Lib Dems welcome Stobart’s call-in

May 25, 2020 12:00 PM

Local Liberal Democrats have welcomed the decision by the Secretary of State to call in for determination the planning application by Stobart's for a major logistics site on land north of Barleycastle Lane in Appleton Thorn.

This means that the Government rather than Warrington Council will decide if the planning application goes ahead. A public enquiry was held last October and the Inspector's report was submitted to the Secretary of State in mid December. This was held to consider Warrington Council's decision to turn down Stobart's first application but it also took into account their second application. This was virtually unchanged but approved by the Council following a U-turn by the planning committee.

Cllr Ryan Bate who represents Grappenhall and Appleton Thorn on Warrington Council says:

As Chairman of the 'Rethinking South Warrington's Future' Group and as a leading member of the South Warrington Parish Council's Planning Group, I have been heavily involved in the campaign to save our Green Belt. I welcome this news because it recognises the importance of the decision and its wider implications.

As I told the Public Inquiry last autumn, the arguments put forward by the developers were mainly economic and ignored the social and environmental concerns. The financial difficulties at the company have been well publicised nationally and there is no guarantee that it would actually be the same company that would be delivering the site with all the highly Stobart-centric commitments made in the application.

Chair of Appleton Parish Council and Borough Councillor Judith Wheeler adds:

We know that transport companies have played a vital role during the pandemic, but this is not a good reason for building on Green Belt. We have repeatedly said that this application does not meet the requirement for there to be 'very special circumstances' to justify release from the Green Belt.

Since the Inquiry was held much has changed. The pandemic has had a massive downward effect on the economy. There has been a surge of support for combating climate change. Fiddlers Ferry has closed and Unilever's Crosfield site is likely to close too. Other brownfield sites, especially retail ones, may now be available.

Fellow Appleton Borough Councillor Sharon Harris says:

The other significant reason for turning down this application is prematurity. Until the Local Plan is published, residents and councillors believe it would be quite wrong to release this land from Green Belt. Approving Stobart's would set the precedent for allowing the even bigger Six56 logistics site next-door. This would make a complete mockery of the Local Plan 'consultation' process. Allowing this application would ride roughshod over the views of thousands of residents. We will be doing everything we can to persuade the Secretary of State to turn it down.