A residents’ group has reacted with fury to the scale of a proposed industrial development around the site of a former colliery.
Parkside Action Group (PAG) said it was stunned by the latest draft local plan prepared by St Helens Council which suggested a freight rail terminal at Parkside could stretch from Newton-le-Willows to Winwick Lane near Lowton.
If we had concerns before they have recently turned to downright disbelief at the scale of what is now being proposedPAG co-chair Mark Lewis
Residents are unhappy about the potential loss of a large amount of green belt land and fear the infrastructure will be unable to cope with the increased traffic from the site.
The Parkside blow comes soon after councillors in Wigan objected to plans for industrial buildings at Florida Farm North in Haydock and PAG says the sheer amount of building work being proposed in the area is alarming.
The group also questioned whether the rail terminal, which has been proposed several times in the past, will actually be built and criticised a lack of transparency in the consultation process.
PAG co-chair Mark Lewis said: “If we had concerns before they have recently turned to downright disbelief at the scale of what is now being proposed.
“If you add the Florida Farm development at Haydock to the list plus other sites earmarked for warehousing close to Haydock Racecourse and housing in and around Newton then these proposals do seem to have to spell the end for much of the green belt in the area.
“The current Parkside proposals are vague at best and St Helens Council still seems to want to try and convince people that this will be a rail terminal. We say its main purpose will be for road freight and we feel we have the evidence to back this up.
“St Helens seems to have an obsession with logistics but takes no account of the current volume of traffic in the area and refers to the vague if not imaginary controls on how impacts to local roads will be managed in the future. This is all wrapped up in a consultation process that is extremely poorly socialised and very difficult to understand.
“What this area is faced with is a massive increase in HGV movements each day and all the congestion, noise and air pollution that comes with it, and what could be in the case of Parkside the loss of a potential community asset.
“We want to stress that we are not against the sensitive development of the footprint of the original mine. We also understand the need for housing in the area and sustainable employment but this can never be at any cost.
“We must think about the legacy we leave behind just as our previous generations did in the creation of green belt policy.”
Residents’ groups in Lowton are also opposing the Parkside plan and PAG says it shares many of the concerns in Wigan borough.
However, the council defended the plan to build on the green belt, saying it does not have enough land allocated for the amount of interest from investors in coming to St Helens and it does not want the borough to be left behind compared to other North West towns and cities.
Coun John Fulham, St Helens Council’s cabinet member for growth, said: “This is the first time that green belt land has been released in St
Helens and now is the time.
“If we do not capture and shape the growth open to us then the investment, jobs and homes will go elsewhere and in these volatile times that’s not a price worth paying. The on-going regeneration of brownfield land remains a top priority too.
“St Helens certainly has the space with only 29 per cent of our land built upon, another six per cent listed as open green space like Sherdley and Victoria Parks and a huge 65 per cent currently designated green belt, the highest proportion within Merseyside,
“If our proposals are approved over half of the borough, 56 per cent, will remain green belt, as we capture the new homes and jobs for tomorrow; giving youngsters access to a job on their doorstep.”