A Controversial development on the site of the former Parkside Colliery has been called in by the Secretary of State.
The former colliery is viewed as a major employment site for St Helens and the Liverpool City Region, so much so the combined authority approved £24 million to part-fund the Parkside Link Road project in November, which is seen as a key element to unlocking the potential of the site.
The £31.5 million scheme, which is also in the green belt, will connect the A49 Winwick Road directly with the M6 at Junction 22 and will act as a by-pass to divert traffic away from Newton-le-Willows, Winwick and Hermitage Green.
Planning permission for the link road, which was brought by St Helens Council, was also approved at December’s meeting.
Due to the size of the Parkside scheme, the applications were referred to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service can confirm the government has written to St Helens Council to notify it that Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has called in the two Parkside applications.
Two other applications will be heard as part of a local inquiry, including a proposed employment development near Junction 25 of the M6.
Following the decision, John Downes, chairman of Parkside Regeneration and Cllr David Baines, leader of St Helens Council, have released a joint statement.
“Whilst it is disappointing that the scheme has been called in, reviews of this type are not uncommon in the planning process and the Parkside Regeneration Joint Venture will now work diligently to provide the information needed by the inquiry team,” the statement says.
“The plans for phase 1 of the redevelopment of Parkside and for the Parkside Link Road are firmly in line with the council’s emerging Local Plan and demonstrate a very clear and compelling economic case.
“Even with our cautious economic forecasts we are predicting 1,330 end-user jobs in this first phase of the redevelopment of the Parkside site as well as 457 construction jobs. This is a derelict colliery that once employed two thousand people.
“The development of strong manufacturing and logistics sectors are a stated priority for St Helens Council and current circumstances have demonstrated the importance of these industries more widely to our society.
“The changes in consumer habits that we saw before lockdown are likely to be further embedded going forward and the colliery’s regeneration represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for St Helens to capture a significant slice of the employment this will generate.
“As businesses open up again, one thing is certain: we need to stimulate the economy as much as possible. We’re ready to invest more than £100 million in a local supply chain which will generate more than £80 million a year in new economic output.
“Once the scheme is complete it will generate more than £2 million a year in new rates income for the council to invest in vital public services.
“Our focus now will be on ensuring that the Secretary of State has everything required to review our case thoroughly during the Inquiry and we will then await the decision keenly.”
Proposals to redevelop the Parkside site were originally submitted in January 2018 by Parkside Regeneration LLP, a joint venture between commercial developers Langtree and St Helens Council.
The current proposals to regenerate the former colliery proved hugely controversial, with the council receiving almost 700 letters of objection prior to outline planning permission being granted.
The main concerns relate to the development being on green belt land, as well as the impact it will have on the local road network.
Warrington and Wigan councils also objected to the plans.
Several residents spoke against the proposals at December’s planning meeting, including Dave Tyas, co-chairman of Parkside Action Group.
He slammed the traffic assessment “inadequate” and branded the air quality assessment linked to it as “wholly inappropriate”.
Ed Thwaite, chairman of Lowton East Neighbourhood Development Forum, also spoke at the meeting, where he accused the council of “marking their own homework”.
Melanie Hale, the council’s service manager for development and building control, said at the meeting that there was an “identified and significant need” to deliver employment land in St Helens, including large-scale logistics.
She said it was the view of the planning authority that “very special circumstances” did exist that outweighed the harm to the green belt and any other harm as a result of the development.