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Massive expansion to industrial estate approved

By Kerry Ashdown | Staffordshire | Business | Published:

A massive expansion to an industrial estate has been given the go-ahead.

An indicative plan showing how the site could be laid out submitted as part of the planning application for new employment space on land west of Raleigh Hall Industrial Estate near Eccleshall

Farmland west of Raleigh Hall Industrial Estate near Eccleshall is set to be used to create up to 13,700 sq m of new employment floor space. The development is earmarked for industrial use, as well as storage and distribution.

Stafford Borough Council’s planning committee approved the outline application on Wednesday – the day after it also gave the green light for two other industrial development applications at Hixon.

A nearby resident questioned the need for more industrial estate space at the site at the present time however, in light of the current issues faced nationally by industry and the number of units in the local area currently standing vacant.

Wendy Mercer, speaking at Wednesday’s virtual meeting, said: “They run that development brilliantly. But we’re moving towards the sharpest contraction in manufacturing jobs in we have had in seven years.

“There have been 500,000 manufacturing jobs lost in the last 10 years and 65 per cent of our children in education will work in jobs that do not currently exist – they are not manufacturing-based. It seems short-sighted to lose a green field at the moment.”

Borough councillor Peter Jones, who represents the Eccleshall ward, said the proposals would increase the size of the industrial estate by 25 per cent.

“The Government rules make it almost impossible not to grant approval”, he added. “A site of this size would provide a much-needed employment site.

“On the other hand Eccleshall would see an increase in traffic and the words that strike horror are storage and distribution – more traffic and more lorries and going, turning the town centre into an even bigger traffic jam.

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“The views of residents always seem to be less important in planning matters – why do the views of local people carry little or no weight in planning applications? This application will affect the lives of almost 6,000 people in this parish, who have little say in these matters.

“Eccleshall is a small country town – most of the residents want it to stay that way.”

But Chris Timothy, who spoke in support of the application, said the land earmarked for development was located within the defined industrial estate area and was looking ahead to future needs in the years to come.

“The site is immediately available for development and provides a logical extension to the existing industrial estate”, he added. “It will allow existing businesses to grow and expand and provide inward investment.”

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Applicant Raleigh Hall Properties Ltd also asked for permission to submit a further reserved matters application – which would cover details including design and layout of the development – within seven years of the outline permission being granted, rather than the three years normally allowed.

Stafford Borough Council’s planning officers instead suggested a condition that the reserved matters application should be submitted within four years of the outline permission. But committee members voted for this condition to be within three years instead, by five votes to four.

Councillor Michael Dodson said: “While I support the application to provide outline planning permission I would object to the application seeking to delay the movement of reserved matters. That means we have a sterilised piece of land for seven years, not three, when we are in need of employment opportunities.”

Councillor Jill Hood said: “It is almost as if they are putting out a message it isn’t really needed and they will sit on it for seven years. I think it is a shame we are going to lose 3.8 hectares (9.4 acres) of arable land when there is such a need for farmland.”

Councillor Andrew Harp said: “I think this is an acceptable site and we can do nothing but approve this planning application.”

Councillor Bryan Cross said: “I have great sympathy with the Mercers but any decision made by the committee must be in line with the national planning policy. If we refused this the borough would be taken to the cleaners on appeal – at the end of the day we are tied by the rules that govern us.”

Kerry Ashdown

By Kerry Ashdown

Local Democracy Reporting Service

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