It's happened. The first of three plans to expand Magna Park distribution centre near Lutterworth has received the green light from Harborough District Council. If all three plans are approved (the other two will be considered later this year), the park will be double its original size and bigger than Lutterworth itself. This proposed expansion makes no sense. It has nothing to offer the people who live in and around this small market town but more pollution of every kind.
UK's first distribution centre
Magna Park was built on the site of a former airfield in the late 1980s and was the UK’s first dedicated distribution centre. It sits in the ‘golden triangle’ of the M1, M6 and M69, making it ideally suited, say the planners and members of the local chamber of commerce, for developing further to bring more business and jobs to the area. Most of the councillors at Harborough District Council seem to agree with this thinking.
The first plan, now approved, is for one million square feet of new warehousing. The second and third plans would bring the total area needed for the expansion to eight million square feet. That's the equivalent of eight O2 arenas – all to be built on adjoining farmland.
Cotesbach Action Group, named after the small village just outside Lutterworth and close to the park, are driving the campaign to oppose the expansion. Their message of ‘Magna Park is big enough’ has strong support from across the area. At the last count (as shown on the group's website) 1,760 objections to the plans had been lodged with Harborough District Council.
More traffic, less countryside
Much of the traffic in and out of Magna Park uses the M1. Lutterworth is literally on the way, which means that as many as 3,000 heavy goods vehicles are passing through the town and near to villages like Cotesbach on a daily basis. Given that the air quality in this area falls well short of EU standards, you can only imagine the effect yet more traffic would have when the new warehouses become operative.
Then there’s the loss of valuable farmland; looking onto a sea of warehouses where once there were green fields would dispirit anyone, let alone those who have long appreciated being surrounded by open countryside.
No need to build here
One of the action group's main arguments is that there's no need to build here when there are more suitable locations with railheads (like East Midlands hub and Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal) or next to motorway junctions (like Rugby Gateway) not too far away.
Another reason not to expand Magna Park is that the jobs created by the expansion are not needed. Lutterworth has virtually no unemployment (currently around 0.4%), which means that the new jobs created at Magna Park would have to taken up by people living further afield, who would have to travel to work by car. And the effect of all this? Yet more traffic causing yet more pollution.
Support from the local MP
Alberto Costa, MP for South Leicestershire, is giving his full support to the campaign. He has spoken out against the plans and has written a letter objecting to them to Harborough District Council. His constituency does not need this development he says. It should be taken to an area of the East Midlands that does.
You have to wonder how many of those voting in favour of this expansion actually live in or near Lutterworth. Probably none, because if they did, surely they would see that the needs of the people living there should come before the need for commercial growth.