Plans for huge logistics park ‘a bitter blow’ for village residents

A close call - how the SEGRO site will border Diseworth

The residents of a Leicestershire village have been dealt what they are calling “a bitter blow” after airport giant MAG revealed plans to develop a major logistics park on agricultural land next to their rural conservation village.

People living in Diseworth, which has a population of around 670, are furious over plans from MAG, which owns East Midlands Airport, that could see the construction of several units up to 25m tall, providing almost 1.5m sq ft of floorspace for general industrial and storage or distribution uses, along with offices.

This comes ahead of a proposed planning application by SEGRO to expand their East Midlands Gateway Logistics Park not only on land which it controls, but also onto MAG’s land which it hopes to compulsorily purchase.

Both firms are hoping to cash in on East Midlands Freeport’s proposed expansion of the East Midlands Airport and Gateway Industrial Cluster (EMAGIC). This huge development already includes the 700-acre SEGRO Logistics Park East Midlands Gateway, as well as involvement from East Midlands Airport which provides the Freeport’s customs area.

Now it’s trying to expand operations south of the A453 towards the village Diseworth. Pressure Group, Protect Diseworth, says this this would mean a further 250-acre area of countryside being swallowed up by a logistics park the size of 125 football pitches.

MAG says its new scheme could result in more than 2,000 new jobs once fully operational and employ up to 174 people during a two-year construction period.

However, Richard Brackenbury, spokesperson for Protect Diseworth, is not impressed. He said: “While these big businesses are battling over their respective Freeport landgrabs, we are caught in the crossfire. But the sad fact is that, whichever firm wins, we lose. Our village and the agricultural land around it will be suffocated to make way for yet more giant logistics warehouses.”

“Even if you don’t live in the village, there are three good reasons to oppose these planning applications.

“Firstly, normal rules don’t apply. A Freeport customs site is a politically-designated customs zone where some of the normal tax and customs rules don’t apply. In fact, normal planning rules won’t apply either if SEGRO succeeds in obtaining a Development Consent Order (DCO) which would give it the power to compulsorily purchase the land which EMA owns and develop it without their permission. The Government has already given permission for this process to be used. In a conservation village where we can’t build a conservatory without planning permission, SEGRO can basically do what they want.

“Secondly, promised value add for the region doesn’t. This devastation is being wreaked on the vague promise of ‘promoting regeneration, creating jobs and generating hotbeds of innovation for the East Midlands’. However, building yet another logistics park is highly unlikely to deliver any of those outcomes and any jobs created are likely to be mostly low level, zero hours contract roles which are hard to fill and will add little, if any value to the area.

“And thirdly, what these big businesses say can’t be trusted. The airport’s proposed planning application is entirely at odds with its own MAG Environment Policy which states that its vision is to ‘reduce our environmental impact with the vast green land space and neighbouring communities’. The company also claims it is ‘committed to ensuring our immediate environment and surrounding communities are minimally disrupted’.

“We’re calling on MAG East Midlands Airport, SEGRO and the Freeport board to seek alternative brownfield locations for their developments. We want them to do the right thing to save our village from this unnecessary assault. We are heartened that our Labour, Independent, Green and Conservative constituency candidates in the forthcoming General Election have added their voices to our campaign and are unanimously backing our beleaguered village.”

EMA’s managing director Steve Griffiths said: “This is a prime site for a development of this kind, given its proximity to major road and rail networks and the UK’s number one express air cargo hub. Given its status as a Freeport tax site, we are confident that if approved, we will have little difficulty in attracting businesses, bringing much-needed jobs to the region during its construction and operation.

“The proposals we have submitted to the council outline how we have carefully considered the opportunities and constraints of the site, seeking to strike the balance between the need for such a development against the potential impact on the environment and local residents. We have met and will continue to meet members of Diseworth Parish Council and community groups and have aimed to address their concerns in our proposals.”

Tom Newman-Taylor, chief executive of East Midlands Freeport, said: “Our mission is to act as a catalyst for economic regeneration across the East Midlands to create thousands of jobs boosting skills for local workers, and accelerating the region’s commitment to decarbonisation through sustainable development and low-carbon energy investments.

“We support moves by our key partners to develop the Freeport’s strategically important sites which offer unparalleled connectivity to the rest of the UK. We also welcome the consultation the airport has carried out with the local community and the steps they have taken to address their concerns as part of the process.”

East Midlands Airport has announced that a drop-in stakeholder consultation event will take place in Diseworth Village Hall tomorrow June 25 from 2-7pm.

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