HOUSING minister Esther McVey said she believes Warrington ‘certainly could be a very beautiful city’ after seeing the ambitious proposals for the heart of the town.

Council leader Cllr Russ Bowden and the Labour-run authority’s director of growth Steve Park talked her, along with new Warrington South MP Andy Carter, through the town centre masterplan earlier today, Monday.

Shortly after, the Tatton MP made her way to Lane End Developments’ town centre site, on Academy Street, where 144 apartments are being built.

The developer is working in partnership with Torus on the scheme, which is expected to be completed in 18 months.

Warrington Guardian:

The Lane End Developments’ town centre site

Ms McVey welcomed the ’20-year vision’ for the area and highlighted the importance of delivering ‘truly affordable’ and ‘environmentally compatible’ homes.

The Tory politician also discussed the need to fully utilise the River Mersey, adding that Warrington ‘certainly could be a very beautiful city with the water going through it’ and a ‘formidable city in its own right’ in between Manchester and Liverpool.

She said: “What we’ve got to make sure of is that we do brownfield first and that is what we are looking at here with the regeneration – and then we’ve got to work with the local community, what is important to them and how we shape the future for Warrington with the local community and that will always be first and foremost.

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“We’ve still got to work with local communities to make sure infrastructure is in first and to make sure that we keep the character of a place and have what people are calling real place settings.”

The town centre masterplan includes the delivery of more than 8,000 homes and Port Warrington.

Ms McVey said the proposals look to ‘build on a strong history of the place’, while making area ‘as dynamic as it can be’.

Discussing post-Brexit life, she highlighted the possibility of a free port at Port Warrington in the future, adding it is key to make places like Warrington ‘be at the heart of’ future opportunities and free trade agreements.

Mr Carter labelled Warrington as the ‘Northern Powerhouse of the Northern Powerhouse’ as it is ‘already powering ahead’

He said: “The emphasis here is on regeneration in the town centre, we’ve gone through a phase of industrial decline and the vision that I’ve seen today is really quite exciting and I think there is a huge opportunity for Warrington.”

In relation to plans for a new hospital, he added: “At this moment in time, I’m asking for money so we can do some proper studies into where the best place is.

“A hospital, a health facility, on the high street – in close proximity to transport hubs – makes a lot of sense, but there is a lot of work to do before we get there.”