A war of words has broken out between Warrington South’s new Tory candidate Andy Carter and council leader Russ Bowden, over the proposed number of homes to be built in Warrington as part of the draft local plan.
Tory candidate Andy Carter, who is currently a parish councillor at Lymm, says claims by the leader of Warrington Borough Council that he is being forced into building more homes by the Government have been rubbished by a Government Minister.
Following comments made by Cllr Bowden on social media and in the press, Cllr. Carter wrote to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government asking for clarification as to who is responsible for deciding the number of houses to be built in Warrington in the draft local plan.
In his response, James Brokenshire MP, emphasised that housing need figures are not a target and ‘local authorities should make a realistic assessment of the number of homes their communities need, using the standard method as the starting point in the process.’
Mr Brokenshire went on to say that ‘once this has been established, planning to meet that need will require consideration of land availability, relevant constraints, and whether the need is more appropriately met in neighbouring areas. This will then be scrutinised, as part of the examination undertaken by an independent Inspector. ‘
Commenting on the letter, Cllr Carter said: “The leader of the council’s comments on housing figures are in direct contradiction to what the minister is actually saying.
“It’s down to the council to decide how many are needed, not the Government. Labour’s plan is to build in excess of 900 homes per year, yet Warrington has never exceeded 500. How can that be a realistic assessment?
“They’ve started the process but don’t seem to have applied any common sense. It seems to me that they are threatening our precious green spaces just to generate income. What they are saying just isn’t correct”.
“As the public consultation into the Local Plan begins I urge residents to read the proposals and to make their views known to the Council, The Proposed Local Plan is Labour’s plan, their vision for house building in our borough, Cllr Bowden’s attempt to blame the Government is disappointing but par for the course, for once he should listen to the concerns of Warrington residents and re-think these plans to destroy large areas of South Warrington’s green-belt.”
But Cllr Bowden hit back saying: “Mr Carter routinely plays fast and loose with the facts and this is simply the latest in a series of misinformed, irresponsible and wild accusations.
“First we had the claim about the Council’s levels of reserves – so way off beam that their own Tory councillor disowned it and voted with Labour’s budget. We then had him trying to claim credit for the Western Link, despite never having lifted a finger to deliver it. Now we have him peddling some nonsense allegations about the housing numbers in the Local Plan.
“The Local Plan is quite clearly based around Government guidance, using a baseline from the 2014 census data as directed, along with correct application of the methodology to address affordability and economic growth.
“This is all set out in the Council’s Local Housing Needs Assessment, which supports the Local Plan and is available on our website. It might be helpful if Mr Carter bothered to read it before wasting the time of Government ministers.
“In fact, why doesn’t he publish his letter and the response, so that we all know exactly what was asked and how the reply has been cherry-picked to support this empty statement?
“The Council takes its responsibility very seriously for the delivery of the Local Plan and meeting the demands of Government. The idea that we have grossly inflated housing numbers is preposterous and does Mr Carter and the Tories no credit whatsoever. If he is unable to act appropriately on a matter of such great importance to Warrington, then perhaps he should focus on being a parish councillor and forget about his ambitions for parliament.”