RESIDENTS are planning a major new battle over land which was home to Wigan’s last colliery.
Parkside Action Group (PAG) is preparing a case against changes to the green belt land status of the land surrounding the former pit which they fear will make it easier for the complex to become a lorry freight interchange.
The members are due to present new evidence to a Local Development Framework public inquiry at a pre-hearing meeting next month.
The site has been the subject of a long-running fight since mining finished. The pit opened in 1960 but only lasted until March 1993 when it was claimed by the Government’s pit closure programme - despite having a least a century of coal reserves remaining.
A bitter fight against the Astral Developments scheme for Europe’s biggest road/rail warehousing development, which claimed it would create thousands of jobs, started within days of the scheme being lodged with planners in 1996.
The project was abandoned, amid much celebration from protesters, two years ago.
Now PAG fears that an attempt to remove the green belt protection of the open space surrounding the colliery ‘triangle’ between the M6 motorway and the Liverpool/Manchester/West Coast Main Line railway junction would make any subsequent application much more of a certainty.
Residents in the Lowton/Abram area claim that a freight yard on this scale will choke the area’s roads with HGVs and increase air pollution.
But the former North West Development Agency, MPs and the surrounding Wigan, Warrington and St Helens Councils had publicly backed the project because of the employment possibilities it could bring to the region.
PAG Chairman Dave Tyas is urging supporters to attend the per-hearing meeting in St Helens on February 7. The public inquiry itself will be staged in March and April.
Mr Tyas said: “In spite of several years of community objection to the policy, the council is still persisting with an approach to lay the ground for the development of a huge freight terminal with a declaration of support for removal of land from the Green Belt both to East and West of Parkside Road.
“PAG has always believed that the environmental impacts of a freight terminal in the area outweigh any benefits, particularly given the potential destruction of vast areas of open countryside and massive increases in traffic and air pollution. The policy also prohibits any other form of development at the site other than a freight terminal.”