LOCAL Lib Dems have expressed fears that the government may bring forward proposals later this month to reduce the planning powers of local authorities and local communities.
Reports are circulating that such a move is one way to help speed economic recovery after the severe downturn caused by the virus.
Cllr Ryan Bate and Cllr Bob Barr from the Warrington Liberal Democrats say, “When Warrington was designated as a New Town in 1968, planning powers were taken away from the local authority and given to an unelected Development Corporation. Warrington New Town Corporation did much to consult residents and new communities in an era where “participative planning” was fashionable. It saw its role as a “place making” authority ensuring that the new town communities were attractive and stimulating places to live, work and play. This is no longer the current fashion.
“The government is looking to stimulate the economy by releasing “shovel ready” sites with plenty of freedom for developers to do what they want. There are proposals that we should adopt an American ‘light touch zoning system’, where new style Development Corporations are likely to be little more than sales agents for government owned land. They would sell to the highest bidder or the fastest builder with little regard for what we get as a result.
“Removing the opportunity for local planning authorities and residents to control development will lead to short term planning motivated by what can be built for the greatest profit, rather than building sustainable long-term communities. These planning changes would simply facilitate the ‘mass growth’ favoured by the Council with the loss of green space and the threat to the town’s identity. They would also make it less likely that any essential infrastructure would be provided in time.
“Thanks to its excellent transport connections, Warrington would be at risk of becoming both the commuter dormitory and the warehouse capital of the North West.
“We will be watching the government’s proposals with great interest to ensure local people maintain a real say in the future of our area. We must promote sustainable growth with a focus on regenerating the existing urban area and tackling the inequalities in our town.”
It has been reported that a panel of “experts” has been put together by communities secretary Robert Jenrick to advise on changing planning laws that will create a zonal system, transferring powers to development corporations and speeding up permission for infrastructure building, according to reports.
Under the proposals, each council area would be divided up into different neighbourhoods, in which some uses would be permitted and others forbidden.
Once a local authority was satisfied that a proposed development complied with its zoning rules it would then be given the go-ahead.
The aim is to reduce the number of planning applications.