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Proposed Submission Version Local Plan

Frequently asked questions

1. What is the Local Plan?

A Local Plan sets out the vision and a spatial framework for the future development of a council area, addressing needs and opportunities in relation to housing, the economy, community facilities and infrastructure. It also acts as a basis for safeguarding the environment, adapting to climate change and securing good design.

2. Why does Warrington need one?

Local Plans are a statutory requirement and are the starting point for guiding decisions about individual development proposals, as Local Plans (together with any Neighbourhood Plans that have been made) are used in the determination of planning applications.

3. What would happen if we didn’t produce one?

Without an up-to-date Local Plan, Warrington could be subject to speculative development proposals. These proposals may result in unsustainable, unplanned, piecemeal development across the Borough without the required supporting infrastructure. There’s also a risk that if we fail to produce an up-to-date Local Plan, Central Government may intervene and take over the writing of the Local Plan. This would mean we’d have no control over what development is imposed on Warrington.

4. There is a lot of talk of ‘growth’. Why does Warrington need to grow? Can’t it stay as it is?

Central Government has made it clear through National Planning Policy that they are committed to securing economic growth, and the planning system is central to delivering this growth. Therefore, we must set out strategic priorities that will deliver sustainable development, making provisions for housing, jobs, retail, leisure and other commercial development, supported by the required infrastructure.
We have an increasing population and we recognise the benefits of growth, as long as this is supported by infrastructure, such as new roads, schools and health facilities.

5. Why has a 20-year Plan Period been chosen?

Government planning policy requires that the Local Plan covers a minimum of 15 years from the date of adoption of the Local Plan. The proposed plan period of 2017 to 2037 meets this requirement, given that the Council anticipates the Plan will be adopted in late 2020.
The Plan Period will enable the Council to plan effectively to meet Warrington’s long term development needs. It will also ensure that the revised Green Belt boundaries are capable of enduring over the long term.

6. What are the aims of Warrington’s Local Plan?

Our vision for the Local Plan can be broadly defined into six key objectives:

  • We want to enable the sustainable growth of Warrington

We will continue with the ongoing regeneration of Inner Warrington, strengthen existing neighbourhoods and create new, sustainable communities.
It is our mission to ensure that everyone in our community has access to a home. The Local Plan will guarantee the increased supply of affordable homes for rent and low cost ownership for young families, and we will provide homes to meet the needs of our ageing population and residents with disabilities.

  • We will ensure Warrington’s revised Green Belt boundaries protect Green Belt in the long term

Our priority is to protect as much Green Belt as possible, and the Local Plan details that almost 90% of Warrington’s Green Belt will remain untouched until at least 2047, preserved to be enjoyed for future generations.
While it’s not possible to meet Government housing figures without some development on Green Belt land, Green Belt has an important role to play for both existing and future neighbourhoods and communities.

  • We will strengthen and expand the role of Warrington Town Centre

We want Warrington Town Centre to be a regional employment, retail, leisure, cultural and transport hub. Our aim is to boost the number of people who live in Warrington Town Centre and focus its future as a vibrant hub for all to enjoy. We also want to generate job growth, add to the provision of Town Centre office space, strengthen our tourism offer and support Warrington in its role as a regional transport gateway, improving links throughout the borough and beyond.

  • We will provide new infrastructure and services to support Warrington’s growth

As we plan for Warrington’s future development, we also need to recognise there is a need for an investment in infrastructure which transforms the way people move around Warrington and travel into and out of the Borough. The Local Transport Plan is being prepared at the same time as the Local Plan, to ensure that the planned growth for the next 20 years and beyond is supported by new transport infrastructure and services which reduce the reliance on using cars to get around.

The Council hasn’t always got things right and over time, infrastructure has not necessarily kept pace with new development in Warrington. While the Local Plan is not about Warrington becoming a ‘New City’, it is about creating a transport plan that meets the needs of the town, alongside building schools, GPs, parks and community and cultural facilities to match housing.

  • We want to reflect and preserve Warrington’s distinctiveness through our Local Plan

Warrington is a complex network of different communities, neighbourhoods and spaces with a unique combination of urban development, waterways and countryside. Different areas in the Borough have different characteristics and varying needs and it’s important we consider this when developing Inner Warrington, sub-urban Warrington, countryside settlements and visitor attractions. We will do this while also protecting, enhancing and embracing our town’s historic, cultural, built and natural assets.

