VIDEO: MEMBERS of the Borough Council’s Executive Board have voted to proceed with the controversial “Red Route” for Warrington’s Western Link road scheme – causing angry outbursts from protesters.
Frustrated by not being able to address the meeting members of the public stormed out in disgust, shouting for the councillors to “resign.”
Around 150 protesters turned up outside the town hall prior to the meeting, with many expressing disappointment at the “poor” turnout, although the situation was not helped by chronic traffic problems, on a dark cold autumn evening.
Prior to the meeting local resident Anthony Towers claimed the Western Link had been “Sold on a lie” and it wasn’t to ease congestion but to open up land to build up to 24,000 new homes, many on Green Belt and to open up Port Warrington.
“It has been the Red Route for a long time and we already know they are going to say yes,” he said.
He also expressed concerns about the loss of green land at Sankey Valley Park.
During the meeting local Cllr Hitesh Patel, said he was “stuck between a rock and a hard place” over the project, the cost of which has now risen to £212.74 million.
He said half his ward appeared to be against it while the other half appeared to be more welcoming of it.
“People living in Sankey Bridges are very clear about the negative impact, but the rest of ward can see some positives,” he said.
He praised local residents Cindy Maguire and Anthony Towers for the way they had represented people and talked through the issues they were facing.
“I do genuinely feel stuck as half my ward appear to want it and the other half don’t.”
Cllr Patel said he was pleased that the revised Red Route involved less Compulsory Purchase Orders but he was concerned about the loss of green land in Sankey Valley Park and a Play Area at Morley Common which had only recently opened. He sought reassurances that any amenities lost would be replaced.
Recommending that the Executive Board should vote to proceed with proposed Red Route, Cllr Hans Mundry, Highways, transportation and public realm, said the infrastructure was long over due to tackle the town’s traffic congestion and to improve air quality.
He said it would help improve the growth of the town and make it a more attractive place to live. He believed officers had come up with the best and least disruptive route.
He said some local issues needed to be looked at and would involve more local consultation.
Members of the borough council’s executive board voted to approve an allocation of £2.7 million to enable work on the project to continue until next May when the government is expected to announce its decision on Warrington’s bid for £142.54 million funding from the Department for Transport.
The council will itself borrow £70.20 million – incurring interest of £43.18 million over the next 40 years.
The new road will link Walton and Great Sankey and is intended to ease traffic congestion at Bridge Foot
It is also seen as being integral to the council’s Preferred Development Option, which envisages construction of 25,000 new houses being built over the next 20 years – almost 10,000 of them on Green Belt land.
Councillors approved allocating £9.6 million to settle claims from land and property owners affected by the scheme and to authorise council officers to commence negotiations to try and reach agreement over the claims. Compulsory purchase will only be used as a last resort.
Meanwhile if the council’s bid for Department for Transport funding as a Large Local Major scheme is unsuccessful, the DfT has indicated it would immediately become eligible to bid for wider funding after 2020.
More than 1,400 people have now signed a petition urging the government not to fund the Western Link scheme and the petition can be accessed at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/201008