A ROW over controversial proposals set out in the draft local plan is rumbling on.

The document 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.

Warrington South’s Tory parliamentary candidate Andy Carter wrote to James Brokenshire, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, asking for clarification over who is responsible for deciding the number of houses proposed for the town in the document.

It came following comments by council leader Cllr Russ Bowden on the matter.

In his response to the letter, Mr Brokenshire emphasised that housing need figures are not a target and local authorities should make a ‘realistic assessment’ of the number of homes their communities need, ‘using the standard method as the starting point in the process’.

He said: “Once this has been established, planning to meet that need will require consideration of land availability, relevant constraints, and whether the need is more appropriately met in neighbouring areas.

“This will then be scrutinised, as part of the examination undertaken by an independent inspector.”

Commenting on the letter, Mr Carter claimed the leader’s comments on housing figures are in ‘direct contradiction to what the minister is actually saying’.

Warrington Guardian:

Andy Carter

He added: “It’s down to the council to decide how many are needed, not the Government.

“Labour’s plan is to build in excess of 900 homes per year, yet Warrington has never exceeded 500.

“How can that be a realistic assessment?

“They’ve started the process but don’t seem to have applied any common sense.

“It seems to me that they are threatening our precious green spaces just to generate income.

“What they are saying just isn’t correct.”

At the start of March, Cllr Bowden said even by using the Government’s minimum figures, the authority would have ‘no option’ but to release green belt land for development.

During the executive board meeting later in the month, he said: “I think this should be an opportunity to develop Warrington in a way that we can all share the ambition and vision of.

Warrington Guardian:

Cllr Russ Bowden

“I think the conversation tonight has demonstrated even if we use every piece of brownfield land and urban infill in Warrington, we still can’t meet that minimum housing objective set for us by Government.”

Liberal Democrat Grappenhall councillor Cllr Ryan Bate, who is also the party’s Warrington South parliamentary candidate, has weighed in on the debate.

Warrington Guardian:

Cllr Ryan Bate

He said: “Following the latest intervention from James Brokenshire MP, we now know that somebody isn’t telling us the truth – either the local Labour administration or the national Tory Government.

“I have asked council leader Russ Bowden whether Warrington has pushed back on the housing target for Warrington. Apparently, such appeals fell on deaf ears.

“Yet now the Government say the national housing methodology is a starting point not a target and that we should not have to build on green belt.

“From my point of view, as a councillor, prospective MP and resident of south Warrington, I just want to know – what is the truth?

“We need a local plan but it must be a local plan that works for all of Warrington.

“There seems to be no appetite for 945 houses a year, nor for the loss of green belt.

“So, let’s sort out the fact from fiction and the truth from fake news.

“Let’s make a plan for Warrington that works for Warrington.”