  • We want to minimise the impact of development on the environment

Put simply, we want to make sure developments in line with the Local Plan have minimum impact on the environment. We will do this by making sure developments are energy efficient, safe and resilient to climate change and make a positive contribution to improving Warrington’s air quality.
We also want to make it easier for you to do your bit to protect the environment, and as part of the Local Plan we would look to build a fit-for-purpose, replacement community recycling centre south of the river.

7. What are Warrington’s needs over the next 20 years?

Detailed work carried out by the Council shows that Warrington has a need to provide 18,900 new homes by 2037 and 362 hectares of employment land, along with the required supporting infrastructure.

8. How will the Local Plan meet the needs of local people?

We want to make sure our residents, in particular our young people, have access to affordable housing. The draft Local Plan proposes that 20% of homes built in Inner Warrington and 30% elsewhere in the borough, will be affordable. This would include low-cost home ownership, based on models such as shared ownership; and a proportion of properties for rent and managed by housing associations.

It is also vital we meet the needs of an ageing population. The draft Local Plan proposes that one in five new homes will be built for elderly residents. This could include bungalows, easy access homes, sheltered/supported housing and wheelchair accessible homes.

The draft Local Plan aims to support new jobs and businesses, so that Warrington is an attractive place to work and invest in. And it aims to provide excellent community facilities – new schools, medical centres, shops and roads – all of which will support thriving new communities.

9. Why do we need to build so many houses?

Central Government identifies the process that must be followed in setting Local Plan housing targets. The proposed levels of housing need are based on a range of factors,
including population and household projections, future job growth and our economic aspirations as a council.

10. What is the minimum number of homes needed and how is this calculated?

The minimum number of homes a Council is required to plan for is set by Central Government through its ‘standard methodology’. The methodology uses the official household projections with an uplift required in areas such as Warrington where average house prices are not affordable for those on an average wage.

In line with Government Planning Guidance the Council has used the 2014 household projections and has set a base date of 2017 for calculating the average annual increase in the number of households and for the affordability data on average house prices and wages. This results in a minimum requirement of 909 dwellings per annum.

The calculation is set out in the Council’s Local Housing Needs Assessment which has been prepared as evidence base for the Local Plan and is available on the Council’s web site.

11. Why are the 2014 household projections being used to set Warrington’s housing target, instead of the more recent 2016 projections, which are lower?

On 20 February 2019, the Government confirmed that Councils should use 2014-based household projections rather than the more recently issued 2016-based projections when calculating housing need. The Government considers that the more recent figures do not accurately represent true household formation as they have been restricted by a lack of supply of new housing. If the Council were to use 2016-based projections, the Local Plan would be considered unsound.

12. Why has Warrington’s target for new homes been set at 4% above the Government minimum requirements?

The draft Local Plan proposes 945 dwellings per annum which equates to 18,900 dwellings over the 20 year plan period. This is 4% above the minimum Government target and is the equivalent of an additional 36 homes a year.

The Council is planning for this level of housing to ensure that the number of homes balances with the number of jobs that Warrington will generate over the Plan period and to ensure we meet the housing needs of our younger people, for whom accessing the housing market has become increasingly more difficult over recent years.

13. Why is the figure of 20,790 homes referred to in the draft Local Plan if the target is 18,900?

We have included a 10% contingency in the land requirement calculation for the new homes needed in Warrington. This is to allow for the possibility that some sites may not come forward as quickly as anticipated and reflects the approach being taken by other councils preparing local plans.

14. What is affordable housing? What is its definition, and what does this mean for me?

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF, 2019) (pg 64) provides an extensive definition of affordable housing.

The definition of affordable housing has been broadened to reflect the range of needs to be addressed in order to meet increasing affordability pressures. The Proposed Submission Version Local Plan conforms with national requirements but also seeks to ensure that affordable property provided in parts of the Borough where property is more expensive are genuinely affordable. This is explained further in the Plan and the accompanying Local Housing Needs Assessment (2019).

15. Why do we need so much more land for economic development?

As with housing, national planning policy requires we meet our need for economic development. The Local Plan does this through providing land for new businesses moving into Warrington and to enable existing businesses to grow. The amount of land reflects Warrington’s strong past economic performance, which is predicted to continue into the future. The calculation for the land requirement is set out in the Council’s Economic Development Needs Assessment (EDNA) which has been prepared as evidence base for the Local Plan and is available on the Council’s web site.

