Warrington Lib Dem News

Planning Inspectorate say Local Plan is unsound

21 Dec 2022
Ian with the Local Plan

We welcome the preliminary finding that Warrington's current Local Plan is - to use planning jargon - not sound.

The Council has received a summary of inspectors' initial thoughts following the Public Inquiry held in the autumn. Modifications will be required, which will be subject to a further six weeks of public consultation.

We have been strong supporters of the South Warrington Parish Council Planning Working Group. This group published a document in October 2021 which urged the public to submit their views and stated that the Plan was not sound for many reasons. The plan has:

  • No justification for predicted growth
  • No need for the volume of housing and mass of employment land
  • No justification for the scale of Green Belt release
  • No need for the harm to air quality and local ecology
  • No need to destroy the landscape and character of our villages
  • No clarity on the means of delivery
  • No explanation of how the already poor transport infrastructure of Warrington can cope with increased levels of traffic

It is gratifying that the inspectors agree with us on many of these points.

We particularly welcome the finding that the amount of land proposed to be released from the Green Belt for employment is much too high. The inspectors say there is no strategic justification for the South East Warrington Employment Area being released; this should also mean that the massive logistics site known as Six 56 Warrington will not be allowed. The inspectors go on to say that this would result in a significant encroachment into the countryside and the visual harm to the openness of the Green Belt would be severe.

At the last Council meeting I asked about the future of the controversial Western Link Road, and whether additional funding would be coming from central government to cover the gap that has been identified. The reply confirmed that the Council had not yet secured any additional funding, despite remaining committed to the project. The inspectors say this uncertainty around funding puts delivery of the road scheme in serious doubt.

The inspectors' letter makes some good comments about the importance of ecology, biodiversity and natural habitats. However, it doesn't say as much as we would have liked about the critical importance of physical and social infrastructure to support any development.

We will have to wait for the full report for more clarity on what modifications are required for the Plan to become 'sound'.

Liberal Democrats recognise the importance of having a Local Plan to stop a free-for-all by developers, but we will continue fighting to ensure it is a Plan that is acceptable to the public.

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