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Stobart Public inquiry begins at Town Hall

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019 10:27am

By Aran Dhillon - Local Democracy Reporter

A planning inspector has been urged to recommend rejecting plans to ‘kill’ green belt land by allowing a £75 million Eddie Stobart warehouse to be built.

The company’s revised application to construct a national distribution centre in south Warrington was approved by the development management committee in July.

It is set to be built on green belt land north of Barleycastle Lane, opposite the firm’s existing headquarters at Stretton Green Distribution Park.

But the secretary of state will decide whether to call the application in or not.

However, it was the firm’s second application after the first was turned down, a decision which it appealed.

The public inquiry over the appeal, which is being heard by planning inspector David Wildsmith, will lead to a recommendation by the inspector to the secretary of state.

Paul Tucker QC, who outlined the appellant’s case, said ‘substantial’ economic and social benefits would be delivered as a result of the development.

“That would be a powerful factor at any time but at a time of national uncertainty, especially for the haulage industry, such a proposal should attract yet further support,” he added.

He also said 730 full-time equivalent jobs would be created when ‘multiplied effects’ are considered and claimed there is no ‘realistic’ alternative site for the warehouse.

As reported in August, Eddie Stobart suspended trading of its shares and announced its chief executive Alex Laffey was standing down with immediate effect.

It came as the firms looked into accounting discrepancies after revealing a £2 million error in its 2018 results.

Resident Bill Roberts highlighted the ‘financial viability’ of the company at the public inquiry.

He claimed the firm is now in ‘crisis’ and is ‘not a company going forward’.

Gerry Palmer, Appleton parish councillor, said the site would generate ‘high volumes’ of traffic in the area.

She also told the inspector the applicant’s air quality assessment significantly ‘underplays’ the environmental impact of the proposal.

And Liberal Democrat Appleton borough councillor Sharon Harris, who is also the chair of Appleton Parish Council, said the parish council has ‘grave concerns’ over the significant reduction in green belt.

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