VIDEO: HUNDREDS of protesters descended upon Warrington Town Hall to express their views on proposed developments across the town.
Around 500 people turned up, many waving placards, as various groups set up to oppose the council’s Preferred Development Option Local Plan and other developments, including the Western Link, joined forces during a rally outside the town hall.
A petition signed by more than 4,200 calling for the Preferred Development Option to be scrapped, was presented to the town’s Mayor Cllr Les Morgan, prior to a meeting of the Full Council.
Meanwhile Warrington South MP Faisal Rashid, who was unable to attend the rally due to his parliamentary commitments, says he has secured an agreement from Leader of the Council, Cllr Terry O’Neill, to explore a 15 year Local Plan
Faisal said: “Over the last fortnight I have had two meetings with the Leader of Warrington Borough Council, Cllr Terry O’Neill, the latest being held today before leaving for London to conduct my parliamentary business.
“In these meetings to discuss the major planning issues currently facing Warrington, I have reiterated that I share the concerns of many residents about the proposals in the Preferred Development Option and particularly with regard to the potential effect on our precious Green Belt land.
“Cllr O’Neill has previously made it clear that nothing will be going ahead without the necessary infrastructure being in place. At the meeting today I reminded him of this pledge and that local people expect this promise to be met in full.
“I was told that more than 6,000 residents have taken the trouble to respond to the consultation on the PDO and I have been assured that their contributions will be fully considered.
“I have suggested both in my written response to the PDO and these latest meetings that the council should produce a 15 year local plan as opposed to the current 20 year PDO that has just been out for consultation.
“I now have managed to convince Cllr O’Neill to agree that council officers will look at the pros and cons of the shorter 15 year plan as against the current 20 year version, and that this should be based on the minimum amount of projected housing needed. I am hopeful that this will avoid having to utilise Green Belt sites altogether, ensuring that the focus remains firmly on regenerating both existing brownfield sites and those that are likely to become available in the future.
“With regard to the proposed Western Link road, one specific issue that has been raised by objectors relates to the potential traffic using the link that might be generated by Peel’s planned Port Warrington. The previous planning application for this development contained a rail link.
“I am seeking assurances that any future application must also contain provision for a rail freight link to both the Western Main Line and the Manchester-Liverpool route in order to ensure that the traffic impact is minimised and environmental considerations such as air quality are properly addressed. I am currently trying to make an appointment with Peel Ports to discuss their plans and raise concerns on behalf of my constituents.
“I have also secured confirmation that the council will further consult with local residents in communities such as Saxon Park, Hood Lane South/Littleton Close and Morley Common in due course.
“The Mersey Gateway has opened over the weekend and the impact on Warrington’s traffic congestion will start to be known in the coming weeks and it will have a clear bearing on the detail of the other schemes.
“I will continue to press for these concerns to be addressed and to ensure that Warrington’s solutions to these difficult questions are fit for purpose for the whole community.”
After the meeting Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on the Council, Cllr Bob Barr said, “The huge turnout of hundreds showed just how angry people from across the town feel about these proposals. They are appalled by the totally inadequate consultation process and the fact that there is no vision coming from the Council. The Preferred Development Option has been written by officers for officers and not in a language that ordinary people will understand.
“Building must take place on brownfield sites first so that our green spaces are protected. Congestion is already a massive problem which will be made worse by traffic diverting to escape the tolls on the recently opened Mersey Gateway Bridge. Where development does take place it is absolutely essential that the infrastructure is put in place first, not afterwards. The use of the word ‘city’ has upset people and I suspect the Planners will drop this term in later consultations.
“When I tackled the Council Leader at the Council Meeting he described the Preferred Development Option as a ‘red herring’. Goodness knows what he meant by this, but I can tell him that it’s a ‘red herring’ that has upset thousands of people. When the Local Plan is finally published I sincerely hope it looks very different from the Option in front of us now. The Labour Group claims that all views from the consultation will be taken into consideration and we will be watching very carefully to make sure this happens.
“It is now up to residents, supported by their local councillors, to put forward a positive vision of how they want our town to develop so that it improves communities and doesn’t destroy them.”