A call for a cross-party Council group to be set up to establish a set of design principles that are ambitious for new buildings in the town was rejected by the controlling Labour group on the borough council, although it has some merit.
Warrington Liberal Democrats put forward a motion at the Warrington Borough Council Full Council meeting on Monday which was supported by opposition Tory councillors but voted out by the ruling Labour Group.
Environment and Planning Spokesperson Cllr Ryan Bate said, “We are disappointed that our Motion was not passed. We wanted to draw on government guidance for ‘beautiful buildings’, best national and international practice and set up a design panel to advise the Council on architecture, design, heritage and sustainability.
“Our town is changing at a fast pace with changing retail and working patterns, the need to repopulate the town centre and our infrastructure demands. Time Square is a good example of a recent successful development. We want to build a reputation for first-class planning and design. We want these principles to support tackling the climate emergency and reducing socio-economic inequalities.
“Right homes in the right places with the right jobs and the right infrastructure is the way ahead. The concept of ’15 minute’ neighbourhoods is gaining ground. Groups like ‘Our Green Warrington’ are consistently coming up with creative ideas to make our town better.”
Group Leader Cllr Bob Barr added, “My interest in Warrington’s distinctive urban fabric goes back to the !970s when I taught courses on housing and urban geography. The New Town was an impressive experiment and it is a shame that the core of the town was left behind. The Central 6 wards are still struggling to overcome this legacy.
“Our vision is for a town where good distinctive design, sustainable, liveable and healthy active communities can thrive. Our standards for design must go beyond the levels required by national legislation. Poor standards offered by ‘here-today, gone-tomorrow’ developers are unacceptable. If we work together and involve the public, we can present Warrington as the Green Science town of the north.”
In response Cllr Hitesh Patel, cabinet member for environment and public protection said:”I’m glad the LibDems in Warrington rightly recognise what a fantastic development Time Square is and that endorsement should reassure all residents that this Labour administration does deliver first-class planning and design for the Town.
“The motion did have some merit but I really do wish Cllr Barr and Cllr Bate had consulted me first.
“I could then have advised them that there is a Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill making its way through Parliament; it had its first reading in May. Under this legislation the Council will be required to prepare a Design Code for the Borough. It makes absolutely no sense to use up valuable officer time and resources creating our own Code until that legislation is enacted.
“Secondly, with regard to a local design panel, I could have advised them that the Council already use the highly qualified members of ‘Places Matter North West’ which is an independent organisation hosted by Royal Institute of British Architects to provide an independent, objective and professional overview of the design merits of key development proposals in the Borough. Of course, local insight is important, but I believe the people of Warrington are more reassured knowing that we get the views of qualified architects and design professionals.
“Ultimately, the lesson here is that we need a new way of doing local politics. If the members of the Opposition have some good ideas which they really want to see considered and adopted then they would be better served approaching Council officers and Cabinet members at the earliest opportunity to develop their ideas so that they are practical, achievable, timely and ultimately, make business sense.”