WARRINGTON Borough Council says it is ‘disappointed’ by the Secretary of State’s decision to approve plans for 1,200 homes at Peel Hall.

The Planning Inspectorate yesterday upheld an appeal against the council’s refusal of planning permission for the massive scheme in Houghton Green, meaning the development can go ahead.

WBC has now issued a statement in response, in which it said it would evaluate the contents of the 166-report – released on Tuesday following a second public inquiry earlier this year – into the proposals before ‘considering the next possible steps’.

A spokesman said: “At the end of this long and well-defended process, we are disappointed with the decision from the Secretary of State which allows the appeal at Peel Hall and we understand that many of our residents and communities will be left frustrated by the outcome.

“The detail of the decision and supporting report is lengthy – more than 150 pages – and we need to understand the full contents of this documentation before we consider the next possible steps.”

Meanwhile, Poplars and Hulme ward councillors say they are ‘deeply disappointed’ by the news.

A joint statement issued by Cllr Nathan Sudworth, Cllr John Kerr-Brown and Cllr Hilary Cooksey said: “We are saddened and deeply disappointed to learn that the Secretary of State in London has decided to rule against the wishes of our local community here in Warrington.

“For more than 30 years, Labour councillors have objected to this development with the issues highlighted during the planning process remaining a significant concern for ourselves and residents.

“We will be closely monitoring any future development on Peel Hall.

“If residents have any concerns or would like to get in contact with us they can do so via the usual channels.”

And former Warrington North MP Helen Jones has also had her say.

She told the Warrington Guardian: "I am very saddened by this decision.

"Local residents fought tirelessly to protect the last remaining green space in north Warrington, and they were right to do so."

The council’s development management committee initially threw out the controversial submission by Cheltenham-based applicant Satnam during a meeting at the Pyramid Centre in 2017.

A previous appeal by the developer was dismissed by the Secretary of State was dismissed the following year, but this decision was quashed by the High Court in October 2019 – leading to the second inquiry into the plans.

Save Peel Hall campaigners reacted with dismay following the announcement.

Group member Ste Dodd said: "This is a dark day for north Warrington.

"The loss of Peel Hall will forever have a profound and detrimental affect on the wellbeing of its residents.

"It highlights how far away the people in power are from reality and the real people of this country."

Fellow campaigner Jim Sullivan added: "This isn't a simple yes decision, it comes with significant protections.

"We call on Warrington Borough Council to meet with the local community at the earliest opportunity so that we can discuss how these protections will be managed."

Former Mayor of Warrington Geoff Settle, chairman of the Warrington Nature Conversation Forum, meanwhile praised the efforts of those who fought the plans.

He said: "As far as performances go over the past 30 years, this was by far the strongest performance yet. We deconstructed the arguments, and each member took a specialist topic to argue against the proposal.

"We made it non-political and focused on the technical arguments. We were not restricted by political point scoring, but focussed on challenging all the issues without the constraints that other parties were under."