COUNCIL chiefs have halted the planned closure of Stockton Heath Recycling Centre to allow for time to explore options to reduce its operating costs.

The town’s three community recycling centres (CRCs) are located in Stockton Heath, on Sandy Lane, Gatewarth, on Barnard Street, and Woolston, on New Cut Lane.

The authority’s executive board was recommended to approve the closure of the village site at its meeting on Monday.

However, deputy council leader Cllr Russ Bowden, who will become leader next Monday, put forward an amendment which was backed by members.

It said: “We request officers to revisit the current operating model for the facility in Stockton Heath in partnership with the existing contractor, with a view to reducing the operational cost of the facility and report back with the outcome of their discussions to the May executive, at the latest.”

It came following talks between council chiefs and Warrington South MP Faisal Rashid, who had called for the site to be kept open until an alternative site in the south was delivered.

Mr Rashid said: “I am delighted to hear that following my work on this issue, the council’s executive board has now halted plans to close the Stockton Heath site and agreed to look again at ways to keep the site open until an alternative facility is delivered.

“I will continue to work closely with the council on this important issue.”

The current budget for the operation of the three CRC sites totals £854,854, which includes management fee haulage costs and disposal costs.

However, the cost of operating the centres in 2017-18 came to £1,149,110 – an overspend of £294,256.

Cllr Judith Guthrie, executive board member for environment and public protection, said Stockton Heath ‘deserves better’.

She added: “I want the best for the people of Stockton Heath and Warrington – and want to make sure it is right for everybody.”

Cllr Bowden (LAB – Birchwood) commended Cllr Guthrie for her efforts in dealing with the ‘difficult issue’.

He said: “I signalled that my incoming leadership would connect with people, listen and engage.

“I am prepared to undertake further work to look at how the Stockton Heath site could be managed more cost effectively.

“However, the council continues to face incredible financial pressures as a result of Government austerity cuts.

“The budget for next year is incredibly challenging and the costs of managing our recycling sites must be balanced and justified against all other services that call upon our available resources.

“It has been a useful dialogue with MP Faisal Rashid and I have committed for us to complete further work before making a decision on the future of the Stockton Heath site.

“Politics is always about engagement, discussion and consensus.

“The opposition has made no attempt to enter dialogue with the administration on this matter but simply to present a community petition and snipe from the sidelines.

“They could certainly learn something from these events and the way that we have taken the issue forward.”

Cllr Peter Walker said the Liberal Democrats were pleasantly surprised with Cllr Bowden’s intervention.

“The officers have got to come back in May, at the latest, with a report – we look forward to that report and hope they find a way to keep it open,” he said.

“We were disappointed that the percentage of the (consultation) respondents was calculated on the basis of the whole town.

“The Stockton Heath element was solid and, of course, why would anybody in Woolston comment on Stockton Heath?”