Lib Dems vote against proposed Local Plan

April 5, 2022 12:00 PM
By Cllr Ryan Bate - Planning Spokesperson

PPC Cllr Ryan Bate (Warrington Liberal Democrats)The Liberal Democrats oppose the current version of Warrington's Local Plan being submitted for an 'Examination in Public'. At the Council meeting on Monday, the ruling Labour Group voted in favour and all opposition councillors voted against.

When we debated the Plan last year, we made it quite clear that unless there were significant changes, we would vote against it. Sadly, the Labour administration has ignored the views of the public, councillors and community groups and made virtually no changes following the last round of consultation.

Planning is a critical activity in shaping a sustainable and prosperous future for our town. The problem is that the public have lost faith in the whole planning process. The decision to approve premature planning applications like the massive Six56 logistics site in advance of the Local Plan has added to their disillusionment. Comments by Labour councillors about it being the 'south's turn' for development and the advantage of increased council tax revenue following development, haven't helped either. The public is also suspicious about the planning department being part of the Council's Growth Directorate.

The town faces many challenges. There is rapid economic change with altered working and retail habits. A lack of truly affordable housing is made worse by the cost-of-living crisis. There is no new crossing of the Bridgewater Canal. It cannot be sound to build more car dependent dormitory suburbs on Green Belt land. Together with the warehouse developments, these will create more congestion and air pollution. The loss of green space will harm our ecology and increase flooding risks. The identity and character of our villages will be lost. This all flies in the face of the Council's commitment to tackling the climate change and the ecological emergency.

We need sustainable communities with 'fifteen-minute neighbourhoods' where everyone can live, shop, access public services and work within short journey distances. We should be reducing car dependency, promoting active travel and enhancing public transport. The only new infrastructure are roads to open up land for development. We should be encouraging people to spend time and money in our town centre, not travelling outside the Borough. Instead, we are increasing the divides and inequalities between different parts of our town.

The Plan should be the opportunity to create a positive vision for Warrington with a truly sustainable future in which everyone can thrive. In contrast what we have, is an unsound Plan which we cannot support.