Plans for a controversial £150m logistics development on green belt land will not be considered at a public inquiry.
Disappointed campaigners have been told the scheme for Florida Farm North in Haydock will not be “called in” by Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government.
They hoped he would decide to hold a public inquiry into the development, after St Helens Council granted planning permission in January despite much opposition. But a letter from the department states the minister had considered his policy for calling in planning applications and chosen not to do so.
The decision has left the thousands of people who objected to the scheme reeling.
Paul Parkinson, chairman of Residents Against Florida Farm Development, said: “I’m bitterly disappointed.
“I just can’t believe that this doesn’t meet the criteria that are required. It is certainly of more than local importance. There are very few warehouse developments in the green belt.”
Developer Bericote Properties Ltd has planning permission to erect two commercial buildings on the site, as well as an access road to the A580 East Lancashire Road. They say it will create the equivalent of 2,119 full-time jobs and is in the ideal location.
But Mr Parkinson said the development would “dominate the skyline”, create noise and light pollution for residents nearby, lead to extra traffic and cause air pollution. Campaigners are now considering their next move, which would be taking the decision to a judicial review.
Mr Parkinson said: “There is another step we can take but we are taking legal advice about the best way to go about that.”
Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue, who has been supporting campaigners, has also spoken out about the decision. She said: “This is precisely why people are so cynical about the political process and demonstrates that Government rhetoric on protecting green belt is just warm words.
“The reality, as this and other recent decisions demonstrate, is very different with green belt policy gradually being weakened and the Government must strengthen national planning and land use policy in line with its manifesto commitments if it is not to stand accused of presiding over the fastest loss of green belt land in a generation.”