Controversial new jobs park plan remains in the balance

Plans for a major employment park tipped to create more than 2,500 jobs close to Wigan are still on the desk of the Secretary of State for a decision, after being called in more than a year ago.

Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 2:57 pm
Updated Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 3:00 pm
Haydock Point
Haydock Point

Following the Secretary of State’s approval of logistics schemes in the North West the Government is now being urged to give the green light to other called-in developments that could unlock thousands of new jobs.

But the plan for Haydock Point was rejected by St Helens Council after some councillors branded it a “monstrosity” which would cause too much damage to the environment both because it would be built on green belt and because of the extra HGVs that would be driving around the area.

Supporters of the scheme say that while the coronavirus pandemic has significantly disrupted the UK’s economy, the approval of schemes like this one “present an unmissable opportunity to unlock much-needed jobs and investment, supporting aspirations to boost prosperity and help level up the North.”

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The developments currently awaiting a decision include Peel L&P and PLP’s Haydock Point, the Parkside Colliery development and the Omega South expansion. Combined, these developments will deliver over 5,000 jobs at a time of critical importance as the North looks ahead to post-pandemic economic recovery.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of the logistics sector, which has been a key component in ensuring the delivery of food, vital goods and medicines over the past year. Logistics contributes over £130bn Gross Value Added, amounting to over 10 per cent of the UK’s non-financial business economy.

Undoubtedly, logistics is a key growth sector.

The Haydock Point application was first submitted to St Helens Council in 2017 and is set to be determined alongside its neighbouring schemes by the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick. Haydock Point would cover 1.8 million sq ft of employment space, which backers say would be worth £159m each year to the economy annually.

Once fully built, Haydock Point would be expected to deliver in the region of 2,760 jobs as well as a £100,000 apprenticeship fund, coupled with a £1m investment into a dedicated bus service, connecting the development with communities and providing job opportunities to local people.

The development would also include an £11.4m private investment in improving the highway network around Junction 23 of the M6, reducing wait times for businesses, visitors and residents.

Business groups have indicated their support for the developments, recognising the huge economic benefits that such schemes can deliver.

Tracy Mawson, St Helens Chamber Chief Executive, said: “As the industry leading body within St Helens, the Chamber has been monitoring the inquiry proceedings for the called-in logistics applications across the North West, and wishes to express its support for the developments proposed for St Helens, which would bring significant investment and employment opportunities to the borough and the wider region.

“Within St Helens, Haydock and the M6 corridor are well-established areas for logistics and industrial development, located on a key north-south national route and centrally placed between Liverpool and Manchester, which is benefitting from ongoing investment in infrastructure across the region, including an enlarged Port of Liverpool.

“As such, I would urge the Government to approve Haydock Point and the surrounding developments in order to deliver investment and employment opportunities as the region’s economy seeks to bounce-back from Covid.”

Echoing this, Damian Waters, North West Director for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), added: “The Haydock Point proposals are incredibly exciting and have the potential to have a hugely positive impact on the regional economy.

“Businesses across the UK have suffered enormously since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the North West has been no exception.

“As we look ahead to the future, I am pleased to support the proposals to deliver a shovel-ready scheme which will bring thousands of employment opportunities and critical private sector funding to improve the safety and wait times at Junction 23 of the M6.”

Richard Knight, Director of Land & Communities at Peel L&P said: “Our proposals for Haydock Point would help meet a chronic shortage of large scale, oven-ready sites in the area, which will add vital logistics capacity at a time of sustained growth and investment in the Port of Liverpool and enable St Helens to capture well-paid jobs in the logistics sector.

“Working with our development partner PLP, we’re ready to deliver these plans to prevent St Helens losing out on millions of pounds worth of investment and we hope the Government will see our plans as a significant opportunity to help kick-start the economy after the pandemic and tackle unemployment.”

But last November St Helens Council rejected the plans.

Despite the benefits, Haydock Labour councillor Anthony Burns, cabinet member for public health, leisure, libraries and heritage, said he could not support the application as the significant harm on the landscape is too great.

Green Party Haydock councillor David van der Burg also urged the committee to reject the plans. He highlighted the anti-social behaviour around Haydock Industrial Estate, saying lorry drivers have left hundreds of bottles of urine and bags of faeces.

Coun van der Burg said another “enormous warehouse” in Haydock would inevitably lead to thousands of extra HGVs without adequate facilities, leading to more anti-social behaviour.

Labour’s Dennis McDonnell said the proposals should be amended to reduce the scale and set further away from the A580 and Haydock Park racecourse.

Coun McDonnell said: “The application represents overdevelopment of the site.

“It is monstrous, causing significant harm to the green belt. The application is certainly over the top.”

Newton Labour councillor Seve Gomez-Aspron, deputy leader of the council, welcomed the benefits of the scheme, but questioned whether it really was the “right site in the right location”.

Coun Gomez-Aspron said: “I accept that the jobs are great and the infrastructure investment is great, and investing in a bus service to Earlestown and Newton-le-Willows and St Helens is exactly what I want to hear from these type of developments.

“But I can’t reconcile that against the size of this development and the impact that that would have on the surrounding environment.”

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