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Hundreds of protesters descend on Warrington Town Hall

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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.”

Protesters gather outside the town hall – Pictures Paul Jackson

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About Author

Experienced journalist for more than 35 years. Managing Director of magazine publishing group with six in-house titles and on-line daily newspaper for Warrington. Experienced writer, photographer, PR consultant and media expert having written for local, regional and national newspapers. Specialties: PR, media, social networking, photographer, networking, advertising, sales, media crisis management. Patron Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. Trustee Warrington Disability Partnership. Former Chairman of Warrington Town FC.

11 Comments

  1. I got there late as the traffic was so bad, just goes to show we can’t have sooooo many more houses. Loved ‘The save our TPT and say no to a city’ poster placed in the Town Hall window. Heard the Major behaved disgracefully.

  2. Unfortunately I couldn’t go to the protest tonight despite trying my very best to 🙁
    Having just watched the footage above it was good to see so many did manage to attend but I am absolutely disgusted after seeing the Mayor’s reaction and hearing his comments when the petition was handed over by the little boy. Until now I have thought he seemed a really nice chap and a people person…..seems I was completely wrong. He never even spoke to or acknowledged the little lad !!!!
    OK so for whatever reason he [Mr Mayor} didn’t want video footage but that was BANG OUT OF ORDER !! SHAME ON YOU !!!
    I see the Lib Dims were there in force being ‘supportive’ though…..maybe someone should remind them (Bob Barr specifically springs to mind) of the 5000+ signed petition handed over once before when people objected to another ‘plan’ that they simply ignored and tried to pull to pieces and ignored! Oh and the petitions for other plans and developments which went the same way.
    Words and false promises mean nothing….so this time do they really mean ACTION and FULL SUPPORT ? i wont be holding my breath….but I will remain hopeful that for once they may prove me wrong.

  3. I forgot to say…why not make another date to FILL the town hall front grounds with protestors. Maybe a weekend day where more can attend. Tonight’s turnout was great but no where near big enough to have the impact needed.
    Doesn’t matter if the council are in meeting there or not..even more people all together in one place at one time showing a unanimous stand is needed. Yes Mr Mayor…you have clearly rattled a lot of people from their comments I’ve read elsewhere…well done for unintentionally fueling the against fight though ha ha…. #backfired #councilfail?

  4. On Monday evening I was covering, for Warrington Worldwide, the protest at the town hall where council was meeting to discuss the PDO and Red Route plans. Hundreds turned out to make their voices heard and a petition expressing opposition was due to be handed to the Mayor at 5:30pm. Unfortunately , due to the traffic into town , the deliverer of said document was delayed by over 5 minutes and was told to come back at 6pm which they duly did. As the handover of the petition was being performed by a very cute little boy, Joey, I set up a shot to get a nice, human interest image for the article. I noticed the Mayor and his entourage stood back in the lobby of the Town Hall and went to ask him if he would pose for a photo. “No statements only photos” said Cllr Morgan, seeming somewhat agitated. I replied thats fine, I was taking stills and statements don’t work that well in stills. I asked him to come and accept the petition and has said no he can come to me. Now, bearing in mind this is a little boy, in front of many people in a strange and foreboding environment, I considered this at best showed a lack of human compassion and at worst was intended to intimidate. Joey plucked up his courage, something some grown ups thereabouts could use as an example, and went to hand the Mayor his bundle of signatures. It was a very big deal for Joey to meet the Mayor, all resplendent in his chain, but instead of thanking the boy, which common courtesy should dictate, the angry Councillor instead leaned over the small figure to berate his mother for being late, looking for all the world like a latter day Mr. Bumble terrifying a hungry Oliver Twist. Not content with haranguing the startled Mum he then turned his rant to my colleague, Gary Skentelbery who was trying to video the petition handover, after which he turned on his heels and went through into the Town Hall.

    Les, I have covered your year from day one and have always tried to be respectful, positive and professional and have even overlooked a personal attack on my work out of respect for your office and my town. I feel now my respect was misguided as the bullying “Flashman” techniques you employed against a small boy last night at the Town Hall were frankly disgraceful. You needn’t take my word though, go check out social media and read the condemnation of your behaviour from all quarters.The least critical description I could find being “grumpy” and words such as “disgusting, shame, rude” being very prevalent.

    Mr. Mayor, last night your behaviour was bang out of order and less than I expect from my towns figurehead and representative and I believe you owe little Joey and his Mum a public apology at the very least.

  5. The Mayor was just rude, he has forgotten that he works for us, not the other way around. To wear his chain of office and then snap and snarl at that cute little boy’s mother was not right. Gary was more polite than I would have been. That was a respectful and civilised protest by local people.

  6. I arrived a bit later due to traffic (ironic eh ? ) – it was going dark so, missed the early action, plenty people still there though & fortunately, I missed our very rude little mayor do his party piece with a 4 year old kid .

    My take ? having read the ‘call for sites’, the ‘option assessment’ and the ‘Preferred Development Option’ itself – ( and having worked in a very local and highly specialized energy industry for some 40 years), I can honestly say, I have never seen a more sorry, fundamentally flawed, pile of rubbish, so badly put together and littered with inconsistencies and flawed arguments in said 40 years of reading stuff at least as complicated as this during my role in strategic planning a national industry .

    IT IS – Badly thought out, born of obsolete thinking, full of flawed assumptions and breathtakingly misleading statements along the lines of : ‘We’ve got to fill in our greenbelt with housing developments to protect the rest of the green belt ???? !!!! with Fiddlers Ferry ** left out of the debate even though we all know, national policy from Government no less is, that ALL coal fired powered stations in the UK must close by 2025. (i.e. within the plans 20 year window)

    ** A brown field eyesore right on our doorstep not considered whilst prime greenbelt of similar footprint is pretty much raped across the other side of the river Mersey.

    It reeks of hidden agendas and development deals done behind closed doors and it represents the very worst in the classic 20th century town planning aimed at addressing 21st century problems with plainly questionable at best, and possibly more sinister drivers behind it..

    I for one will not rest until the whole pile of rubbish is thrown in the bin and then some of the authors and architects of such garbage may then start to listen to their own employers i,e, us the residents and ratepayers – not only across Warrington, North to South – East to West, in all its diverse and glorious entirety but especially, in my beloved Grappenhall where I have been privileged to live most of my entire life .

    Folks – this is not over – I reckon its only just started and WBC I humbly implore you to think again or prepare to be seriously embarrassed.

  7. I was one of the protesters and so pleased to see so many turn out on a day when the weather tried its best to put a stop to it. I am Warrington born and bred WBC need to stop spoiling our market TOWN…..yes TOWN.

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