THOUSANDS of people have joined a campaign opposing any plans to turn Warrington into a “new city” by building thousands of homes and businesses on green belt land and using part of the Trans Pennine Trail for a strategic new road.
Single mother of four Maxine Harmon, who has set up the LoveWA4 action group on facebook, attracting more than 4,100 members in just three weeks, has accused Warrington Borough Council of trying to do it all behind people’s backs, as a back door to making Warrington a city.
Maxine aged 46, who lives in the WA4 area of Warrington which will be impacted most by the plans, was so angry when she found out about the plans she had 15,000 leaflets printed to tell people what was being proposed.
She said: “Since then I’ve been inundated with calls, emails and postings asking for more information, offering help and wanting to know how to stop these plans in their tracks. Everyone is incensed”.
The council says it had to create the plan or the government would have imposed one on them. They also point out this is an initial draft and the detail won’t be finalised until next year.
But that’s come as no consolation to hundreds of residents on the south side of town who claim their homes have already been blighted by one of the most controversial parts of the plan – a blue line on a map which is marked “Potential to provide new strategic road/public transport route”. It involves a new crossing of the Manchester Ship Canal between Latchford and Grappenhall in the south of the town, and would be built along part of the much-used Trans Pennine Trail.
The protestors and local campaigners have already had some success with the council extending the consultation period from 12th to 29th September, but that’s just a start according to Maxine.
“I’m incredibly proud of the way the people of Warrington have come together on this and we owe it to them to fight this to the bitter end…not just until the consultation is over, but for as long as it takes”, she said.
Already dubbed “Mad” Maxine because of her anger at the planners, she says her inspiration comes from her own mum. “We’re not going anywhere. My own mother used to go down the Trans Pennine Trail on her mobility scooter and she taught me to be strong, to be a fighter. I’m immensely proud of the way people all over Warrington have joined forces to fight this.”
“We’re very lucky to live in a town which has so much greenery and nature around it, and the council wants to destroy all that. My children love going on adventures in those areas and I’m thinking of their future and their children.”
But a Warrington Borough Council spokesperson said the consultation would have started sooner but had been delayed due to the General Election.
“Outside of the Liverpool conurbation and the Manchester conurbation, Warrington is the biggest urban entity in the north west and in terms of the economic performance of all places, including Manchester and Liverpool, Warrington is the most successful of all the towns and cities in the north west.
“There is currently no opportunity to apply for ‘city status’ and the council has not made any resolution to go for ‘city status’.
“The reference to ‘New City’ in the Local Plan is simply the name of a programme of work, it has nothing to do with any official application.”