WARRINGTON’S updated Local Plan has been approved for consultation following “open and honest discussion with local people” says council leader Cllr. Russ Bowden.
The revised plan was approved for consultation at a meeting of the full council on Monday and got the backing of the Lib Dem group, who were applauded by Labour councillors, while opposition Tories opposed it, saying it had been produced with too much haste.
But Lib Dem leader Cllr Bob Barr said the group had voted for the new draft of the Local Plan to be put out for public consultation and NOT vote for the plan as the Conservatives are alleging.
Speaking after the meeting, Liberal Democrat Planning Spokesperson, Cllr Ryan Bate said, “Warrington must have a sustainable Local Plan and not one that is damaging to the Borough. Delaying it makes no sense at all. Two years ago, thanks to significant efforts by councillors, campaigners and the South Warrington Parishes’ Group, many changes were made as a result of the consultation process. We are confident that changes for the better can be made again. People have a democratic right to have their say and we will be working hard to help them. The Labour Administration must listen to their views.
The updated plan to deliver the homes, jobs, transport infrastructure and community facilities Warrington needs has now been approved for consultation.
Warrington’s updated Proposed Submission Version Local Plan was given the go-ahead paving the way to a six-week period of public consultation, which will begin on Monday, October 4.
The consultation period will give everyone in Warrington the opportunity to have their say on the updated plan, by completing an online response form, or by attending the public consultation events – details of which will be released in the near future.
Warrington Borough Council Leader, Cllr Russ Bowden, said: “The development of our Local Plan has always been based upon open and honest discussion with local people. We have committed from the start to taking on board people’s views and, where necessary, refining the plan in partnership with our communities. We have listened to, and acted upon, many of the key issues raised.
“This, along with the significant changes we have seen since our Proposed Version Submission Local Plan was published in 2019 – not least the Covid pandemic and new Government housing methodology – mean it has been right to pause, take stock, re-evaluate and revise our plan to make sure it is the best fit for Warrington now.
“Our updated Local Plan – in a changing world – continues to be fully focused on driving forward Warrington’s ambition and need for development, while protecting the Green Belt wherever possible
“It’s vital that the plan continues to be shaped by the people of our borough. Now Full Council has given the go-ahead to consult, we will once again be talking and listening to local people, and we will be holding a number of consultation events from October to give everyone the chance to share their views on the updated plans.”
The council received more than 3,000 responses to its initial, 20-year Proposed Submission Version Local Plan in 2019, and has taken on board many of the views of local people, much of which focused on how brownfield sites should continue to be prioritised ahead of Green Belt.
This, along with the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and changing Government housing methodology, has meant that, in preparing the updated Proposed Submission Version Local Plan, the council is proposing some big changes. These include:
•A reduction in new housing from 945 a year over 20 years, to 816 a year over a reduced plan period of 18 years (2021-2038 inclusive).
•Under the updated plan, the amount of land proposed to be removed from the Green Belt is 580 hectares, equating to 5% of the total amount of Green Belt land in the borough. This is significantly lower than the 1,210 hectares proposed in the previous Proposed Submission Version Local Plan which equated to 11% of the total amount of Green Belt.
•The removal of the South West Urban Extension from the Plan (1,600 homes), the housing allocation for Phipps Lane in Burtonwood Village (160 homes), and the Massey Brook Lane site in Lymm (66 homes).
•Moving away from the Garden Suburb concept in South Warrington (4,200 new homes), and instead including new proposals for a South East Warrington Urban Extension, with a reduced allocation of 2,400 new homes during the plan period.
•The removal of Port Warrington (75ha employment land) and the Business Hub (25ha employment land) from the plan.
•In addition, recent changes have enabled the council to include proposals that further maximise the opportunity to repurpose land, through the inclusion of the Fiddlers Ferry site for development. The closure of the power station in March 2020 has given the council the opportunity to bring the site into the allocation this time. This site was the subject of a high number of responses to our previous consultation.
“If the Plan is delayed for too long, there is a risk that the Government will take control away from the Council and developers would have a free for all. This would be a disaster. However, I want to make it absolutely clear that if acceptable changes are not made to the Plan, we will vote against it when it comes back to Council for approval.”
Group Leader, Cllr Bob Barr, said at the meeting, “Delivering the right Plan can be summarised as having the right homes in the right places with the right jobs and the right infrastructure. We need sustainable development where most
residents can walk or cycle to shop, be schooled, receive care, take exercise and socialise in twenty minutes or less. The beauty of Warrington’s best green spaces must be respected, biodiversity enhanced and buildings designed to
minimise energy use. What is unacceptable is large car-dependent housing estates that serve only as dormitories but are quick and profitable for developers to deliver.
“We acknowledge many of the changes, but we need a greater emphasis on regenerating the town centre, more genuinely affordable housing, the maximum use of brownfield sites and the timely delivery of physical and social infrastructure.
The South East Extension makes no sense socially, economically or environmentally. The proposed road-based logistics facility in the south east is not sustainable. We need high-quality jobs that promote Warrington as an area of scientific expertise.”
After the meeting, he added: “I am very concerned that Warrington Conservatives and their followers on social media are misrepresenting Monday night’s vote at Warrington Council.
“The Liberal Democrat Group voted for the new draft of the Local Plan to be put out for public consultation. It did NOT vote for the plan as the Conservatives are alleging.
“Currently Warrington does not have a 5 year supply of housing land so is forced, by Conservative Government regulations to approve planning applications which would otherwise be refused if the decision was local.
“Delaying the Local Plan extends that process giving developers, many of whom make substantial contributions to the Conservative Party, a free ride.
“The most controversial part of the Local Plan in the South of the Borough, the “South East Warrington Urban Extension” is being proposed by Homes England, a government agency controlled by the Conservative Secretary of State, and one of their major development partners.
“The pressure in the South of the Borough to develop green belt land comes from Government instructions to Homes England to sell land and build fast.
“What used to be a placemaking and community building agency, has become a land wholesaler to the developer giants.
“The Warrington Conservatives must stop lying about the Local Plan. Where they do the Liberal Democrats will hold them to account.”
The Conservative opposition opposed the revised Local Plan saying it had been done with too much haste.
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For more information, and to read the draft Local Plan, please visit warrington.gov.uk/localplan