Liberal Democrats Oppose Local Plan

March 27, 2019 10:48 PM
By Cllr Ian Marks and Cllr Ryan Bate

The Liberal Democrat Group on Warrington Borough Council has voiced its opposition to the new version of the proposed Local Plan for the Borough.

Members voted against the Plan at the end of a debate in the Town Hall on Monday evening. Seven Liberal Democrat councillors spoke during the debate.

Lib Dem Councillors at Local Plan Protest (Warrington Liberal Democrats)

Cllr Ryan Bate said, "The Liberal Democrats fully recognise the need for Warrington to have a robust Local Plan. We recognise that Warrington cannot stand still. There is an urgent need for housing, especially housing that is truly affordable. There is a need for employment land. There is a great need to address our current infrastructure failings and we also have a moral obligation to redress the social and economic inequalities across our town. Unfortunately, we do not believe that the draft Local Plan we have before us will achieve those things.

As a country, we are obsessed with economic growth - this plan is obsessed with economic growth - but economic growth is not an end in itself, rather than a means to an end. We know we must find solutions to our problems and that requires some growth, but surely not to the extent that we actually make lives poorer and destroy our environment.

If we're sincere about delivering a housing mix and affordability, we need to properly balance the housing mix with the local jobs mix. Otherwise we will just build more commuter estates, adding to the traffic chaos we see everyday. The whole garden suburb and south west extension concepts, their location and scale, are illogical and unwanted. It shows that the Council has not listened at all to the thousands of previous consultation respondents who expressed outrage at those proposals.

We must reduce the overall housing numbers and protect our Green Belt. We must be ambitious for the future but make it a future that balances our aspirations for tomorrow with the concerns of people today."

Cllr Brian Axcell expressed his concern about the current congestion in the town especially on the A49 through Stockton Heath and his horror at the idea of thousands of extra cars from the proposed developments.

Cllr Sharon Harris wondered whether funding would be forthcoming for the Western Relief Link. If it wasn't, what was Plan B? Would we have houses without infrastructure? But if funding was forthcoming, then the much-loved area of Moore Nature Reserve would be blighted.

Cllr Peter Walker was very worried about the effect on air quality in Stockton Heath.

Cllr Judith Wheeler said that it was a developer's paradise to allocate vast areas of land in South Warrington to build houses that were not affordable to most people, so creating an affluent commuter suburb which is not desirable for the town.

Cllr Ian Marks stated there was widespread agreement that Warrington needed a new hospital but was worried this might be many years away. It was essential that new and improved health facilities were built along with new homes, not afterwards.

Group Leader Cllr Bob Barr added, "This new version of the Plan does not provide a distinctive vision for the future of our town. The phrase Garden Suburb jars with people's own vision of being village dwellers. This Local Plan is a political failure with a lack of vision, a lack of consultation, a lack of participation and a lack of any serious willingness to compromise. It is a work in progress, not the finished product. Warrington deserves better."