THE boss of Eddie Stobart says the decision to turn down plans to build a new base in Warrington means the company may look elsewhere to expand.

The application for a new distribution hub in Appleton Thorn was turned down by members of Warrington Borough Council's development management committee yesterday, Wednesday.

READ MORE > RECAP: Plans for Eddie Stobart hub turned down

Speaking this morning, Alex Laffey, chief executive officer at Eddie Stobart Ltd, who spoke at Warrington Town Hall, says the company will now look again at its options.

He added: “We are bitterly disappointed that Warrington Council’s development management committee decided to refuse our application at Appleton Thorn, against the advice of their officers. 

"We will consider carefully the reasons for refusal and what our options are to contest the decision. 

"The refusal may well mean that Eddie Stobart will have to look elsewhere to expand, taking the 480 new jobs and the annual £18m economic boost with it.”

During the meeting, councillors were scathing in their attacks against the firm, which already has a base in the south of the town.

They criticised the lack of consultation and said that the economic arguments did not outweigh the damage to the greenbelt.

Cllr Judith Wheeler slammed applicants Eddie Stobart and Liberty Properties.

She said: “This is shameful and shows their arrogance and utter contempt for the local community.

“The economic benefit will be for Stobart only.”

Cllr Ryan Bate believed the application was ‘fatally flawed’.

He said: “Firstly, there is a need to look at traffic and infrastructure holistically but secondly, far more importantly, this committee needs to consider the precedent it could set tonight for any future applications, in terms of the interpretation of too easily repeatable very special circumstances.

“This application simply does not fulfil the very special circumstances to justify releasing green belt.”

The construction phase was expected to support around 240 full-time jobs, while the national distribution centre was tipped to create approximately 480 full-time jobs.

As part of the very special circumstances highlighted for building in the green belt, Eddie Stobart pointed to the £570 million of turnover each year from its Warrington headquarters.

Chief executive Alex Laffey said: “We want to grow the business even further and are committed to growing in Warrington.

“We are ambitious for Eddie Stobart but are also ambitious for Warrington.”

But Cllr David Keane raised concerns over the firm ‘abusing’ people economically.

He added: “I want good jobs in Warrington.

“We need an element of truth, openness and transparency.”

But it drew a response from Mr Laffey.

He said: “In all cases, we offer competitive pay and our retention is ahead of the industry. Clearly, we need to have competitive pay. My belief is that drivers are all above the living wage.”

Cllr Bob Barr highlighted the firm’s positive impact on the town before raising concerns over the application being ‘secretly put together’ without consultation with the community.

The committee was recommended to approve the application, subject to a section 106 agreement.

However, members turned it down on the grounds of the economic argument failing to outweigh harm to the green belt, as well as the application being submitted prematurely.

The decision was met with applause from residents in the packed Town Hall chamber.