Secretary of State Gove backtracks and calls in plans for £180m logistics scheme

CGI of Langtree’s Six56 scheme

A Warrington logistics scheme which could create more than 4,000 jobs has been called in by the Government in a reversal of its previous decision not to hold an inquiry.

Warrington Borough Council approved developers Langtree and Panattoni’s planning application – subject to non-intervention by the Secretary of State – for the £180m 3.1 million sq ft development called Six56 Warrington in March this year.

Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Michael Gove, declined to call in the scheme, which had attracted opposition from residents and the local MP over its location on 242 acres of green belt land.

But he has now backtracked and will hold a public inquiry, it was announced last night.

More than 900 objections were raised over the development, near junction 20 of the M6, and which is allocated for employment in Warrington’s draft local plan, but not the currently adopted plan.

Warrington South Conservative MP Andy Carter had objected to the scheme, close to Appleton Thorn, and raised the issue in Parliament earlier this year. He argued: “The land proposed to be taken by Six56 is almost in its entirety in the green belt.

“While the local plan proposes it should be removed, the plan has yet to be adopted and decisions on building major logistic hubs should only be made once the local plan has been considered.”

In May this year Michael Gove declared he had decided not to review the scheme. But in June the Government told the council that the Secretary of State was reconsidering his decision, and last night it was announced the development will go to an inquiry.

John Downes, group chief executive of Langtree, said: “A review of this nature is not unexpected when set against the scheme’s scale and job creation impact and I have instructed my team to begin work immediately to prepare the information that the Secretary of State and Planning Inspectorate will require.

“Our application is in line with Warrington’s emerging local plan, which has identified the site as necessary for meeting its statutory employment land obligations.

“We can demonstrate a clear and compelling economic case for the site and, as the economy enters a period of volatility, the ability to deliver job creation on this scale will be vital to sustaining our communities. So, too, will be the fillip it will provide in terms of the rates income generated.”

He added: “We’re ready to invest more than £180m in a local supply chain to develop the site which, when completed, will generate more than £216m a year in new economic output. Should the scheme be approved it will also generate more than £7m a year in new rates income for the council to invest in vital public services.

“Our focus now is ensuring that the Secretary of State has everything required to assess our case thoroughly during the Inquiry and we will then await the decision keenly.”