Plans to extend industrial estate into green belt dealt major blow

Controversial plans to extend an industrial estate into the green belt have been dealt a major blow after councillors refused to recommend the scheme for approval.

Proposals to expand Bredbury Park Industrial Estate into the Tame Valley were at the centre of a furious row between neighbouring Stockport and Tameside councils last October

Although key to Stockport’s doomed ‘spatial framework’ plans, Tameside’s anger over the ‘environmental destruction’ led to the scheme being reduced by a third to £60,000 sq m.

However, since then Stockport has pulled out of the regional masterplan, while developer Quorum has revised its proposals once again – tabling a much bigger two-part ‘hybrid’ application.

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The first part seeks 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.

Meanwhile, the second requests ‘outline permission’ for a 53 sq.m ‘commercial/industrial development’. This also includes plans for a new car park to seven Stockport Sports Village.

Despite hundreds of objections the council has recommended its planning committee grants permission for the scheme.

The officer’s report says the ‘significant economic benefits’ would ‘clearly outweigh the considerable harm caused to the green belt’.

However members of Werneth area committee unanimously voted to reject proposals despite the officer’s report citing a number of ‘mitigation measures’, including a ‘significant landscape buffer’ in the north eastern part of the site.

A recommendation of refusal will now go forward to the planning and highways committee when it meets later this month.

CGI of the proposed site looking north from the proposed access point off Bredbury Parkway
(Image: AEW Architects)

The committee – made up of ward councillors from the area – first heard from objector Diane Coffey.

Ms Coffey urged the committee not to back the application for approval.

She said: “The ethos of green belt protection is to protect the land against the spread of urban sprawl and to provide a breathing space for the local inhabitants.

“Our Tame Valley is in walking distance from Woodley and Bredbury residents and It has certainly been a green lung during the pandemic, when we’ve been told to exercise locally.”

Ms Coffey also disputed claims that the extension would create new jobs for people in deprived areas of Stockport and Tameside and said modern warehousing was largely automated.

She added it would be ‘impossible’ to shield the warehouse from view and that residents would also suffer from light and noise pollution.

The objector also voiced concerns over increased traffic congestion, air pollution and the loss of wildlife, including badgers.

The other side of the argument was given by Simon Pemberton, who said Quorum would not have promoted the scheme if they had not felt it was ‘in the public interest to do so.’

“I believe unequivocally that in this instance very special circumstances exist which justify granting planning permission,” he told the committee.

Mr Pemberton said he firm has sought to ‘fully mitigate’ the impacts on the environment, citing plans to plant for 3.6 kilometres of hedgerows and 16000 trees, while onsite would be 10 hectare landscape buffer.

He continued: “There is an overwhelming need for the provision of large scale industrial and warehousing buildings in Stockport.

“This includes for indigenous companies that are looking to grow but cannot currently find opportunities in the borough. As importantly it’s agreed there are no alternative sites that can accommodate the proposed development in Stockport or Tameside.”

He added that the development would create more than 600 jobs, including in areas where ‘unemployment and deprivation are very high’, while £8.5m would also be ploughed into ‘major highways improvements’.

And Mr Pemberton told councillors that ‘significant interest’ from companies ‘desperate’ to remain demonstrated a clear need for the development.

However, his arguments did not find favour with members of the committee.

Coun Gordon said he was ‘fully aware of the commercial, employment and increased business rate factors’ from the development.

But added : “As a ward councillor trying to represent the real concerns and objections of local residents – nevermind the loss of such a large area of green belt – I cannot in good conscience support this application and will be voting to refuse it.”

The position of the committee was perhaps best summed up by Bredbury Green and Romiley ward councillor Lisa Smart.

Councillor Lisa Smart
(Image: STE)

She said: “We are being asked to assess, within our judgement, if the threshold for very special circumstances for the destruction of the green belt has been met, and I don’t believe they have.

“I believe that threshold is high and it’s high for a reason, because when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

The committee voted unanimously to recommend refusal of the planning application.

The proposals are due to be decided at a meeting of the council’s planning and highways committee on March 25.

Werneth area committee met on Monday night (March 8).

MEN – Stockport