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Leader's Blog - September 2017

I hope everyone has had a good summer and that your children have had a chance to enjoy our summer funfair in Bank Park which has been a great success for the second year.

It’s a great opportunity for youngsters to get the opportunity to enjoy a mini holiday experience right on their doorstep.

Over the summer we have been consulting on Warrington’s Local Plan which has reached the Preferred Development Option stage. The consultation concludes on 29 September.

The Preferred Development Option sets out how Warrington can meet its development needs of approximately 24,000 new homes and 381 hectares of employment land, over the next 20 years.

It identifies four main areas of growth together with the infrastructure required to ensure Warrington’s long term growth is sustainable. Detailed work carried out by the council has found that it is possible to deliver approximately 15,000 new homes and 129 hectares of employment in existing urban areas. This means that land will need to be released from the Green Belt to deliver approximately 9,000 new homes and 252 hectares for employment.

I would encourage everyone to engage with this consultation and make your views known as we are very keen to hear all the suggestions. We have extended the deadline to make sure everyone has a chance to offer their views.

One of the key pillars of the local plan is to make sure the necessary infrastructure is in place. As an authority we have been working at a very high level to improve transport across the north.

The Council has played a full role in both Transport for the North TfN and Rail North and has worked closely alongside the Cheshire and Warrington LEP and Cheshire West and Cheshire East Councils to best represent Cheshire and Warrington’s interests. Since 2015 I have represented the three local transport authorities on the TfN Partnership Board and Professor Steven Broomhead performs the same role on the TfN Executive Board.

In October 2016 with the agreement of all the Constituent Authorities TfN submitted a proposal to the Secretary of State for Transport that TfN should be established as the first statutory Sub-national Transport Body (STB) under the provisions of section 102E of the Local Transport Act 2008 as amended by the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016. At July’s Executive Board meeting we agreed to confirm the Council’s membership of TfN.

Legislation is to be put before Parliament in mid-September and is expected to receive Royal Assent by the end of 2017. The target date for TfN to become a statutory body is 1 April 2018.

I have written to the Secretary of State for Transport to express my great concern at the recent transport infrastructure investment decisions announced – in particular to backtrack on prior commitments to electrify key rail infrastructure linking Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham and other parts of the UK.

This contrasts with the Government decision, announced only days later, to press ahead with CrossRail2. What is clear is that there continues to be a major imbalance of transport investment between London and the South East and the North of England and I along with other authorities who are members of SIGOMA will be urging the Government to redress this imbalance.
There was more success in Warrington schools when A-level and GCSE students celebrated success. I'd like to congratulate the young people and the teachers and school staff who’ve all contributed to make this another successful year for Warrington schools.

In the town centre the new temporary market looks wonderful and officially opens on Saturday, 2 September. This is an exciting and historic moment in its 750 year history.

The building will house the market for two years whilst the new, permanent market hall is being built opposite. The permanent hall, when open in 2019, will incorporate the beautiful, Grade II listed Boots building facade on Bridge Street and will be a square building accessible from all sides.

The contractor for the next stage build of the Time Square scheme, Vinci, has now been appointed and following the market move will start work almost immediately on the demolition of the current market hall with the pyramid roof and then constructing the main elements of the scheme; the cinema, restaurants, new council offices and the new permanent market hall.

As well as being a scheme that will no doubt transform our town centre, it is a large scheme, and it is important that local companies have the opportunity to become involved. Therefore there will be an opportunity for local companies to meet with Vinci at during the morning of Monday, September 4 at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

Following the decision of the Licensing Committee to support the two-day music event in 2018, we look forward to it.  We will ensure all the conditions of the Licensing decision are met and the event will produce significant economic benefits to the Borough.    It also shows how our Bid for “City of Culture” has stimulated significant interest in hosting major events in the Borough.

We are also backing this year’s Warrington Festival which starts tomorrow (Saturday 2) with RivFest at Priestley College. If you can please get along to RivFest to see Maximo Park and Billy Bragg, while supporting the River Reeves Foundation. There are many more events and cultural offerings including the Walton Hall Country Fayre and the English Half Marathon.