 255 on Ditton Road, Widnes.

"Amazon did not need rail access as Halton claimed, they never did. We were also hugely disappointed that Halton's development partners, Prologis UK went along with Halton's dodgy plan. We invited them Prologis to come and talk to us, and, after originally saying 'yes' they suddenly changed their minds and declined."

Rowan said he hoped a full internal investigation will take place at Halton Council and that the Parish Council will now be writing to the District Auditor asking for an investigation into any inappropriately spent public funds.

He added: "The council-tax paying public of Halton deserve answers and apologies as do we, especially from the Leader of Halton Borough Council, Rob Polhill and their chief executive David Parr".

Cllr Rowan said he had also written to the Liverpool Local Enterprise Partnership asking why it had awarded Halton Council £5.4m of Growing Places Funding for the building of a road for the Amazon development.

Following the judgement, Cllr Rob Polhill, leader of Halton Council, said in a statement: "The council is disappointed that the court has found against the council in this matter and notes the comments made by the court, in particular that the court did not challenge the basic principle that future development of the site for employment remains appropriate.

"Local government is often criticised for delaying economic development and the creation of new jobs, therefore it is ironic that on this occasion Halton finds itself criticised for moving too quickly.

"Throughout this matter the council has acted in good faith and with one motivation, to bring new jobs to Halton and create employment for Halton residents.

"Irrespective of the legal arguments, the reality of this decision is that the intervention of the Hale Bank Parish Council and the subsequent decision of the court have resulted in the immediate loss of 1,000 new jobs in Halton.

"The council will continue to work towards the suitable redevelopment of this site and the creation of new jobs for Halton residents.

"In this respect, the infrastructure works required to bring the site forward, including the provision of a new site access, have already commenced and further site works will be undertaken to complete the new road access to the site in September. "

The market will now wait to see if Stobart, which gained consent for 1m sq ft on the brownfield part of 3MG earlier this year, will step in to deliver the distribution centre for Amazon.

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Nice one Parish Council. However, it seems incredulous that the LEP is continuing to use its funding on an infrastructure project for a site that will no longer be developed for a number of years. The point of the funding was for it to be used for "quickly on site" projects. That funding needs re-allocating.

By MrD

This is why regional and local planning needs to take precedence over neighbourhood level. That’s 1000 jobs for local people, in a recession, that will now go elsewhere…

By ....

So for the sake of a legal argument 1,000 jobs have been lost and a major development of the north west’s vital logistics infrastructure has been held back. Well done pen-pushers at Tinpot Parish Council. No doubt other areas of the country won’t be so fussy.


Complain all you want about loss of jobs but parish council isn’t the villain. UDP, policy, green belt, all exist for a reason. If planning authority had done its job properly…

By Ted Europa

If Halton had done their jobs properly and not cut corners the challenge might not have been successful! They obviously wanted the scheme to happen so rushed it through!


Listen – there’s a perfectly good unproblematic site next door – build out brownfield first, greenfield later, as the UDP says. The concept of flexible phasing argued by Halton was madness, as the judge said in court, like Eric Morecambe playing the piano

By Mush

This is another example of halton council getting it wrong don’t blame the parish council all they were asking for extra time to study what was a massive development that would have had an adverse that everyone agrees on for the residents even haltons own councillors who supported the application wouldn’t like to live by it?

By resident

"Development could lower their house prices and such financial interest made Hale Bank members biased and the resolution void as they did not declare their interests when opposing the plans" Fraser said Vincent Fraser QC – represented Halton in this case alongside in-house solicitors. Got to hand it to you Vincent – as someone living in Halebank but in the newly regenerated area (said in loose terms as possible), you sure blew this for Halton with these words :) !!! As a newish home owner in the Halebank area not involved in fighting this case, do I really want to loose money in my home value – which is plummeting daily, a home I bought in the hope that area was being regenerated – however the only regeneration I see is new weeds and vegetation appearing daily! against the prospect of new employment – is it heartless to say NO? Would Vincent want his home value sacrificed for jobs? Would Cllr Rob Polhill? Im not a gambling person but I’m hedging my bets on a clear no!! £5.4m Growing places Funding for New Road HBC have stated for years that their aspiration is to build a new relief road in Halebank to divert the hundreds of HGV’s that pass through Halebanks’ tiny roads on a daily basis – maybe the promised £5.4m could be used for the relief road instead?? A road is a road is it not ….

By Halebank Forgotten Town

I wanted to get a job there especially while things are hard as it is to get a job this is a joke welldone hbc for trying…

By rob

I would like to know the financial costings this has cost to take to court. What a waste of money , unfortunately Halton Council have once again demonstrated that they feel they cannot follow the law to the letter , then contest it when they don’t like the answer at the cost to the local people. Based on the information published this is surely incompetent and people should be held accountable.

By John Smart

This is typical of the lack of community involvement in planning and deveplopment over the year since Mike Cuff left the Borough? There is a definite lack of democracy in the Borough as the ONC commented on some years ago, Knowsley, Thamesise and Halton were severely lacking in democratic principles?

By T m Glynn

I was one of many who voted AGAINST Amazon building. What that plan doesn’t show you is right next to the greenery and pathways are our houses. Literally the factory car park would’ve been 50ft max from our gardens. Oh yes and from the plans we saw the most flammable items such as gases were stored the closest to the houses too. Dead clever Amazon.

By Dawn Walker