Dilemma as Wigan warehouse scheme becomes jobs versus environment

An illustrative view of how the logistics warehouse could look
An illustrative view of how the logistics warehouse could look

The borough faces a dilemma pitting the economy against the environment after a massive job creation scheme was proposed on Wigan’s green belt.

Developer db symmetry says its hoped-for huge logistics warehouses close to junction 25 of the M6 could bring as many as 1,650 much-needed jobs to the borough.

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However, furious politicians and residents who have opposed previous similar schemes in the past have again hit out at the “destruction” of open space.

The development firm says it would build symmetry park Wigan on the site of a former colliery between the motorway and Warrington Road, south of the Wheatlea industrial estate, and says Wigan Council documents show there is a lack of employment sites in the borough.

However, those opposing the development say the scheme is not in keeping with the town hall’s 2013 Local Plan and has been floated before the controversial Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), which has itself been criticised for allowing too much green belt building, is revised.

Announcing the plan, db symmetry says the local authority’s own assessments show a growing demand for logistics sites with good access to the major road network and has talked up the potential for an economic and jobs bonanza.

MD Andrew Dickman said: “It’s exciting times for Wigan with the advent of HS2 and the council’s ambitious plans to grow the local economy and revitalise the town centre.

“New employment sites like symmetry park Wigan will mean that the town gets its share of Greater Manchester’s economic growth and can provide jobs for people closer to home.

“We have chosen this site due to its direct access to the M6, meaning logistics vehicles do not need to pass through residential areas.

“It could provide high-quality jobs and apprenticeships for people across Wigan which will create lasting benefits for the local economy.”

A planning application for the logistics park is expected to be submitted in summer.

The company says it is investing £73m in the borough through the construction and suggested the town hall will be £3m a year better off in business rates payments.

All that, however, has not impressed Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue and Winstanley ward councillors who have already spoken out strongly against the idea.

Critics say the scale of potential development, involving eight enormous units covering some 1.44m sq of floor space, is utterly unacceptable.

Ms Fovargue said: “Let nobody be in any doubt, this application will destroy green belt land in the Bryn and Winstanley area and will have a huge impact on residents in nearby local communities.

“I do not believe that any ‘exceptional circumstances’ warrant release of green belt land at this site and I will be calling on the planning committee to reject this application.”

Those against the symmetry park Wigan plan say a Government-appointed inspector in 2013 ruled the adverse effects on the green belt of major building at junction 25 were too problematic.

Winstanley ward representative Coun Marie Morgan said: “The sheer size of the planned development will shock local residents. We have faced considerable development over the past decade and the A49 already suffers from congestion and I fear for yet more traffic and air pollution on an already overburdened local road network.

“It should not be forgotten that whilst the application considers the site to the north of the M6 spur road, the land to the south is also included in the GMSF allocation and could also be developed for industrial or housing uses.

“A recent application for housing at Bryn has already received planning permission and the infrastructure is simply not there to support further development of this size and scale along the A49 corridor.”

Residents will have the chance to give their views on the plan at two-drop in events.

These take place on Thursday, May 24 at St Aidan’s Parish Centre, on Holmes House Avenue in Winstanley, between 4pm and 8pm and on Friday, May 25 at The Deanery High School, on Frog Lane, between 5.30pm and 8pm.