16. Why does development need to take place in our Green Belt? Shouldn’t it all be taking place in our urban areas?

The minimum number of new homes set by Government exceeds the amount of urban and brownfield land available in Warrington. The Plan, therefore, proposes unlocking some areas of Green Belt land for development to meet our full need for homes and employment land.

Warrington has a need to provide 18,900 new homes by 2037 and 362 hectares of employment land by 2037. The Council also needs to ensure it has made a contingency allowance in its land supply in the event that certain sites do not come forward as originally envisaged. It is possible to deliver approximately 14,000 new homes and 115 hectares of employment in existing urban and brownfield areas. This means that land would need to be released from the Green Belt to meet our targets for housing and employment land.

Green Belt release can only be proposed when all urban and brownfield development options have been exhausted. The Council must fully evidence and justify the exceptional circumstances required for Green Belt release, in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (2019).

17. Does the Council’s assessment of the urban capacity take account of all available brownfield land?

The Council has sought to maximise the capacity of the existing urban area to accommodate new development, in order to demonstrate that all reasonable options have been identified
for meeting Warrington’s development requirements before giving consideration to the release of Green Belt.

The Council has undertaken a detailed assessment of the urban capacity for new homes through its Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) and for employment through its Economic Development Needs Assessment (EDNA). It has also identified the significant additional capacity for homes and employment that can be delivered through the regeneration plans for the Town Centre, Warrington Waterfront and parts of the wider Inner Warrington area.

The Council has reviewed the density assumptions it has used in its urban capacity work and has increased the densities applied to sites in and around the Town Centre. The Council acknowledges that certain brownfield sites may not come forward in the Plan period but these sites still demonstrate that Warrington will still have significant brownfield capacity over the longer term.

Through this process the Council has identified a total capacity for 13,726 new homes within the Plan Period on sites within the existing main urban area of Warrington, the existing inset settlements and other sites identified in the SHLAA. The Council’s Urban Capacity Statement (2019) sets out in detail how this figure was derived and is available on the Council’s website.

18. How can we ensure that the development of brownfield land is prioritised?

It is not possible to ensure that all brownfield land is developed before any Green Belt is released. The Council needs to be able to demonstrate that it can provide the housing required for the first five years of the plan period with a high degree of certainty.

A number of brownfield sites and the larger proposed allocations would not deliver any housing within the first five years of the plan period due to the need to provide infrastructure and/or be decontaminated. Therefore some Green Belt land is required to ensure enough houses can be provided in the first five years of the plan period.

19. What about Fiddlers Ferry Power Station, a large brownfield site that will become available for development within the Plan period?

The Council is aware that while Fiddlers Ferry power station is likely to continue operating into the next decade, Government energy policy is putting pressure on the cessation of coal power by 2025. The site may therefore come forward for redevelopment and represents a major future brownfield redevelopment opportunity. The owners have indicated that the site could be redeveloped for new employment uses and this could include a smaller electricity generating facility. The decommissioning and demolition of the existing Power Station will take a number of years to complete.

There is not currently therefore sufficient certainty for the site be included within the Council’s developable employment land supply, but given the scale of the site, this will need to be kept under review.

Given the operator’s intention to maintain some form of power generation on the site, issues of potential land contamination and the importance of ensuring future development is consistent with Halton’s plans for the wider Widnes Waterfront area, the Council does not consider that residential development would be appropriate on the site.

20. What are you doing to protect the Green Belt?

A full assessment of the performance of our Green Belt within Warrington has been carried out. This will ensure the focus of release is on those parts of the green belt that are performing poorly. The vast majority of Green Belt land (almost 90%) in Warrington will remain and will be strongly protected for at least the next 40 years.

21. Is the plan being shaped by the requirements of developers?

The Local Plan is being shaped by a number of groups. This includes developers, but also local communities, local interest groups, neighbouring councils, statutory consultees (such as the Environment Agency), infrastructure providers, and local businesses.

22. Why is infrastructure so important, and how can I find out more about it?

Infrastructure can take many forms and it is essential to support objectives of increased housing provision, economic growth, mitigating climate change, and of creating thriving and sustainable communities.

In addition to housing and job opportunities, supporting infrastructure including green energy, utility services, transport, schools, open space, community, health and leisure services, are all needed. Policies INF1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 provide for the provision of infrastructure over the plan period. Further details of how infrastructure will be delivered are included in the Infrastructure Delivery Plan which accompanies the draft plan and is available on the Council’s web site.

