Warrington South MP backs brownfield first approach to development

MP Andy Carter
MP Andy Carter

WARRINGTON South MP Andy Carter has renewed calls for housing and employment development in the town to utilise brownfield sites, in opposition to removing land from the green belt.

The Tory politician highlighted that a recent report released by CPRE, the countryside charity, has shown that across the regions of England there is brownfield land available for 1.2 million homes currently lying dormant.

Also identified in the report are more than half a million homes on brownfield land with planning permission still waiting to be built and 23,000 brownfield sites identified by local councils awaiting development.

The report notes the north west as a particular hotspot for brownfield supply, with 165,919 housing plots identified. However, the proportion of housing units with planning permission on brownfield land is particularly low in the north west, standing at only 33 per cent despite the national average figure of 45 per cent for 2022.

Mr Carter says the recent news that a public inquiry will be held in May into the plans to build the Six/56 logistics hub in Grappenhall – for which local residents are encouraged to submit their opinions to the Planning Inspectorate before January 25 – has renewed the debate over removing sections of Warrington’s green belt for development, as has the Planning Inspectorate’s report into its examination of Warrington’s Local Plan.

Mr Carter highlighted that the report has concluded that the draft plan is ‘not sound as it stands’, and that the suggested proposals to alter green belt boundaries to make available some 316.26ha of land for employment development has been found to be excessive and recommendations have been made by the Planning Inspectorate to reduce this figure to 168ha, broadly aligning with the projected increase in the labour supply as a result of the proposed housing requirement of 816 homes per year.

He also highlighted that the reduced requirement for employment land is able to be met by existing commitments and the proposals for the now-decommissioned Fiddlers Ferry Power Station site.

Mr Carter said: “I have long argued that brownfield sites must be prioritised for development instead of rushing to remove chunks of green belt land.

“This is the main reason I was so keen to see the Fiddlers Ferry site added to the Local Plan for development, which Warrington Borough Council’s initial draft brazenly failed to utilise. Having pushed hard for the site to be included in the proposals, I’m very pleased that this is now the case and, following demolition, the site will be developed for housing and employment use, a significant regeneration opportunity for a large-scale brownfield site.

“However, it is clear that there are still numerous issues with the draft Local Plan, which the Planning Inspectorate have concluded is ‘not sound as it stands’ and will require some significant modifications, particularly around the amount of proposed employment land set to be developed on the green belt.

“The inspectors’ report rightly identifies several areas of concern that I raised myself when I gave evidence to the examination in public back in September. Foremostly there is a significant disparity between the level of housing proposed and the employment land requirement in the plan submitted by the council.

“Pressures on the housing market are significant and there are opportunities to address this using brownfield land but it needs to be accompanied by the right level of infrastructure to support families. I sincerely hope that Warrington Borough Council will take heed of this when drafting the modifications needed for our Local Plan.”