Parkside scheme ‘could start as early as next spring’

St Helens Council leader Barrie Grunewald with Langtree boss John Downes, a director of Parkside Regeneration, launching the new Parkside development
St Helens Council leader Barrie Grunewald with Langtree boss John Downes, a director of Parkside Regeneration, launching the new Parkside development

A massive job-boosting road-onto-rail scheme looks nearer today.

Plans to transform the site of St Helens’ last working pit - Parkside - into an inter modal freight yard and distribution centre has been on-off-on for the past 15 years.

Parkside Colliery as it was during its days as a working mine

Parkside Colliery as it was during its days as a working mine

During this time the project has spawned a large protest group among neighbouring residents worried about eventual lorry congestion accessing the site.

The triangular shaped footprint of the former colliery, which closed in 1993, is seen as a perfect fit for the ambitious rail freight interchange because it nestles in the crook of the M6 motorway and Liverpool to Manchester / West Coast Main Line railway junctions.

Experts say it could create more than 4,000 jobs and transform the Wigan and St Helens economy.

And now the site has been named as one of the top three in a strategic wish list about to how develop and grow rail freight in the region.

It is highlighted, along with projects in Seaforth and Knowsley, as a preferred Multimodal Distribution Park location, in a new report by major development and planning partnership, Transport for the North.

It has examined how rail, road and water can contribute to the further growth of the nation’s economy.

And boldly estimates that freight can bring £35bn worth of benefits to the North by 2060 through a series of recommendations.

It also cites the need to increase the capacity of the rail network for freight along the West Coast Main Line to enable 20 per cent longer freight trains to operate on a six days a week basis.

Council leader Barry Grunewald is now predicting that a planning application for phase one of the project could be submitted as early as next spring.

With the first units and railway siding operational by 2017/18.

It would be developed as a joint venture between the local authority and St Helens-based Langtree Developments, offering “strategic importance” to the whole region, while bringing a huge range of employment and training opportunities to the local community.

He said: “Since acquiring the site we have been working hard on a master plan and there is now real momentum to push forward with the scheme, with Langtree providing the commercial support to progress the development.

Wigan Council’s director for economy and environment Karl Battersby added: “We will give our response to the plan at the appropriate time once the formal planning application has been made.”