23. How are you ensuring Warrington has the roads and infrastructure in place to support new development?

A key element of the draft Local Plan is the need to deliver the infrastructure – including roads – to support new development. Warrington Borough Council’s draft Fourth Local Transport Plan (LTP4) will be launched alongside the draft Local Plan. It will help the Council address local transport issues in Warrington by providing a framework for decisions on future investment.

To date, the development of LTP4 has been informed by feedback from a series of transport summits that were attended by interested organisations, and by comments received during consultation on the Local Plan Preferred Development Option in summer 2017. It has also been informed by a thorough review of Warrington’s transport evidence base and the development of a Multi Modal Transport Model, used to test the impacts of the proposed development on the Warrington’s road and public transport networks.

24. What is planned for the Latchford spur rail line across the Ship Canal?

The Council does not propose to construct a new road across the ship canal using the disused Latchford rail line or sections of the TPT. Transport Modelling carried out to support the development of the draft Local Plan has identified that a new road crossing of the ship canal is not critical to the delivery of the growth proposals set out in the Plan.

However, a number of issues will require further study and assessment over the first five years of the Local Plan and Local Transport Plan 4 (LTP4) to understand what further transport improvements are required.

The preferred transport strategy set out in the Draft LTP4, which is being developed in parallel with the Local Plan, includes a conceptual Mass Transit network for the borough which proposes a high quality, frequent public transport network across the borough.

The proposals include a cross-town route linking the Garden Suburb area to north-west Warrington via the town centre and an orbital route from the Garden Suburb to Birchwood. The exact form, mode, alignment and deliverability of such a Mass Transit network will be subject to further work, study and detailed consultation in the first five years of LTP4. This further work will examine whether this mass transit network needs to use a pre-existing or new crossing of the Manchester Ship Canal.

The draft Local Plan also includes provision within Policy INF1 to protect any disused rail corridors from development which would prevent them from at a future date being brought into use for transport objectives, including the provision of public transport and sustainable transport schemes and / or corridors to support the sustainable growth of the Borough.

25. What about air quality?

Won’t the development proposed through the draft Local Plan make air quality in Warrington worse? The majority of Warrington has good air quality and meets the national standards. There are, however, some locations which the Council has declared Air Quality Management Areas, close to the major roads where the standards are exceeded. This is similar to other towns and cities of a similar size in the UK.

The draft Local Plan takes air quality into careful consideration. Detailed research carried out by the Council has found that over the Plan period, air quality would improve in Warrington, through a package of measures, both locally and nationally. A copy of the Air Quality Report can be viewed on the Council’s website.

The Council has also produced an Air Quality Action Plan which sets out a series of measures to improve air quality. This is also available on the Council’s website.

26. What about the impact on our historic buildings and natural environment?

The Council is confident that the proposed level of growth can be accommodated without having a detrimental impact on the Borough’s environment, ecology and heritage.
The vast majority of environmental assets will continue to be protected. Where a development site is allocated in the draft Local Plan and there are unavoidable impacts on the natural environment, extensive mitigation measures will be required.

In preparing the draft Local Plan Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) have been undertaken for all of the site allocations to identify any potential impacts on the Borough’s much valued heritage assets. The findings of the assessments have informed policies within the draft Local Plan and identified where any mitigation is required.

The Council is committed to ensuring that Warrington’s heritage assets will continue to be preserved and enhanced.

27. Which areas have been identified for development?

The majority of future development will be directed towards the Town Centre, Warrington Waterfront and the remainder of the existing urban area in order to maximise urban capacity and encourage development on previously developed land. This will ensure that the amount of Green Belt land which needs to be released is limited.

We have assessed a range of options for possible locations to be released from the Green Belt. The main areas of proposed Green Belt release are focused in south Warrington – the Garden Suburb and South West Urban Extension - where the assessment of the purpose of the Green Belt was generally weaker.

We believe that development in these locations gives us the best opportunity to deliver strategic infrastructure to support the growth of Warrington and address the existing issues of congestion across the Borough. There will be impacts on the character of surrounding areas but the size of the allocation enables some of these impacts to be offset. Similarly impacts on important ecological and heritage assets can be mitigated.

