WARRINGTON South MP Faisal Rashid has vowed to carry on fighting plans to build on green belt land but is supporting the controversial Western Link.
He says the biggest single issue raised by constituents since his election earlier this year has been the need for a better road infrastructure and intolerable traffic congestion.
Faisal said: “Since the election in June, we have been thrown in at the deep end with regards to the town’s future growth plans, as many of them are focused in Warrington South.
“Many of my constituents will be aware that through my previous roles as Mayor and Councillor, I have always championed causes to benefit the local communities I represented. In my role as MP my values have not changed and my approach has continued to be very open and honest. This role however has a greater responsibility.
“I am required to make decisions that have future implications for the town, and may not always be the most popular or easiest decisions to make. I represent over 88,000 constituents and so I have to ensure that any projects coming forward benefit the wider community.
“From day one in the role, I have done my upmost to take on board all feedback I have received from residents. Indeed, I have held meetings with individuals, community groups, attended community events and held one to one discussions on nearly every local issue to date.
“I have strongly opposed and spoken out against the development of our Green Belt land. I am campaigning in Westminster for the Mersey Gateway tolls to be scrapped. I have objected to inappropriate planning applications on behalf of my constituents. I am opposing plans for Port Warrington because I do not believe this plan will benefit our people and town. I will also do whatever I can to protect Moore Nature Reserve.
“I will continue to take on board all feedback that I receive, but ultimately, I must do what I believe is best for the wider community and the constituency.
Faisal added: “During my time as the local MP, the greatest concerns raised with me by my constituents have been about the need for better road infrastructure and action to tackle the intolerable problems we have with traffic congestion. These concerns are repeated time and time again.
“Warrington sits within several growth corridors in the UK: The Northern Powerhouse; the Atlantic Gateway; the M6 Growth corridor; HS2; and two international airports.
“The Constituency’s growth together with limited crossing points on the River Mersey and Manchester Ship Canal, the introduction of the Mersey Gateway toll and a boundary of frequently congested major motorway networks has resulted in chronic traffic congestion and poor air quality caused by standing and slow moving traffic.
“There have been calls for a solution to the constituency’s problems with traffic congestion for many years. As it stands, our roads are not fit for purpose and the problems we have with congestion are only set to get worse. What is clear is that doing nothing is not an option.
“The Warrington Western Link project would provide the town with a second-high level crossing of the Manchester Ship Canal, improving connectivity between the north and south of the town. It would also free up brownfield sites for housing, helping to protect Green Belt land from development.
“I fully understand the concerns of the people affected by the Western Link proposals and I know that for some this is a very emotive issue.
“The Western Link proposals were first suggested over 30 years ago and yet to date have never materialised. Warrington is long overdue infrastructure investment of this scale.
“The current Department for Transport bidding process for new major infrastructure projects offers Warrington a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to make this long sort after addition to our road network a reality. Previous opportunities to establish the Western Link have all been missed. I engaged with residents throughout the consultation period and fed back all the comments I received to the Council.
“There were some concerns that the proposals would not reduce congestion at Bridge Foot. However, this road will remove the need to travel through the Town Centre for those travelling between south and west Warrington. The proposed Western Link is a 1.9 mile route, which connects the A56 Chester Road in Higher Walton with the A57 Sankey Way in Great Sankey. The current road distance from Sankey Way to Chester Road is 3.9 miles via Midland Way, or 3.4 miles via Wilson Patten Street. Both areas are heavily congested during peak hours. Therefore, a minimum of 1.5 miles can be removed from these journeys which should enable other road users to benefit from improved journey times also.
“On the concerns regarding noise and environment pollution, standing vehicle traffic and congestion is the largest contributor to poor air quality in the constituency. The Western Link will help to address these issues by reducing the amount of standing and slow moving traffic and by reducing journey times. This will be further assisted by a third river crossing as part of the Centre Park Link project will improve access from Chester Road to Slutchers Lane.
“Another concern raised repeatedly was regarding the cost of the project. This decision is up to the Department of Transport who will determine the cost benefit of the proposal. The proposal will be under significant scrutiny as it competes for funding against similar projects in other areas of the country. We have already been penalised with the introduction of the Mersey Gateway tolls. It is only right that we fight for the opportunity to get something back from Government that will benefit the people of this town.
“Throughout the consultation process I held the view that my own position on the Western Link would have to be based on what is in the best interests of the constituency and our people.
“After much consideration, I have taken the decision to support the project. However, I have made it very clear that any support is given only on the condition that all possible efforts are made to minimise the impact on neighbourhoods and the people who live in them and that the Council commits to the following actions:
* Bimonthly update meetings must be held with the people affected by the proposals.
* Further detailed consultation with local residents is to be carried out.
* A fair and proper compensation structure is to be put in place.
* Any green space affected must be replaced with alternative green open space within the same area.
Faisal says The Council has committed in writing to taking these actions.
He added: “I fully accept that there are pros and cons with this project but I firmly believe the pros outweigh the cons.
“I give this assurance to the residents of Warrington South that throughout this process I will continue to represent their views on this issue to the very best of my ability.”