Canmoor’s plans to build 300,000 sq ft of warehouses on a Green Belt plot in Haydock have been refused, with councillors claiming approving the scheme would be about “money, nothing more”.
The proposals cover a 19-acre plot next to the Haydock Lane Industrial Estate to the east of the M6. This is currently vacant and is used as agricultural land.
Canmoor has put forward proposals for four separate units totalling nearly 300,000 sq ft; the largest of these is 150,660 sq ft and also includes a three-storey office, while the other units are 75,810 sq ft; 46,405 sq ft; and 27,150 sq ft. Access is proposed via the South Eastern corner of the site on Haydock Lane.
The site is designated as Green Belt, and Canmoor has had to argue there are ‘very special circumstances’ to bring forward the development.
These hinge on a lack of industrial and employment stock within the borough, which is said to be “constraining development and preventing investment”; Canmoor and its planning consultant and architect Michael Sparks Associates had argued there was a “considerable lack of land and premises of the quality of the application site”.
The developer argued: “It is necessary to deliver the site now rather than wait for the adoption of the Local Plan because there are no comparable sites coming forward and investment will be lost to other areas unless new modern employment developments are delivered”.
Canmoor also argued the scheme would not cause “urban sprawl” given the site’s boundary with a nearby brook. According to Michael Sparks, Canmoor has already fielded interest from a number of parties in the units.
This view was back by officers ahead of committee; planners said the scheme’s contribution to the council’s employment land supply would outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and recommended it for approval.
However, there was a backlash at planning committee, where Labour Cllr Martin Bond spoke against the scheme, arguing there was “brownfield land in the borough that could be remodelled”, and said the Green Belt land was “easy pickings” and “cheap for developers to make big profits from” compared with other available sites.
“There is no need for this [development] to go where it’s planned to go,” he said.
Green Cllr David van der Burg also spoke in objection, particularly around Canmoor’s case for very special circumstances; he argued the recommendation to approve was based on “money, nothing more”.
“A developer wanting to build speculatively on our Green Belt for their own considerable financial gain which may or may not create a couple of hundred poor-quality jobs, cannot possibly be a very special circumstance,” he said.
Labour Cllr Gill Neal, who also spoke out against the scheme put forward a refusal based on the project not meeting the very special circumstances required to release Green Belt land; this was approved by eight votes to three, with one abstention. A previous motion to approve was voted down by seven votes to three.