THROUGHOUT my journalistic career spanning more than 40 years planning matters have always been some of the most contentious stories I have written about.
Stories revolving around planning applications, whether they involve new business premises, property extensions or development on Green Belt land, they have always sparked a lot of interest – and the onset of social media certainly fanned the flames of public engagement as many people now express their opinions.
With all planning applications now available to view online lots more people also now have access to information and the ability to comment.
The fact Warrington has been developing a Local Plan, which involves the development of some Green Belt land has made the past few years even more interesting – particularly after the council was told the Local Plan wasn’t fit for purpose, with amendments ongoing following even more consultation.
Planning decisions should never be political – they should be based on planning law and some common sense. Planning law is a complex issue and obviously is in place for a reason but can leave people feeling very frustrated and angry.
Here in Warrington, I have reported on the application proposing the huge Six56 logistics development on Green Belt land at Grappenhall and more recently another large logistics development at Risley – both recommended for approval despite lots of opposition from local residents. The Six56 one was later halted by the Secretary of State following a call-in – which is a rare occurrence for Government to step in on local planning issues, citing not enough special reasons to develop Green Belt land.
On the opposite side of the spectrum The Holly’s Farm shop at Penketh, has recently been refused planning permission to improve its premises serving the local community. Something no one objected to. This is where common sense appears to go out of the window in the eyes of the general public.
What better use is there in the Green Belt – a large logistics development or a farm shop?
I’m not qualified to give the answer but I do have some common sense.
I’m not going to be critical of our town’s planning officers as I know they have a thankless task and a minefield of rules to stick to. But it is important that our elected representatives in the community at parish and borough level work closely with those seeking planning permission, especially when it impacts their business and livelihood.