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“Chaotic” consultation event on Green Belt homes plan

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HUNDREDS of people queued to get into an “extra” consultation event held to give residents an opportunity to learn about Warrington Borough Council’s proposals to build up to 9,000 houses on Green Belt land.
The queue snaked across the car park at the Park Royal Hotel at Stretton where the event was held following pressure from Liberal Democrat councillors and Warrington South Labour MP Faisal Rashid.
Many people gave up in despair and went home without getting into the building.
Afterwards, Cllr Ian Marks, chairman of Warrington Liberal Democrats, gave his impressions of the event.
“The council has greatly underestimated the public anger in the south of the town at the proposals to build thousands of houses in the Green Belt.  Now the holidays are over people are only just realising the enormity of what is being proposed.  The consultation session was swamped and people were queuing up right through the car park to get in.
“I sat in on the 10 minute video which told people all about the Local Plan process.  It asked them to respond by the original date of September 12.
“At the end, I expected a council officer to inform people the date had been changed to September 29, but they had all left the room so I had to stand up and tell them myself.  There were so many people in the display area, it was difficult to engage in any sensible discussion about the issues involved.  It was chaotic!”
At the borough council meeting which followed in the evening Liberal Democrat Cllr Ryan Bate thanked the council leader, Cllr Terry O’Neill, for agreeing to extend the consultation period for the public.
After the meeting he said: “In the early consultations, planning officers were concerned that few people were turning up.  When I asked the leader if he was going to improve consultation for the next phase of the Local Plan process in the spring, he fobbed me off with some meaningless answer.  This would have been no comfort to the public had they been there to hear him.
“We heard from him his usual stock answer that the council was short of money due to cuts from the government so it was difficult to do a full consultation.  We feel strongly that the massive developments that are being proposed do deserve proper consultation with the public and every household in the affected areas should receive a letter.
“This time it has been too little, too late.”
The final consultation event will be tomorrow (Thursday) at the Pyramid Centre in Warrington town centre from 3pm to 8pm.

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3 Comments

  1. What you and I believe is a Consultation is entirely at odds with what WBC believes it means. In their case the emphasis is very much on the first syllable.

  2. Yet another poorly reported event. We went to the Lymm event (none in our area of Grappenhall) which was in a much smaller venue which was also packed out with queues outside. Yet again though, the general consensus of those attending was to be abusive to the staff who were there and to be frank, I was embarrassed to hear some of it. Some of it even came from the councillors in this article as well. Our MP was there (more than Helen Jones has done so far) and he handled it well considering he got barricaded in. If we want our views to be heard, send our objections in properly rather than rant with sound bytes to each other. It’s makes all of us sound like NIMBYs. Don’t get me wrong, i”m not happy with some of the proposals, but we are going to need new housing on a huge scale and if we’re all honest, the south of the town has managed to avoid large developments for a while (Omega, Chapelford, Gemini, Birchwood etc.) We all knew that most of this land in the South East was New Town land since the 1960s and has been earmarked for years.

    • I agree, request rather than rant must be the way forward, whether or not frustration is the cause of people’s anger. However, although WBC’s staff may well be “working hard to engage with residents”, as the Council Leader claims, those on hand at one Local Plan public consultation were unable to answer several reasonably and politely put pertinent questions asked of them by members of the public. Instead they directed the questioners to access “the website” for further details. Moreover, when questioned on the council leader’s unequivocal promise to resolve the town’s inadequate infrastructure “before another house was built”, the response varied between a glazed look and a sheepish smile. A lot more will have to be done to engage with residents than has so far been evident.

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