THE new public inquiry over plans to build 1,200 homes on Peel Hall has heard Warrington's housing crisis could be solved without 'touching' the site.

In 2018, developer Satnam Millennium Ltd appealed against the decision of the council's development management committee to refuse the masterplan for the Houghton Green land.

Satnam’s appeal was dismissed by the secretary of state. However, the High Court overturned the decision in October last year.

This meant that a new public inquiry into Peel Hall is required, with a different inspector. It started on Monday in a virtual format.

Margaret Steen, who appeared on behalf of the Rule 6 party, spoke on Monday.

She said: “The Rule 6 party considers part of the site to be within the green belt and dispute the claim by Warrington Borough Council and the appellant that Peel Hall does not form part of the green belt.

“Warrington unitary development plan (UDP) was adopted in January 2006. In October 2007, as a result of a legal challenge by Satnam Millennium Ltd, the High Court ruled Warrington UDP proposals map should be quashed in so far as it shows the site known as Peel Hall farm, as included in the north Cheshire green belt.

“The abolition of regional spatial strategies does not equate to the abolition of the need for strategic planning.

“The green belt review cannot be considered or justified on the basis of circumstances in a single plan area.”

Christopher Lockhart-Mummery QC, who cross-examined Ms Steen, highlighted a document showing the ‘entirety of Peel Hall outside the green belt’.

He said: “Do you understand that is the statutory extent of the green belt in Warrington and was adopted and became statutory in 2014?”

She said: “I do now because the evidence has been submitted to the inquiry but local people have always maintained that it was never removed from the green belt because it was never included in any of the consultations.”

Labour Warrington North MP Charlotte Nichols put protecting Peel Hall at the heart of her election campaign in December 2019 and has remained committed in her efforts to preserve the site.

She said: “I have already placed on record my detailed objections to Satnam’s proposals and given my full backing to my constituents in their heroic efforts to keep Peel Hall as green open space.

“For over 30 years Satnam have been seeking planning permission to change the Peel Hall site from a publicly accessible green field site to a high-density housing estate and associated development.

"The land at Peel Hall is a much-loved green open space located in an otherwise densely populated part of Warrington.

"It offers our area many benefits – for the local environment and for health and wellbeing. Like many local people I do not want to see this local ‘green lung’ consumed for development."

On Tuesday, Peter Black, a chartered town planner, said he would suggest ‘we can solve the housing crisis in Warrington without the need to touch Peel Hall’.

He added: “We feel that there is a way of building the housing that Warrington needs for those that need it that don’t involve building on Peel Hall.”