WARRINGTON Liberal Democrats are backing residents’ opposition to housing developments on Green Belt land outlined in the borough council’s Preferred Development Option Local Plan.
While the Lib Dems say they remain are ambitious for Warrington, their ambition is not just about economic success because they want to ensure that the town’s historic character is retained and the environment conserved. They say enhancing the quality of life must respect the wishes and identities of existing communities.
Council Group Leader, Cllr Bob Barr said, “We believe the failure to engage with the community adequately over the Local Plan has been a serious error by the Borough Council. It is a missed opportunity. The passion shown by residents during the holiday season in response to the Preferred Development Option shows the high level of interest in the future of our town.
“The calculations for the housing targets have not been properly explained. When the Local Plan is presented for consultation, residents need to know the extent to which the targets are driven by local ambition as opposed to government and how numbers relate to the land required for different dwelling sizes.
“We have serious misgivings about the prominence given in the plan to early green belt release. The town centre and brown field first policy must be prioritised. Warrington’s role as the green lung that separates the Merseyside and Greater Manchester conurbations is essential and must be preserved. Developers must not be encouraged to believe that early easy pickings are available in Warrington’s green belt. The Plan has not made the case for green-belt release particularly as additional brownfield sites such as Fiddlers Ferry and the Hospital may become available. We question the need to adopt a twenty year plan period when fifteen years is acceptable for a Local Plan. The fall-out from Brexit will have an impact too.
“We strongly support the principle of ‘town centre first’ development. We support the principle of ‘infrastructure first’ too but have serious concerns about how this will be financed to ensure prompt delivery. We doubt that the amount of additional infrastructure proposed in the Preferred Development Option will reduce congestion and provide adequate hospital facilities. There is a lack of consideration for major investment in public transport, such as a light rail / mass transit system.”
Grappenhall Councillor Ryan Bate added, “We are gravely concerned by the suggestion of using the former railway embankment through Thelwall, Grappenhall and Latchford for a strategic transport route. While supporting the need for a further high-level crossing of the Ship Canal, we ask that more thought goes into the planning of any route with properly informed discussions with the communities affected.
“We question the densities assumed throughout the plan for housing. There is a clear need for a mix of smaller homes aimed at younger households looking to establish themselves and older households looking to downsize. In providing a more appropriate mix of housing styles, we also hope the Borough Council will address the current disconnect between the location of housing and the location of jobs. A closer alignment of the two will help reduce car dependency and traffic congestion.
“We consider that the problems raised by the current PDO affect the whole of Warrington and not just those wards we represent. Failures to deal with traffic congestion, medical provision and affordable housing will not be restricted in impact to a specific part of the town. It is essential that the eventual Local Plan benefits the whole of Warrington reducing inequalities in access to affordable high quality housing, improves the Town Centre, preserves our green spaces and creates a sustainable environment for all.”
Some of the consultation resulted in chaotic scenes, especially at the Park Royal Hotel in Stretton, where residents had to queue to gain access, with many saying they had no opportunity to contribute to the consultation.