A huge business park will be built on swathes of ‘sacrosanct’ green belt land in Wigan despite widespread public outcry.
The 1.4 million sq ft Symmetry Park is expected to help the borough become a key player within the logistics sector by attracting investment and creating more than 1,600 jobs.
Almost 350 people, including Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue, had opposed the loss of around 135 acres of land off junction 25 of the M6 near Winstanley.
One local councillor said Tritax Symmetry’s proposals would have a ‘massive impact’ on air pollution and traffic congestion in surrounding communities.
But the majority of Wigan council’s planning committee voted to grant planning permission, saying that the economic benefits of the £73 million hub outweighed the harm its construction would cause.
Coun Jeanette Prescott said it would be ‘absolute madness’ to turn the application down, with Coun Susan Greensmith adding: “We’ve got to think of bringing work into Wigan.
“We’ve got an opportunity here and it’s not what everyone wants, but can we afford to lose this?”
The meeting on Tuesday heard that there were no other sites in the borough that could accommodate the growing demand for logistics developments.
Wigan council says it has received over 50 separate enquiries from potential investors seeking premises of over 40,000 sq ft in the borough since April 2016.
Planning officers said harm to the green belt would be ‘limited’ and described the land, bounded by three major roads, as having a ‘different character’ than normal countryside.
But Coun Kathleen Houlton feared building on the green belt was the ‘thin end of the wedge’, adding: “Soon there’ll be no green belt at all.
“The green belt is sacrosanct, it was put there for a purpose and it should not be destroyed.”
Coun Marie Morgan, a Winstanley resident of over 50 years speaking against the application, said the industrial would have a ‘massive impact’ on the community.
“The area already has above average levels of air pollutants, and this application will create more pollution that will affect our children’s health,” she said.
“It will also exacerbate existing traffic congestion near Junction 25 of the M6 and surrounding roads.
“We’re seeing traffic queuing to get onto the M6 every day. Once it took me 35 to 40 minutes to travel one mile to get home.”
Planning officers admitted that traffic on surrounding roads, including Junction 25 of the M6, would increase as a result of permitting the business park.
But they were satisfied that changes to the junction’s layout – including an extra lane on the A49 Warrington Road and new pedestrian crossings – would offset any issues.
Symmetry Park Wigan is expected to create up to 1,600 jobs – including 1,207 during construction – and raise £3 million a year in business rates payments.
Chris Argent, speaking on behalf of the application, said the business park was ‘really important’ for the borough’s future.
“The takeup of employment land has been really poor in Wigan,” he said.
“This is a startling statistic but in Wigan since 2006, over 120 hectares of employment land has been lost to residential.
“Wigan is in an area where, fundamentally, it has an opportunity, as the only Greater Manchester authority on the M6 corridor, to deliver benefits.”
Due to the size of Symmetry Park Wigan it will need final approval from Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.