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Council has ‘vested interest’ in Green Belt plans” say parishes

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SEVEN parish councils want the controversial plans for two major employment areas in the south of Warrington to be dealt with by the Secretary of State rather than the borough council.

The South Warrington Parish Councils Local Plan Working Group – representing the seven parishes – has written to the Department for the Environment’s planning casework unit asking for the plans to be “called in” if they are approved by the borough council.

The two plans are the Eddie Stobart proposals for a national distribution centre at Appleton Thorn and the Six 56 employment area at Junction 20 of the M6 and Junction 9 of the M56, which claims to offer up to 4,900 jobs.

In the letter, Cllr Cliff Taylor, chairman of the working group, says the borough council has a “vested interest” in supporting the applications as it has committed to ambitious and unrealistic growth targets, which have yet to be fully and properly tested.

Refusal of the application would run contrary to commitments already made outside the democratic process by the council’s arm’s length development company Warrington and Co.
“This body, whilst operating under the ambit of WBC is led by a board of private sector interests, including those with a direct interest in development proposals in this part of South Warrington,” Cllr Taylor says.

The two sites adjoin each other and are within the Green Belt.

“As a consequence of the proposed departures from the adopted development plan and the sheer scale of the developments, it is considered by the Working Group that under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning (Consultation) (England) Regulations 2009, the matter should be referred to the Secretary of Statement for consideration in the event of a local planning authority decision to grant planning permission.”

Cllr Taylor says there are a number of reasons why the Working Group request that the applications be called in and considered by the Secretary of State

*They are clearly of strategic significance with an impact beyond the local area.
*They are close to the boundaries with Cheshire East Council and Cheshire West and Chester Council and would have an impact other developments proposed across the North West.
*The site is located with the adopted Green Belt and development as proposed would be contrary to current development plan policy.
* A revised Local Plan is in the early stages of preparation. A Preferred Development Option was produced by WBC in 2017 and consulted on, but this document lacked specific policy and attracted considerable objection. The draft Local Plan has been issued as a submission draft but has already attracted considerable weight of objection, questioning its consistency with national policy guidance.
* Strategic Infrastructure improvements associated with the present proposals including those required to junctions of the M6 and M56, cannot be considered properly under two separate applications which are potentially able to be determined independently of one another.

The letter ends: “It is respectfully suggested that for the above reasons, both of these applications should not be determined by WBC, but should be assessed in a broader, strategic context by the Secretary of State.”

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  1. Of course there is a vested interest. Let us not mince words here, it is a conflict of interests. The like of which were it to exist outside the cosy cloisters of WBC, would require a clearly defined separation of responsibilities and the individualS overseeing them. The following extract copied from WBC’s website shows that essentially Mr Park is marking his own homework in overseeing planning, whilst being CEO of WBC’s development company.

    “Operational Director of Economic Growth: Steve Park
    Warrington and Co
    Property and estates
    Employment and business growth
    Planning policy and programmes
    Local housing company”

  2. Would this be the Group of Parish Councils who have selected a certain planning consultant to assist them – one who is led by one of the main culprits into the destruction of planning records at Warrington Borough Council and then left their post after the ombudsmans report? I’d wager this consultant has just as much a vested interest in this plan.

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