Some Green Belt release is also proposed in Warrington’s outlying settlements where the number of new homes can generally be accommodated by the existing infrastructure within the settlement. New development will contribute to the expansion of existing infrastructure where required.

28. What is the status of Garden Suburb Development Framework?

The framework document has been prepared to help us understand how much development is realistic in the Garden Suburb, to further identify development options and infrastructure requirements and to demonstrate that the allocation in the Plan is deliverable. The framework illustrates how Local Plan policy requirements could be met and it has provided evidence base to support the Garden Suburb allocation policy in the draft Local Plan.

The framework document and the plans within it are purely illustrative. They have no formal planning status and are not approved as Council Policy. The Framework document is available on the Council’s web site.
Further details on transport infrastructure in the Garden Suburb can be found in the draft Local Transport Plan (LTP4) and in the LTP4 FAQs.

29. Why has the Peel Hall site been allocated in the Local Plan, given the Planning Inspector refused to grant planning permission in 2018?

In light of the need to make the most efficient use of non-Green Belt land, Peel Hall has been allocated as a site suitable in principle for residential development. In refusing the appeal the Inspector did not contest that the site was suitable for housing but concluded that the applicant had not demonstrated how the impacts of the development could be mitigated, in particular in terms of highways and air quality.

By allocating the site in the Local Plan the Council can control how the site will be developed and ensure the required supporting infrastructure is delivered. We know the existing road network cannot accommodate the level of growth proposed for the site without significant mitigation measures.

The Local Plan allocation policy will therefore ensure that no development will come forward until a scheme of highway mitigation measures and timetable for implementation have been agreed by the Council and Highways England. This means that although the site is allocated in the Local Plan it is no longer included in our deliverable housing supply in the first five years.

30. What consultation has been carried out so far, and what happened to my comments on the PDO?

In 2017, the Council undertook a consultation around our Preferred Development Option (PDO) which looked at Warrington’s development needs for the future.

We learned a great deal from the PDO consultation and around 4,500 responses were received from residents, community groups, developers and other stakeholders. Council officers read through, and carefully considered, every single representation, and these have been fundamental in preparing our draft Local Plan. Wherever possible the Council has sought to address concerns – including a reduction in the overall scale of development proposed.

A report detailing the Council’s response to issues has been prepared and can be viewed on the Council’s website (see Evidence Base pages).
We want to ensure we reach every household in Warrington to seek your views and feedback.

31. Who has the Council communicated with so far on the Local Plan, and how?

So far we’ve consulted and communicated with the general public, elected councillors, parish councils, Statutory Consultees (such as the environment agency and Highways England), Warrington Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Warrington Chamber of Commerce, Local Enterprise Partnership, neighbouring authorities, developers and landowners as well as internal council departments including Highways, Livewire, Health, Education and Public Protection.

32. What are we consulting on now?

This is the final consultation before we submit the Local Plan to the Planning Inspectorate, who will examine it on behalf of the Government.

The previous consultation asked for your feedback on the level of growth that Warrington will need to accommodate and locations for new development. This consultation no longer seeks views on options, but instead presents the opportunity to comment on the proposed policy content of the draft Local Plan, with specifically-focused questions.

The questions relate to whether the Plan complies with legal requirements, the ‘duty to cooperate’ and meets the ‘Tests of Soundness’. These are the key issues that the independent Inspector will consider when assessing the Local Plan and they are explained in the Consultation Guidance Note which is available on the Council’s web site.

We have framed the consultation in this way, to meet the requirements of the Planning Inspectorate and to ensure that your representation on the Local Plan is as effective as possible.

33. How can I respond?

We recommend that you make your representations by completing our online representation form with the aid of our guidance notes. The form has been designed to meet the requirements of the Planning Inspectorate who will be carrying out the independent examination of the Proposed Submission Version Local Plan.

You can also response by email or in writing. Full details on how to respond are on our website.

All responses should be received by the Council no later than 5pm on Monday 17 June 2019. Please note that late representations cannot be accepted.

34. What are the next steps?

  • 17 June - Consultation closes.
  • Consideration of all representations.
  • Submission to Secretary of State for independent examination in autumn 2019.
  • Examination in Public (EIP) anticipated in early 2020.

35. Who will make the final decision on Warrington’s Local Plan?

The final decision on the Local Plan and the development it proposes will be made by an independent Planning Inspector, appointed by the Government, following the examination, likely to be held in early 2020. We’ll then need to make the formal decision to adopt the Local Plan.