St Helens Council granted outline permission for the 92,900 square metre development at the former Parkside Colliery to the south east of Newton le Willows.
Applicant Parkside Regeneration said the project is expected to form the first phase of a "comprehensive redevelopment" of the colliery, which closed in the early 1990s.
The site is designated as green belt in the council’s adopted core strategy. Officers advised it had been earmarked for development of a strategic rail freight interchange, at which time the land would be removed from the green belt, but said the interchange could be accommodated on another site nearby.
Both the council and the applicant agreed that the proposed scheme represented inappropriate development in the green belt.
Officers advised that the development would have a moderate adverse impact on the landscape character of the site and the design would have an adverse impact on the character and appearance of the area.
However, they also noted "a significant need to deliver employment land" in St Helens, "in particular for large scale logistics developments such as this".
"The application also proposes a number of economic benefits, of such a scale that they should be given significant weight in favour of the proposals," they said.
Officers added: "The contribution that the development would make to the council’s employment land position is significant and of particular importance, given that the need is of such a quantum and character that only green belt sites are likely to satisfy it.
"On balance the proposed development constitutes sustainable development in terms of the NPPF because the ‘very special circumstances’ outweigh the substantial harm to the green belt."
Councillors also approved plans submitted by the local authority for a 3.5km link road on green belt land between the A49 and junction 22 of the M6.
Officers said the proposed road would make future phases of development at the Parkside Colliery and the delivery of a rail freight interchange nearby "more acceptable in planning terms and more viable".
"The proposed road is inappropriate development in the green belt," officers said, adding that the project "would result in harm to the landscape character and appearance of the area".
However, they concluded that the road’s potential contribution towards delivery of employment land and the rail freight interchange "would clearly outweigh the considerable harm caused to the green belt".