SERIOUS concerns have been raised over south Warrington taking a ‘hugely unpopular and uncalled for hit’ in the draft local plan.

The draft document sets out the legal planning framework for the borough’s development over the next two decades.

It was backed by the executive board last Monday, which paves the way for it to come before full council for approval on March 25.

The draft aims to deliver 18,900 new homes, or 945 a year, up until 2037.

However, major concerns have been raised after up to 7,064 homes were earmarked for green belt land.

The garden suburb in the south of the borough, which would see huge chunks of green belt ripped up and developed on, is one of the plan’s highly controversial aspects.

The Labour-run council says the suburb is proposed to be developed as a sustainable urban extension to the south east of the main urban area of Warrington, delivering around 7,400 homes, with 5,100 during the plan period, extensive infrastructure and community facilities and a major new employment location at the junction of the M6 and M56.

But it has sparked major concerns, including from the town’s Liberal Democrats.

Grappenhall’s Liberal Democrat councillor Ryan Bate says: “I think the Liberal Democrats' views are quite simple really.

“The concentration of development in a single area of the town, leading to such a dramatic impact on the green belt around Grappenhall, Appleton and Stretton and surrounding areas is deeply unfair and is problematic in that once that green belt is gone, it is gone forever.

“While we appreciate there needs to be some development in the town and we accept the fact that the council has reduced the overall amount of development, there is still a hugely unpopular and uncalled for hit on south Warrington.”

But council leader Cllr Russ Bowden has defended the draft document.

The Birchwood councillor said: “We had a very important first step on Monday night with the executive board approving the local plan to go forward to full council and then onto the next stage of consultation.

“Any local plan is incredibly difficult for a council to put forward.

“We need to balance the needs of development with the wishes of residents but, fundamentally, this is around what Warrington needs in terms of housing and moving forward, not just now but in the future.

“What we do know is that we can’t deliver enough houses on the brownfield sites and urban infill and, unfortunately, that means we need to look at green field and green belt space.

“No decision around taking green belt is taken lightly.

“We have got a very serious job to do, we take that responsibility very seriously.

“We need to demonstrate to the people of Warrington that we have done everything we possibly can to use all other options ahead of green belt.”

Canaries on Tour campaigners Helen Gurnani and Tanya Baker were among those at the Town Hall for the protest ahead of last Monday’s executive board meeting.

As reported last week, Ms Gurnani expressed fears over the ‘excessive development of Warrington’ and called for green spaces and wildlife to be preserved.

She added: “They are pandering, it seems, to developers, rather than to the public’s needs.

“Somebody needs to stand up for our town and that is what we are hoping people will do.”