Against officer recommendation, Warrington’s planning committee has refused an application by Eddie Stobart Logistics to build a 630,000 sq ft warehouse on green belt land off the M56, leading the company’s chief executive to claim it may “look elsewhere” to expand its operations.
The scheme, designed by architect RGP and supported by planner GVA How, was to add to Eddie Stobart’s existing facilities just off Junction 9 of the M56, which currently covers 145,000 sq ft of logistics space. The proposals, developed alongside Liberty Properties, were for a warehouse of around 600,000 sq ft along with circa 30,000 sq ft of office and ancillary space.
Ahead of yesterday’s planning committee, Warrington Council’s planning officers had recommended the scheme for approval, arguing that Stobart had demonstrated ‘very special circumstances’ to allow the project to go ahead; these included supporting more than 650 jobs, and Stobart’s local spend of around £2m per year on businesses within the borough.
The scheme was recommended for approval subject to a Section 106 agreement; this was to include contributions of £2.1m towards public transport, public footpath, and road improvements.
The green belt nature of the site, however, means there were significant objections to the project particularly from local councillors, including Cllrs Sharon Harris, Judith Wheeler, and Gerry Palmer. All three argued the land’s green belt status should be protected, while also highlighting the traffic impact of the development.
Cllr Harris argued that releasing the land from the green belt ahead of Warrington’s refreshed Local Plan would be “premature and wholly inappropriate”, while also accusing Stobart of “a clear lack of concern for the community” by not holding pre-application discussions with Appleton Parish Council and the Appleton Thorn Residents Group.
Meanwhile, Cllr Palmer said the timing of the application, submitted prior to considering the updated Local Plan, was “undemocratic”. On the proposed addition of new jobs, he added: “The benefits never seem to trickle down into the community. All we get is the congestion, the litter, the pollution, the noise and the loss of our precious green space.”
Following the refusal, Alex Laffey, chief executive officer at Eddie Stobart, said the business now may “look elsewhere” to expand as a result of the decision.
“We are bitterly disappointed that Warrington Council’s Development Management Committee decided to refuse our application at Appleton Thorn, against the advice of their officers,” he said.
“We will consider carefully the reasons for refusal and what our options are to contest the decision. The refusal may well mean that Eddie Stobart will have to look elsewhere to expand, taking the 480 new jobs and the annual £18m economic boost with it.”