Wigan protesters’ joy as public inquiry is called into 1,600-job logistics hub plan
Wigan Council backed the vast 1.4 million sq ft distribution hub called Symmetry Park at the beginning of the year with supporters saying that it would help the borough become a key player within the logistics sector by attracting investment and creating more than 1,600 jobs.
But almost 350 people, including Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue, opposed the loss of around 135 acres of land off junction 25 of the M6 near Winstanley.
And yesterday Robert Jenrick, the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government announced that he had enough reservations about the project to “call it in.”
The local authority had been obliged to refer the matter to Whitehall because approving a logistics operation on the site was contrary to the adopted Wigan Local Plan 2013 which confirmed the sites greenbelt designation.
Ms Fovargue said: “This decision will be welcomed by campaigners who have fought a decade long battle alongside myseld and local ward councillors to protect this greenbelt site from destruction.
“I have consistently opposed any development of this site and it is now important that we redouble our efforts to stop ‘Big Shed’ development on this site.
Winstanley ward councillor, Paul Kenny who was controversially sacked from the ruling council cabinet by the former council leader, Lord Smith of Leigh for his outspoken opposition added: “In 2013, I like many people thought that the site was protected at least until 2026 when the council adopted the Local Plan which itself had undergone a public inquiry.
“I was desperately disappointed with the decision of the planning committee in January and alongside the local community we immediately began a campaign to convince the Minister that this application should be called in.
“So we will now go to a further public inquiry and make the case for the site to remain undeveloped and preserve our local environment from inappropriate development.”
When the council’s planning committe approved the application in January Coun Jeanette Prescott said it would be “absolute madness” to turn it down, with Coun Susan Greensmith adding: “We’ve got to think of bringing work into Wigan.
“We’ve got an opportunity here and it’s not what everyone wants, but can we afford to lose this?”
Planning officers said harm to the green belt would be “limited” and described the land, bounded by three major roads, as having a “different character” from normal countryside.
Responding to the public inquiry news, Leader of Wigan Council David Molyneux said: “The development at J25 is a major opportunity for our borough in terms of economic development, which is a key priority for the council especially as we look to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Although the Secretary of State has called in the application for further review, we hope that the suggested conditions relating to improvements to nearby habitats, energy efficient buildings and training and employment opportunities demonstrates the future benefits of the scheme.”
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