When Amazon applied for permission to build a huge “sortation” centre in the former pit village Haydock in Merseyside the local council supported the scheme because of the promised 2,500 jobs that would be created, despite it being built on green belt land.
Now two years on, Paul Parkinson, who led a campaign of 2,000 locals objecting to the development, claimed St Helens Council have been “taken to the cleaners” with the jobs boom not materialising and locals left to deal with problems associated with the site.
Parkinson a retired solicitor from Haydock, told the PA news agency new sports pitches were also promised for local rugby league and football teams but that they had not materialised either. He stated that locals mourn the loss of green belt which although it had brought a few jobs for locals it had also brought “chaos” to the area.
Job figures are disputed, with the total new jobs created thought to be around 300 although neither Amazon, nor St Helens Council have provided figures.
Since the Amazon centre has opened a second, 525,000 sq ft warehouse at the site has been built by the site developers Bericote. This warehouse is operated by cereals firm Kelloggs and since opening has created employment for about 70 people.
Locals say they are now suffering the effects of having hundreds of lorries going to and from the site each day. Drivers, who are often foreign, get lost and end up driving juggernauts through nearby housing estates. In one instance a lost HGV driver from Hungary, attempted a three-point turn and demolished a garden wall while reversing.
Mr Parkinson added that drivers drop off their trailer then go elsewhere and park up despite there being spaces for 200 lorries on site but it never seems to get used.
In a statement Amazon said: “We have informed our carrier partners about the concerns raised and continue to reinforce this and remind them of the correct driver behaviour guidelines.”
Labour-run St Helens Borough Council said a planning application had been submitted for an upgrade and redevelopment to a local park, home to amateur rugby league and football teams, with “funding in part” coming from the site developers Bericote. However no figure for the developer’s contribution was provided.
The dispute about the economic benefits of the scheme could lead to political consequences with the Green Party campaigning heavily in local wards ahead of local elections. Highlighting the question of whether the loss of 60-plus acres of green belt was justified.
PA news contacted Bericote, who boast of an approach of “co-operation and transparency,” but had not received a response.
There was also no response from councillor Sev Gomez-Aspron who was a leading supporter of the initial development or from local MP Conor McGinn.
Residents who opposed the Amazon warehouse plans are warning others of the huge expansion of the online giant. On the back of a huge surge in online shopping during the pandemic lockdowns further Amazon expansion includes sites at Stockton in the North East and in Ferriby, near Hull. With a “Mega Shed” planned to be built in Dartford, Kent, which is set to be among the largest warehouses in Europe.