LABOUR-controlled Warrington Borough Council is coming under fire on various fronts over the revised local plan, in particular, the inclusion of land at Peel Hall threatened by a housing development.
With the Local Plan on the agenda at tonight’s Full Council meeting, opposition Tories have accused Labour of “betraying” voters by keeping the Peel Hall housing development in the local plan, while Leader of the Council Cllr Russ Bowden, has responded by accusing the Tories of “betraying” that they know nothing about Peel Hall, or about the planning system in general.
Cllr. Wendy Maisey, who stood in the 2019 Parliamentary election for the Tories said: “I strongly urge the Labour leadership to re-think the decision to include Peel Hall. The plan was not put to the electorate in May and the Council still refuse to listen to local residents. Opposition to Peel Hall has been significant yet the decision to keep Peel Hall in the Council’s draft local plan is yet another betrayal by Labour run Warrington Borough Council.
Local residents have also expressed anger urging local councillors to “stand by the people who voted them in,” while local Green Party members have also raised issues and concerns.
More than 3,000 residents responded to the Local Plan consultation with many calling on brownfield sites to be prioritised ahead of Green Belt.
The proposed submission version of the local plan was published earlier this month and controversially includes the Peel Hall development, which could see as many as 1,200 homes built destroying what local residents describe as the “last green lung” in the area.
Tories say the final version of the Local Plan was not published prior to the May elections when Conservatives across Warrington were elected on a ticket to save the green belt.
“The implications of building 1,200 homes around one of the last natural buffers for the M62 go far beyond Winwick and Poplars & Hulme. My own Council ward of Croft will be adversely impacted with poorer air quality and higher volumes of traffic.
“The Peel Hall site should have been classified as “undevelopable” not simply “undeliverable” that way there would be no doubt to leave Peel Hall alone. As things stand, Peel Hall is at risk of being destroyed forever when the development could and should have been seen off years ago.
“Not classifying Peel Hall as undevelopable in the local plan is a kick in the teeth to all residents who have worked so hard for 20 years or more alongside the Save Peel Hall group, all of whom have undertaken incredible work to stave off the developers. I would urge all residents to oppose the Peel Hall development during the consultation period and sincerely hope that the Labour Councillors in the wards affected by the development are given a free vote at the upcoming full Council meeting on Monday so that they can stand up for their residents.
“Anything less than rejecting this a betrayal to the electorate and a broken promise.
“The ‘wall of silence’ from the Labour leadership, the MP for Warrington North and Councillors in wards affected by Peel Hall has been deafening since the revised plan was released.”
But Leader of the Council Cllr. Russ Bowden responded: “In their rush for a lazy soundbite, the only thing exposed by the Tories is the betrayal that they know nothing about Peel Hall or about the planning system in general.
“For three decades, it has been Labour Councillors and Labour MPs standing shoulder to shoulder with local residents in opposing the development of Peel Hall. And it has been Labour-led planning committees that have repeatedly refused planning consent for the site.
“The Council’s position remains very clear: the Peel Hall site is unsuitable for development without massive infrastructure investment by the developer. The site is greenfield land, rather than green belt, and it has been put forward by the owner for development even though they have never offered any of the investment that would be required.
“The best way to protect Peel Hall is to have it within the Warrington Local Plan, under the framework of the plan and our new planning policies. Whilst in principle the site is developable, it is not classed as deliverable nor is it designated within the 5-year land supply for housing. My position is that this will remain the case whilst those infrastructure challenges for the site remain.”
Meanwhile, Wendy Johnson from the Save Peel Hall Group said: “The Save Peel Hall Campaign would like to express our anger and disappointment at the continued inclusion of Peel Hall in the draft Local Plan.
“The views of the electorate on this issue have been expressed very clearly, through public meetings and the Local Plan consultation.
“At the recent Public Inquiry, Satnam made great play of the site’s inclusion in the draft Local Plan. Its continued presence in the Plan undermines the Council’s position on this site. Every local person can see that Satnam’s proposal would be unsustainable and damaging to the local area and economy.
“We call on Warrington Borough Council to remove Peel Hall from the Local Plan, and to make a clear statement on this matter.
“We understand that our local Labour councillors are being put under pressure yet again to vote for the Local Plan, despite the fact that they understand the depth of feeling against any development on Peel Hall. We are imploring them
to stand by the people that voted them in, to stand firm at Monday’s full council meeting and vote for the people – vote against approving any Local Plan submission that includes Peel Hall.”
The local Green Party has also raised a number of concerns over the revised Local Plan and have many objections to the latest draft Local Plan.
Leader Lyndsay McAteer said: “We oppose the Local Plan because it is still not addressing many of our members concerns.
“These range destruction of the greenbelt and air pollution, environmental concerns, need to build back better on brown sites.
“During the General Election I gave my support to the Peel Hall Campaign fighting against proposals to build on the last green space in the North of Warrington. I continue to do so.
“I believe that local Labour Councillors made such a commitment in their leaflets during the recent council election but are now being told to scrap that promise by supporting Peel Hall’s inclusion in the Local Plan!
“What sort of message does this send out to Michael Gove in his new job?”
Former Mayor Geoff Settle who stood for the Green Party in the last local elections added: “It’s a crying shame that the Labour councillors are letting down their residents in Poulton North and Poplars & Hume if this is the case.
“Taking a wider view in my other and former roles I have always argued that Nature Conservation should be given a higher priority across the borough. It should take on board the opinions of the Warrington Nature Conservation Forum to increase biodiversity and protect nature and the environment.
“The withdrawal of the Port of Warrington is interesting but what is Peel Holdings reaction to the Local Plan? If it really does save Moore Nature Reserve great but are there any hidden Peel agendas?
“The inclusion of Fiddler’s Ferry is an interesting one. During the construction of the new Runcorn bridge lots of unexpected discoveries of chemical dumps came forth and had to be managed very carefully.
“The Mersey Gateway Environment Trust was born out of the project and some great work has come out of the many environmental projects along the Upper Mersey Estuary as far as Woolston Eyes SSSI. Will a similar opportunity result with Fiddler’s Ferry
“Finally the ambitious plan of the Mersey Forest only got a foot note in the previous plan under the heading of the Northern Forest. Will the plan be more inclusive ?
Lyndsay concluded: “we look forward to scrutinising in detail the local plan and urge Warrington residents to do the same.
“It needs to be a plan born out of local people’s lived experiences, needs and one that will be sustainable.”