Town extension ruled out by doubts over delivery

A lack of certainty over prospects for delivery of a proposed urban extension at Warrington has prompted the secretary of state to refuse outline permission for the scheme.

The proposed new neighbourhood comprised 1,200 houses, a 60-bedroom nursing home, class B1 employment space, a local shopping centre including a 2,000 square metre food store and a pub-restaurant, community uses, a primary school, open spaces and sports pitches. The site comprised disused and overgrown farmland between the urban edge and a motorway.

The development plan consisted of a local plan core strategy adopted in 2014. The secretary of state took into account a High Court challenge to the plan which meant the strategy did not contain a housing requirement. As a result, he found, the council could not demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing land and the tilted balance in the NPPF applied. The parties agreed that there was no objection in principle to developing the non-green belt site in an area heavily constrained by green belt and facing an acute unmet need for housing.

The secretary of state agreed with his inspector that, despite the scheme’s advantages, the appellants had failed to show that it would not adversely affect the safety and efficiency of the local and strategic highway network, air quality or the area’s character. Of even greater weight, he considered the scheme undeliverable, citing doubts around the availability of playing field land, vehicular access and commitment to a key new bus service by a local provider.

He recognised that if the scheme was considered deliverable, the provision of up to 1,200 dwellings, 30 per cent of which would be affordable, would attract significant weight. However, he decided that its merits needed to be left for further consideration once the issue of control over all parts of the site has been resolved and it becomes capable of implementation.

Inspector: Richard Schofield; Inquiry

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