PRIME Minister Boris Johnson has visited Warrington this afternoon, Thursday.

He made his way to land in Stretton, bounded by Pewterspear Green Road and Stretton Road, where Barratt Homes are building 180 homes after being selected by Homes England.

The visit comes after the Government announced radical reforms to the planning system to get Britain building and drive its economic recovery.

Under the new proposals, land designated for growth will ‘empower’ development – with new homes, hospitals, schools, shops and offices granted automatic planning permission.

During his visit, the Prime Minister repeated his claim that the NHS Test and Trace system was ‘world beating’.

Warrington Guardian:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets a worker with an elbow bump during his visit. (Photo: Phil Noble/PA Wire)

He told reporters: "If you look at what we are doing, actually I think it certainly is - it certainly does fit that description of 'world beating'.

"I think I'm right in saying that we are now testing more - per head of population - than virtually any other country in Europe, certainly, in America they are testing a huge number of people."

He said he was ‘very disappointed’ that masks bought for the NHS will not be able to be used due to safety concerns.

Fifty million face masks bought by the Government as part of a £252 million contract will not be used because have ear loops rather than head loops, and there are concerns over whether these are adequate.

The Prime Minister told reporters: "I'm very disappointed that any consignment of PPE should turn out not to be fit for purpose."

He said there were legal proceedings under way so he would not be drawn on the specific example.

But he added: "We have achieved a colossal race against time to produce billions of items of PPE, sourcing them from abroad but now increasingly making them here in the UK as well, and stockpiling them now in case we have a second wave in the autumn and the winter."

Mr Johnson said people need the confidence to go back to workplaces in order to help the economic recovery.

Warrington Guardian:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his vist. (Photo: Phil Noble/PA Wire)

The Prime Minister said workers must have the confidence to return to their offices 'in a Covid-secure way' to help get the economy moving.

His comments came as the Government urged employees in England to return to work this week following five months of home working during the peak of the pandemic.

However, reports suggest that most employees are continuing to work remotely.

Mr Johnson added that it is also 'very, very important' that all pupils return to school in September.

And he said there were ‘real signs of strength in the UK economy’.

"Unquestionably it will require people to have the confidence to go back to work in a Covid-secure way," he continued.

"It's also very, very important that we get all the schools back in September, on September 1 get all the pupils back into their schools.

Warrington Guardian:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit. (Photo: Phil Noble/PA Wire)

"That will be also very, very important for getting our economy overall moving again."

Mr Johnson also defended the decision not to suspend the senior Tory MP who was arrested on suspicion of rape.

Asked during the visit if he was confident it was the right decision not to remove the whip from the former minister amid safeguarding concerns, he told reporters: "I think it's very, very important that we take all these cases extremely seriously and we will continue to do so.

"I think we've got to wait for the police to decide whether they want to make charges and take a decision on that basis."

Warrington South Tory MP Andy Carter says he was delighted that Mr Johnson accepted his invitation to visit the constituency.

"He got to see for himself the difference that the planning reform proposals could have on the area, building better, quicker, and in the right places," said Mr Carter.

“We got to lay some bricks at the Kings Quarter Barratt Homes development In Stretton.

"It was a chance to meet with apprentices who are learning skills and helping to build homes for families in Warrington.

Warrington Guardian:

MP Andy Carter with Prime Minister Boris Johnson

“Critically with today’s announcements, brownfield development will be prioritised, so we can make use of regeneration sites likes Fiddlers Ferry.

"Our current system makes it too difficult and slow to build on brownfield land which must change if we are to protect our precious green spaces.

"I was pleased that the Prime Minister agreed to come back to Warrington again to take a look at the opportunity Fiddlers Ferry presents and the potential that it could unleash alongside schemes such as Northern Powerhouse Rail so that we can truly level up."