A controversial plan to build 27 homes off Mill Lane at Houghton Green has been deferred until more information is forthcoming, while former Mayor Geoff Settle has been left outraged over how the application was handled.
The former Mayor and planning committee members for four years, who is now a Green Party activist, lives less than a mile from the site.
Speaking after the meeting he said, “The councillors on the planning committee were all bemused about the lack of detail of how and where the pollution data and noise reading had been recorded. But they kept plugging away trying to get their questions answered often not to their satisfaction.”
“They also asked if the proposed bunds would safeguard and protect future residents who would live a mere thirty-four meters from one of the busiest motorways in the country, the M62, often withstanding toxic traffic during rush hours.
“The meeting started with an officer reading a lengthy summary of their recommendations to support the application, followed by a summary of this week’s decision on the Peel Hall Inquiry. People have been very upset about Peel Hall and to make matters worse the proposed site will be on the opposite side of Mill Lane. So, a double whammy of distress.”
As a former councillor Geoff had served on the planning committee from 2010 to 2015 and enjoyed the experience by applying his planning knowledge learned during his Geography and Economic degree at Coventry University but he was not smiling as he started his speech.
He continued “I was livid, and I had to bite my tongue, I’d never heard an opening like it.
“A councillor who was subbing for her colleague and attending her first meeting suggested that a site visit would have been useful place to point things out. The response was that it had not taken place because of COVID.
Geoff added, “I used to visit each site myself if no transport was laid on to get the look and feel of a place. In this case I know the area well and if the noise is bad where I live, then it would be horrendous thirty-four meters away.
“I am very grateful to all councillors for their in-depth question and for the two residents who were speaking to the committee for the first time.”
He has since written to Warrington Borough Council Chief executive Steven Broomhead and Council Leader Cllr Russ Bowden, expressing his disappointment at how the meeting was handled.
The planning application was opposed by borough council members from Poplars and Hulme and Burtonwood and Winwick, by Winwick Parish Council and by 30 local residents.
But officers are recommending it be approved.
The scheme involves 27 houses – 15 of which would be three-storey townhouses and 12 would be two-storey semi-detached – on land off Mill Lane. There would also be an open amenity space.
Planning consent for six houses on part of the 1.3 hectare site was granted as far back as 1987 but was never progressed.
A planning committee report says the land is generally overgrown with brambles and other vegetation although there also two or three abandoned sheds. It has, in the past, been used for grazing horses.
Objectors say noise and pollution from the adjacent M62 motorway would impact on residents of the new houses who would have a poor outlook over the motorway. There would also be a traffic impact on Mill Lane.
They also argued that it was not a sustainable location, that further phases of development would have further impacts and that a planning inspector had ruled in 2013 that a proposal for 150 houses opposite the site was unsustainable.
Planning officers said the scheme would deliver new homes to meet the needs of Warrington’s population and would have benefits that outweighed any adverse effects.