Plans to build a £75 million Eddie Stobart warehouse on green belt land in south Warrington have been approved.
The logistics firm’s proposals to construct a national distribution centre were turned down by the authority in November but it lodged an appeal against the decision, as well as submitting a fresh planning application.
The revised application was approved by the development management committee at the Town Hall on Wednesday evening – despite 1,100 objections to the scheme.
Residents reacted angrily to the decision, with shouts of ‘shame on you’ and the ‘elections are next year’ heard in the chamber.
It will be built on land north of Barleycastle Lane, opposite the firm’s existing headquarters at Stretton Green Distribution Park, and could open by the end of 2020.
Warrington South MP Faisal Rashid could not attend the meeting due to activities in Parliament – but former borough councillor Laurence Murphy read a statement from the MP out to the committee.
Mr Rashid urged members to reject the plans.
He said: “Setting this precedent could open the floodgates to future development on these protected areas of land.
“I have been actively supporting a brownfield-first approach to development to protect these much-loved green spaces.”
But Gary Halman, director at Avison Young, the planning consultant for the scheme, defended the proposals.
He said: “This is not a speculative proposal that promises things that won’t be delivered.
“This new investment will almost double the positive economic impact Eddie Stobart has on the Warrington economy.”
He added that the application has been ‘closely scrutinised’ by highways chiefs, who he says are content that the proposals are ‘adequate’.
Andy Farrall, the council’s executive director for economic regeneration, growth and environment, also weighed in on the debate.
He told committee members the scheme is ‘largely the same’ application as the first one but said the council has an ‘important role’ in supporting the local economy and businesses.
While revealing he would be supporting the plans, committee member Cllr Peter Carey said the proposals will benefit the town’s economy and create hundreds of new jobs.
He also claimed that ‘measured against’ the benefit of the scheme is a ‘surrender of a small piece’ of green belt land, adding that in the context of what has ‘already happened’ in north Warrington it is ‘small’.
The application was approved subject to a section 106 agreement but it will still need to get the nod from the secretary of state.