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High Court challenge scuppers 1,000 new jobs in Widnes
A LEGAL challenge by Hale Bank Parish Council has scuppered 1,000 new jobs being created at a colossal warehouse in Widnes.
Online retail giant Amazon hoped to open a £46 million distribution centre in October.
A High Court judge has quashed Halton Council’s decision in August 2011 to grant developer Prologis planning permission for a 1.2 million sq ft distribution centre at the Mersey Multimodal Gateway freight park.
In a judicial review, Judge Andrew Gilbart QC criticised the council for making their decision last summer too quickly, without providing sufficient time for consultation.
A planning committee was brought forward to August, when parish councillors were on holiday.
Sally Macdonald, of Halton Council’s employment, economic regeneration and business development department, told the hearing: “Developments of this kind are very rare, and as such, high importance is placed on them and they are afforded priority status as there are few opportunities available to create this number of jobs.”
A public exhibition had been held in June and newsletters were distributed to homes across Hale Bank.
Judge Gilbert said: “Getting to grips with an environmental statement of almost 1,000 pages and achieving an understanding of a scheme of this size and scale is not a matter of holiday reading.
“Even those of us whose professional life is spent grappling with such projects would have found that this one required some study and reflection.
“I am therefore of the view that this consultatation was not conducted fairly or effectively.”
Council leader, Clr Rob Polhill, said: “We are extremely disappointed.
“The biggest loser here is the 1,000 jobs we would have had.
“We have been criticised for acting too quickly. Our mission is to try and bring as many jobs into Halton as we can.
“We will continue to work on the infrastructure to make the site more accessible. A new road will be in by September.”
Hale Bank Parish Council chairman Colin Rowan accused the council of wasting taxpayer’s money.
He said: “It is a huge waste of public money in both legal costs and officer time and most importantly, these jobs have now been lost.
“The blame for all this lies squarely at the feet of Halton Council. Someone at Halton was so eager to push this through that they thought they could ignore the law.
“Amazon should have been offered another site.
“We were hugely disappointed that Prologis went along with Halton’s dodgy plan.
“We invited them to come and talk to us, and after originally saying yes, they suddenly changed their minds and declined.
“The council tax paying public of Halton deserve answers and apologies from the leader of the council and their chief executive.”