Plans outlining the development of the former Parkside Colliery in Newton-le-Willows into a major employment site will be decided next week.
The application will be heard by St Helens Council’s planning committee on Tuesday, December 17, who will also hear a separate application to build a £31.5m link road to improve access to the site.
Parkside Regeneration LLP, a joint venture between commercial developers Langtree and St Helens Council, originally submitted plans for the site in January 2018.
The 47.9-hectare site lies within the green belt and previously formed part of Parkside Colliery, which has been vacant since the 90s.
The application to be heard next week seeks outline planning permission for the construction of up to 92,900 m2 of employment floor space, for storage and distribution purposes, along with ancillary offices and associated servicing and infrastructure.
If outline planning permission is approved, more detailed proposals will be submitted to the planning authority.
The applicant says the development would “significant positive economic benefit” for St Helens.
It would have a three-year construction period and would be the first phase of a “comprehensive development” to help meet the current employment need within St Helens.
The applicant says the development would provide 457 full time equivalent jobs during construction and 1,330 gross (930 net) jobs during operation.
Three rounds of consultation have been held to date, in addition to press notices, site notices and individual neighbour letters.
Subsequently, the council received 667 independent letters of objection covering a range of concerns.
The prime concerns relate to the development being on green belt land, as well as the impact it will have on the local road network.
The applicant acknowledges that the proposed development represents a form of inappropriate development in the green belt that will cause “definitional harm” by reason of its inappropriateness.
However, the applicant argues that planning permission should be granted as it meets the requirements for “very special circumstances”, as defined by the National Planning Policy Framework.
When consulted on the plans, the trees and woodlands officer confirmed a proposed sum of £163,680 as a sum for the value of a section 106 agreement to be used for offsite mitigation for habitat loss on the Parkside site.
In the case officer’s report, it says on balance, the proposed development constitutes sustainable development because the “very special circumstances” outweigh the substantial harm to the green belt and other harm.
A recommendation is made to grant planning permission, subject to numerous conditions and the completion of a section 106 agreement.
A second application seeks full planning permission to build a single carriageway road referred that would link the A49 Winwick Road to the A579 Winwick Lane, enabling access to Junction 22 of the M6. This development is also entirely in the green belt.
The applicant, St Helens Council, has argued that the “very special circumstances” outweigh the substantial harm to the green belt and other harm.
The application, which was originally submitted in March 2018, says an indicative construction period would last for approximately 21 months.
It says the project would cost approximately £31.5 million, including land costs.
This figure is considerably less than the estimated total scheme value, including land costs, of £39.8 million quoted in a report that went before St Helens Council’s cabinet in October.
The application says the development would generate around 400 person years of employment, which would be the equivalent of 40 full time jobs.
There have been two rounds of consultation for the Parkside Link Road application, in addition to press notices, site notices and individual neighbour letters.
A total of 242 independent letters of objection have been received, with concerns around the green belt and the and highways featuring heavily.
In the case officer’s report, it says “very special circumstances” do apply and concludes that, on balance, the proposed development constitutes sustainable development.
A recommendation is made to grant planning permission subject to a number of conditions.
Coun Jeanie Bell, ward councillor for Newton and cabinet member for community safety, welcomed the plans.
Coun Bell said: “It’s important to say that the Phase 1 application isn’t the final development detail, but instead the outline of what the developer wants to do. They will have to submit further planning applications on the detail in future.
“However, we as Labour councillors have always listened to the public and campaigned to say that no development should be delivered without the new link road.
“We will be pushing for a weight restriction at the entrance of the site from the A49 which would allow commuters to use the new link road but would prevent HGVs from entering and leaving the site on the A49.
“We have always said that, and that’s what we will campaign for going forward and deliver.”
Both applications will be heard by St Helens Council’s planning committee at St Helens Town Hall on Tuesday, December 17. The meeting is open to the public and will begin at 5.30pm.