Magna Park: Why MP objects to job creation

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Image caption People living in the area are worried about an increase in the number of lorries heading to the distribution centre

It's not a line you hear very often. MP doesn't want hundreds of new jobs in his constituency. That's true for the Conservative MP for South Leicestershire, Alberto Costa. It's a standpoint he's had to take after consulting the people who matter most to him - those who voted for him at the last election.

It's all over plans to double the size of the area covered by what is already the biggest distribution centre in Europe.

Magna Park, sited on an old airfield near Lutterworth, is geographically in a very good place for companies like Asda, Argos and parcel distributors DHL in this online age.

Magna is right next to the M1 and A5, that old Roman road which runs up the spine of the country.

It's handy too for the M6 and M69. Plus, there's an international rail hub eight miles down the road in the Daventry district. Some call it the golden triangle.

The expansion plans were revealed before the General Election. And the new Tory candidate, in what is a safe seat, went to visit Magna Park and said at the time that "any development must take into account the views of people living here".

He urged those with an interest to contact him. And those views have indeed shaped his opinion.

It's probably come as a surprise to business leaders. The East Midlands Chamber of Commerce wants to see Magna Park grow and bring with it 700 new jobs.

Chris Hobson, its director of policy, said: "This is a real opportunity for the East Midlands. It will bring new jobs and businesses into the area, making the region a force for growth in the UK".

Stand at any roundabout and road junction near Lutterworth and you'll see one of the things local people object to most about Magna Park. You can already hear the roar of the traffic thundering by on the nearby M1, but it's the lorries heading to the distribution centre which rumble around the town day and night.

People are worried about an increasing number. They worry about the air pollution they bring and the traffic jams which often happen when shifts change at Magna.

Malcolm Stringer has other concerns. He bought his home next to the A5 17 years ago. A place for him to retire.

Sitting in his grounds you can see the white buildings of Magna Park in the far distance. If all the expansion plans are approved by Harborough District Council, the massive warehouses will come right up to the hedge at the bottom of his garden.

He feels he would be trapped if planning permission is given as he'd be unable to sell up if he wanted to move away.

Mr Stringer also questions why such big development of Magna Park is needed when there are already empty units on the existing distribution centre.

The local county councillor, Rosita Page, said she feels economic development is only right if the need for it is established; in other words, if jobs are required, and she doesn't feel the case has been made to approve the plans.

These are all the views Alberto Costa has been listening to and why he's taken the decision to object to the doubling of Magna Park.

"It might be good for the nation as a whole, this development, but for my particular constituency there's a real risk that it will increase traffic to unacceptable levels," he said.

And as for missing out on the jobs, he said: "Is it not better to put these parks where there is a genuine need for jobs? South Leicestershire has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the whole of the United Kingdom."

The latest unemployment figures bear this out - 423 people on Jobseeker's Allowance, which is less than 1% of the working population.

Like the lorries, this story will rumble along for a while yet and there will be a lot of noise too - expect demonstrations at the planning meetings and arguments to Government level at Westminster if the expansion is approved.

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