'Wanton destruction' fears amid 102-acre East Midlands Freeport plan

Artist's impression aerial view of proposed East Midlands Freeport in Castle Donington
-Credit: (Image: MAG)


East Midlands Freeport bosses have vowed to continue meeting with villagers set to be impacted by the major distribution and logistics hub plan amid claims it will lead to "wanton destruction" of the countryside. More than 100 acres of Leicestershire land is set to be swallowed up by the scheme, which aims to bring an investment boost to the region.

Outline plans for Leicestershire’s part of the Freeport emerged last week, and would see eight warehouses stretched out across land south of East Midlands Airport (EMA), in Castle Donington. The site would take up 102 acres of land up to Hyam’s Lane in Diseworth - but villagers have long feared the scheme could severely impact their lives.

Action group Protect Diseworth has previously labelled the project “wanton and unnecessary destruction” of green fields, claiming it would also ruin rural life for residents. Officials from EMA’s owners, the Manchester Airports Group (MAG), disagree though, and claim the major plan has been “carefully considered” with residents in mind.

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If approved, the Freeport would be accessed off the A453 and become the first of three sites across the region to play a part in the wider East Midlands Freeport project. The other two would be sited at East Midlands Intermodal Park (EMIP) in South Derbyshire and the Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station redevelopment site in Nottingham.

Overall, the Freeport aims to create 28,000 new jobs across the three sites. At Castle Donington, MAG says more than 2,000 would be created in Leicestershire - with 174 people employed over the two-year construction period.

View of plans for East Midlands Freeport
Eight units would be spread across the 102-acre site -Credit:Stephenson Halliday/MAG

However, the plan is mired in controversy and fear from residents. Long Whatton and Diseworth Parish Council have previously spoken of their “extreme concerns” for the site, saying the effects of it and existing problems with EMA would make problems “immense” for villagers.

They also claim the approval for the scheme would leave Diseworth “hemmed in” by cargo and distribution centres. They fear it would “significantly” add to pressures villagers already face.

MAG believes the outline scheme will allay residents’ fears though. In documents, they said “significant landscaping” will create a sound buffer from the site and Diseworth, while green space near the village has been “maximised” to ensure disruption is limited. Height limits on the proposed warehouse will also be in force to prevent visual disruption.

Steve Griffiths, EMA’s managing director, said Diseworth residents will be informed throughout the planning process. He said: “The proposals we have submitted to the council outline how we have carefully considered the opportunities and constraints of the site, seeking to strike the balance between the need for such a development against the potential impact on the environment and local residents. We have met and will continue to meet members of Diseworth Parish Council and community groups and have aimed to address their concerns in our proposals.”

Freeport bosses are hopeful of the scheme’s benefits too. Tom Newman-Taylor, the project’s chief executive, believed the Freeport could “act as a catalyst for economic regeneration” in the region and would help boost moves for decarbonisation in the area too.

Final designs on the warehouses will emerge at a later stage in the process, with the outline scheme currently before North West Leicestershire District Council. They will make a decision at a later date.

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