The secretary of state has rejected Liberty Properties Developments’ and Eddie Stobart’s plans to build a 630,000 sq ft national distribution centre on land north of Barleycastle Lane, reversing a council approval last year.
The warehouse intended for logistics firm Eddie Stobart had proven controversial as it was to be located on Green Belt land opposite the company’s existing headquarters at Stretton Green Distribution Park in the village of Appleton Thorn.
In a report published today, the secretary of state supported previous objectors to the scheme, in concluding concluded that any benefits of the development would be insufficient to outweigh the likely harm to the Green Belt.
Warrington Council approved the plans on appeal in 2019, having refused a similar proposal the year before. Liberty Properties and Eddie Stobart had subsequently reworked their scheme and conducted further consultation with local stakeholders before submitting a revised application last April.
Under the plans, the development partners would build 600,000 sq ft of warehousing and a 30,000 sq ft office alongside Eddie Stobart’s existing facilities off Junction 9 of the M56 near Warrington. The project was designed by architect RGP and Avison Young is the planning consultant.
The application faced objections from local councillors including Cllrs Sharon Harris, Judith Wheeler and Gerry Palmer. All three argued that the site’s Green Belt status should be protected and raised concerns over the scheme’s potential to increase traffic.
However, the council’s report argued that Eddie Stobart had demonstrated “very special circumstances” that would permit the development to go ahead, including the anticipated creation of more than 650 jobs, and Stobart’s local spend of more than £2m per year on businesses within the borough.
The decision was called in by the secretary of state in July this year alongside other large-scale industrial proposals in the North West, including developer Tritax Symmetry’s proposed 1.4m sq ft Symmetry Park in Wigan; Langtree’s 1m sq ft redevelopment of Parkside Colliery in St Helens, and Harworth Group’s 1m sq ft Wingates industrial park in Bolton.
The secretary of state’s report today concluded that “the appeal should be dismissed and the called in planning application should be refused”. The developers are permitted to lodge an appeal with the High Court within six weeks of the decision notice being published.