COUNCIL leader Cllr Russ Bowden insists the local plan is not being ‘pulled’ after the publication of it was delayed.

The authority received more than 3,500 responses after carrying out a nine-week consultation on the draft document between April and June.

The local plan will set out the legal planning framework for the borough’s development over the next two decades.

But more than 7,000 homes were earmarked for green belt land in the draft.

During Monday’s full council meeting, Cllr Bowden said discussions have been taking place with key partners, including Homes England, to look at the viability of delivering infrastructure alongside housing.

It comes after it was confirmed the publication of the local plan will be pushed back until 2020.

Cllr Bowden said: “We have had a lot of very detailed representations, particularly around infrastructure.

“The absolute clear message from the residents of Warrington is about delivering that infrastructure around housing.”

He also said there are a number of other issues that need to be considered – including the land proposed for a Eddie Stobart warehouse and Peel Hall.

Cllr Bowden said: “So, as a consequence, we made the difficult decision that we are going to have to delay submission of the local plan until 2020.

“There are probably those that will question the timing – make no mistake, this is not this council pulling the local plan, this is this council and this administration ensuring the local plan is absolutely watertight and the proposed developments are indeed viable and sustainable.”

Cllr Bob Barr, leader of the town’s Liberal Democrats, asked Cllr Bowden if there is a risk of the Government taking ‘planning powers’ from the council due to the delays.

In response, Cllr Bowden said he believes there are some authorities in a worse position than Warrington.

He added that the matter has been risk assessed and he would be very surprised if there was any immediate action against the authority.