Overturning refusal of multi-million pound Wigan development could "set a precedent" in the borough

The potential decision to overrule Wigan Council’s refusal of a multi-million pound industrial unit in Ashton “could undermine” its planning system, one councillor has claimed.

Applicant Glenbrook wanted to build a 625,000sqft industrial site near green belt land off Lockett Road, Ashton.

The developer has appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, which will have final say on the matter after the proposal for Meridian 6 Wigan was blocked in April 2022 due to potential impacts on the roads and the green belt.

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Keep Ashton Green group celebrate industrial estate refusal outside Wigan Town Hall on April 12, 2022

A Keep Ashton Green campaigner, Coun Danny Fletcher, told the Confident Places Scrutiny Committee how he was "disappointed with Glenbrook” for this appeal after more than 400 objections were submitted by locals.

The plan would bring £17m investment into the borough as well as 1,200 jobs and training opportunities, the planning committee was told back in April and supporters said it would be a key part of the borough’s post-Covid economic recovery.

Despite these potential benefits for the town, many campaigners – including Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue – were delighted when it got kicked out by the council. During a committee meeting where members were talked through the council’s enforcement plan and the number of enforcement cases dropping, Coun Fletcher questioned the power of the appeal and whether council could proceed with prosecution if the inspectorate granted it.

An aerial view of the Meridian 6 Wigan site

“There is a precedent that could be set for this in the council,” he told Wigan Town Hall. “In terms of the decision being overturned, are there grounds for Wigan Council to proceed with prosecution in regard to a planning breach that was part of the objection?

“We want the public to have confidence in our planning policy. If we overwhelmingly reject it and they appeal and win, what is to prevent others doing the same?”

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David Proctor, assistant director for planning and regeneration, told the chamber that if the inspectorate granted the appeal, then it is the same as if the council’s planning committee had approved the application. Answering whether this could be appealed, he simply said “no”.

He did go on to say that there would be conditions put upon the decision if it were to be approved and it is up to the council to pursue action on breaches.

Coun Fletcher is hoping that this example in his ward of Ashton won’t be the start of a number of developments being refused then overturned by the inspectorate.

Glenbrook’s appeal is still being considered by the inspectorate and a decision is due to be made at the beginning of 2023.