Politicians left disappointed as call-in fails to stop plan for Wigan logistics hub

The controversial warehouses which will be built on the green belt have received planning permission.

Monday, 21st June 2021, 5:13 pm
Updated Monday, 21st June 2021, 5:14 pm

Symmetry Park at junction 25 of the M6 has received the green light following a decision to call in the planning application.

The inspectors’ report, which follows on from a public inquiry last December, recommended that the application for the warehouses should be approved.

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An illustrative view of how the logistics hub could look

While the inspectors acknowledged that harm would be done to the green belt by building on it, the other benefits of the logistics hub outweighed it.

That, the report concludes, means that “very exceptional circumstances” exist to justify the application being passed.

It is a bitter blow for campaigners who have fought a long battle against Tritax Symmetry’s plans to build two units comprising 27,871 square metres of employment floor space and the associated infrastructure, including a sub-station, car parking, landscaping, access from the A49 roundabout and an internal estate road.

Outline permission was also sought for up to 106,095 square metres of business floor space, with all matters except access reserved.

The green belt land where the building work could take place

Local politicians hit out at the decision to approve the application.

Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue said: “This is a disappointing decision and one with which I strongly disagree.

“This development will be damaging to the local environment and once again demonstrates that the rhetoric from Government about protecting greenbelt belies the fact that swathes of greenbelt land around the country is being developed.”

Winstanley ward representative Coun Paul Kenny, who was fired from his council cabinet role for his outspoken opposition to the development, said: “This has been a long campaign and one that residents have fought from day one.

“The truth is that there is an insatiable appetite from developers for virgin greenbelt land and they will pursue sites at the expense of local communities who will have to live with the development 24/7.

“I pay tribute to residents and the M6 South of Wigan Group who have long championed the retention of the greenbelt status. I know that they will be as disappointed as I am at today’s announcement.”

The report concluded that without very special circumstances which meant damage to the green belt was outweighed by other factors the development at the site on land between the motorway, the M6 slip road and Warrington Road and agricultural land would be inappropriate.

However, it also concluded that harm to the green belt’s openness would only be moderate, could be mitigated and did not erode the boundary between Wigan and Ashton.

The inspectors also found the M6 corridor was a highly desirable location for logistics operators but employment land supply for the sector is “critically low” and the rate of supply in Wigan borough since 2011 is even lower.

There are no other alternative sites suitable for the development in the borough and the locations elsewhere did not address Wigan’s shortage of employment land, the report said.

It described the need for logistics floorspace in Wigan as “particularly stark”.

And it said the borough had “consistently been unable to provide suitable and sufficient employment land”.

The other socio-economic benefits of the development, the inspectors decided, also carried considerable weight, especially as Wigan has a “high concentration of jobs are low skilled and within declining sectors of the economy”.

The report found the mitigation planned to alleviate traffic issues were suitable and could actually lead to improvements, while the site also had good sustainability credentials with walking, cycling and public transport use all viable.

The decision can be appealed in the High Court.

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