A controversial scheme that would have seen ‘giant warehouses’ built in the green belt has been thrown out by planners.
Proposals to expand Bredbury Industrial Estate into the Tame Valley were refused at a meeting of Stockport council’s planning committee last night (Thursday).
The scheme was previously reduced by a third following a row between Stockport and neighbouring Tameside council last year.
Although key to Stockport’s doomed ‘spatial framework’ plans Tameside was furious over the loss of green belt and also had concerns about the displacement of HGV traffic through Denton.
Since then, though, Stockport has pulled out of the regional masterplan and developer Quorum has revised its proposals once again – tabling a much bigger two-part ‘hybrid’ application.
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The firm sought full planning permission for two industrial units on a 40,000, sq m site as well as the widening of Bredbury Park Way and the relocation of its junction with Ashton Road.
And it also wanted ‘outline permission’ for a 53,000 sq m ‘commercial/industrial development’. This also includes plans for a new car park to seven Stockport Sports Village.
Quorum argued there was an ‘overwhelming need’ for large scale industrial and warehouse buildings in Stockport – and its scheme would generate hundreds of much-needed jobs.
This was backed by council officers, who recommended the application was granted on the grounds its significant economic benefits’ would ‘clearly outweigh the considerable harm caused to the green belt.
But the proposal – which generated nearly 750 letters of objection – remained highly contentious.
MPs Andrew Gwynne and William Wragg urged councillors to reject the scheme, saying the ‘giant warehouses’ would ‘ruin the Tame Valley’.
In the hours before the meeting members of the committee received what chair Andy Sorton called ‘intimidation to vote a certain way’ on social media.
However members were split on the merits of the scheme.
The majority were of the opinion the ‘very special circumstances’ needed to justify building in the green belt were not proven, while others held that the boost to the economy and jobs was too good to turn down.
Opposition to the scheme was led by Coun Brian Bagnall who said he still had concerns over the impact on the road network and the loss of green belt and wildlife.
“The only benefit here for Stockport is jobs – much needed jobs,” he said.
“And here , though, I have some concerns that the applicant appears to consider that Stockport lacks real bold ambitions and aspiration for its residents.
“I fully understand the need for a wide range of jobs and skill sets. In my view this proposal doesn’t deliver across a spectrum of opportunities.”
Coun Bagnall bemoaned the fact it was not a proposal for a science park with cutting edge technology companies, or an artificial intelligence start-up that children could ‘aspire to join as coders in the future’.
He branded it a ‘speculative application’ with ‘no nailed on job numbers’ which failed to ‘deliver the aspirational jobs residents in Stockport need, deserve and aspire to’.
However chair Andy Sorton warned the committee it had been established there were no brownfield sites in the borough that could accommodate large-scale logistics operations.
“It’s a case of we don’t want these types of jobs in Stockport,” he said.
He added: “As a committee you seem to want to have jobs on brownfield sites but you want to have housing on brownfield sites as well.”
Coun Roy Driver said the well-paid manual jobs the site would bring were ‘exactly’ what residents in his Reddish ward – and other areas of Stockport – wanted.
“I’m really unhappy with the impression that we don’t really want manual workers in Stockport, we only want people who want professional type jobs,” he said.
“A lot of people have lost their jobs because of Covid – they are desperate for these type of jobs.”
Coun Driver also voiced his fears Stockport could become a commuter town.
“We are losing jobs in Stockport and basically becoming a residential community where everyone moves outside to work,” he said.
But Coun Bagnall’s proposal for refusal – on the grounds very special circumstances for developing in the green belt had not been proven – won the support of the committee.
All members vote to refuse the application, bar councillors Roy Driver, John Taylor and Andy Sorton.
Coun Bagnall was appointed lead member in the event of an appeal.
Stockport council’s planning and highways committee met on Thursday night (March 25).