Campaigners determined to fight on despite vote

Florida Farm North
Florida Farm North

Residents have lost their fight against plans for a £150m logistics development - but they insist the war is not over.

Hundreds of people had objected to proposals to erect two industrial buildings on green belt land at Florida Farm North in Haydock.

If this development goes ahead, I am concerned that the impact will be felt acutely by my constituents in Ashton and will have a detrimental impact on the local road infrastructure which is already creaking with existing traffic

Yvonne Fovargue

Developer Bericote Properties Ltd plans to erect two commercial buildings on the site, creating the equivalent of 2,119 full-time jobs.

They also sought permission for an access road to the A580 East Lancashire Road.

But residents have campaigned against the scheme for months, writing hundreds of letters of objection and even being visited by Green Party leader Caroline Lucas.

The planning application was considered by the planning committee at St Helens Council on Tuesday evening.

Six objectors spoke during the meeting and their concerns included the loss of green belt land, the impact on traffic and pollution.

But councillors decided to approve the scheme, with 10 members of the committee voting in favour of it and four voting against.

After the meeting, Paul Parkinson, chairman of Residents Against Florida Farm Development, said: “We are totally disappointed with the result.”

He said the objectors’ arguments were “trashed” and they felt let down by some councillors.

Despite planning permission being granted, campaigners remain hopeful that the development could still be stopped.

Because it is on green belt land, it will now go to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government, who will decide whether the council has the power to pass the application or whether it should be called in and go to a public inquiry.

Mr Parkinson said: “We have already referred this application to the Secretary of State asking for him to call it in for a public inquiry to be held. We are today reinforcing that request.

“It has to be referred to the Secretary of State by the council because it’s a departure from the greenbelt policy.

“We are very hopeful.”

He thanked everyone who had supported the campaign, including members of the committee, nearly 2,000 supporters on Facebook, Wigan councillors, Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue and Caroline Lucas.

Ms Fovargue said: “The decision of St Helens Council to award planning permission must now be called in by the Secretary of State. I find it extraordinary that the permission has been granted against the council’s adopted policy and I do not believe that any exceptional circumstances exist to warrant this decision.

“If this development goes ahead, I am concerned that the impact will be felt acutely by my constituents in Ashton and will have a detrimental impact on the local road infrastructure which is already creaking with existing traffic. Sajid Javid MP must now intervene on this matter.”

The Campaign to Protect Rural England also wants the decision to be called in.

Planning manager Jackie Copley said: “It appears there is no stopping motorway based big shed developments, irrespective of green belt protection, local objection, generation of unsustainable traffic patterns and harm to the environment.

“The cumulative impacts of similar developments in Wigan, St Helens, Chorley and Knowsley do not seem to have been fully considered.”

Meanwhile, Bericote welcomed the approval from the planning committee and hope to start work later this year.

Development director Keith Wilson said: “Bericote is delighted that St Helens Council has approved our plans to invest £150m in a modern logistics development at Haydock.

“St Helens is ideally located for large-scale logistics development but for too long been missing out on investment in this sector such as has been delivered at Omega in nearby Warrington. This development will be a game-changer for the whole area and is already becoming known as the ‘next Omega’.

“Bericote has a strong track record of delivering high quality distribution developments for the likes of Rolls Royce and Asda Walmart and we look forward to commencing work on the site later this year, with the first building being completed before the end of 2018.”