THE public hearings into Warrington’s Local Plan, which council leader Cllr Russ Bowden believes is the “right one for Warrington,” will start at the town’s Halliwell Jones Stadium in September.
Warrington Borough Council submitted its updated Proposed Submission Version Local Plan to the government in April. The Secretary of State has now appointed Inspectors Kevin Ward BA(Hons) MRTPI and Andrea Mageean BA(Hons) BPl PhD MRTPI to carry out the independent examination of the Plan, with the four-week hearings scheduled to begin on Tuesday 6 September.
The plan, which had to be revised and then delayed due to the pandemic, has been surrounded by controversy with opposition Tories, Lib Dems and campaign groups opposing it, prior to it being voted through by the controlling Labour group.
Now before it can be formally adopted and brought into use, it must be subject to an independent examination by an inspector, appointed by the Secretary of State.
The purpose of the examination is to assess whether Warrington’s plan is ‘sound’. This includes deciding whether it meets the four tests of ‘soundness’ set out in national planning policy. In summary, these are that the plan is positively prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national policy.
An independent Programme Officer, Kerry Trueman, has now been appointed to assist the Inspectors. She will be the first point of contact for people with any questions at any stage of the examination.
Kerry is now writing to everyone who has submitted a representation as part of the extensive Local Plan consultation, to provide advice and guidance about the process and deadlines for anyone who wishes to submit statements or register to take part in the hearings.
The Inspectors have been provided with copies of all representations made in writing, by email or through the standard response form during the consultation period, and these will carry the same weight as those pursued by an appearance at any of the hearing sessions.
In addition, a dedicated webpage has been set up at warrington.gov.uk/local-plan-examination, providing a range of information about the examination and how people can get involved. This includes details from the Inspectors on the key matters that they want to discuss, along with a full timetable for the hearing sessions.
The Examination website includes all correspondence, evidence, representations and other relevant documentation, within ‘the Examination Library’. It will be frequently updated, so it’s important that people check the ‘latest news and updates’ section regularly to ensure they are up-to-date with the latest developments.
Warrington Borough Council Leader, Cllr Russ Bowden, said: “It’s great news that we have reached the next important milestone in our Local Plan, through the appointment of the independent Inspectors to carry out the examination. We believe this plan is the right one for Warrington’s future, and we hope the Inspectors will share this view.
“We’ve listened closely to the views of local people throughout the plan’s development – and we now want to make sure that everyone who has made a representation has the opportunity to take part in the examination process. You can do this by getting in touch with the independent programme officer, or by visiting our dedicated examination website to access a wealth of information and updates.”
Weeks 1 and 2 of the hearings will take place at Warrington Conference Centre, Halliwell Jones Stadium, while week 3 will be held in the Council Chamber, Warrington Town Hall. The final week of hearings will be held virtually.
Following the hearings, the Inspectors will let the council know if any changes need to be made to the plan and these will then be consulted on by the council.
The Inspectors will then consider everything before them, including comments on proposed changes, and write a final report which will be sent to the council and published on its website, marking the end of the examination.
Following this, the Plan will proceed to Full Council for adoption. This is anticipated to take place by autumn 2023.