The Government’s Planning Inspectorate is to decide whether to allow developer Parkside Regeneration to create a 1m sq ft industrial estate on Green Belt land in St Helens, after the scheme was called in for review last spring.
The inquiry, which is being led by planning inspector Dominic Young, is expected to last 16 days and started this week.
Parkside Regeneration, a joint venture between developer Langtree and St Helens Council, wants to redevelop the former 230-acre colliery in Newton-le-Willows, and claims its scheme could create up to 1,300 jobs.
St Helens Council approved the outline planning application, submitted last December, but the decision was recommended for sign-off by the Secretary of State because of its scale, and was subsequently called in.
In addition to the warehouse units, the plans for Parkside Colliery include the creation of a £40m link road connecting the proposed employment site to the nearby motorway.
Plans for the link road, which would cut through 93 acres of Green Belt in the boroughs of St Helens and Warrington, will also be considered as part of the inquiry.
The plans for the redevelopment of the former colliery have drawn criticism from local residents, who claim the project would cause a rise in pollution levels due to an increase in traffic and the loss of green space in the area.
Parkside Action Group, a residents committee that opposes the scheme, said the land earmarked for development acts as a “green lung in an area of intense traffic and air pollution”.
Speaking at the inquiry earlier this week, Newton-le-Willows ward councillor David Smith expressed worries about the large scale of the development and the proximity of proposed warehouse units to existing residential houses.
Smith said that the project stretches far beyond the footprint of the former colliery, which closed in 1992, and “the size of the warehouses [proposed] is a major concern for many”.
The scheme was designed by Fletcher Rae Architects, with planning consultancy from Spawforths.
Parkside Regeneration declined to comment.