Tonight the second planning application from Widnes Golf Club was unanimously refused by the council and it was unanimously agreed by the committee that the Council defend its refusal decision at the appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. Text of what I said is copied below, Widnes Golf Club did not bother to send anybody to speak in support. Thank you to everyone that attended.
“Thank you Chair and the committee for allowing me to speak. I am speaking on behalf of the residents that live in the area of the golf course and people from across Widnes that have contacted me. I am also speaking on behalf of my Highfield Ward colleagues – Cllr Bob Gilligan and Cllr Paul Nolan.
I am not going to take up your time by reading out to you the contents of the report you have in front of you and no doubt have diligently studied. A report that recommends that you refuse this application and also recommends that the Council defends a refusal position with the Planning Inspectorate.
This application is very similar to the application that was refused by the committee on 2nd March this year. So much so that the applicant, the Golf Club sent out an email to it’s members on the 10th November stating:
“A public inquiry into the first appeal was scheduled to commence on the 6th of December and a request was made to the Inspectorate to use this Inquiry to also consider the second appeal at the same time (a practice called co-joining) given the proposal was very similar to the one in the first appeal.”
My understanding is that the Planning Inspectorate have found Halton’s Local Plan to be sound, this includes the Golf Club land being designated Green Space.
Back in the 1920s this now designated green space was bought by a company that polluted much of our town, I imagine back then it was bought because they wanted somewhere for their managers to play golf up out of the way of the chemical factories and slum housing that the workers lived in. I believe that this green space must be protected for the people of Widnes, in part because of its unique heritage but also to let us keep some green space that is not contaminated. I believe we have a duty of care to protect this designated green space for the future generations. The future generations are already deeply concerned about Climate Change and we must help them.
There are many studies that indicate that just being able to see green space and trees improves people’s sense of wellbeing, health and mental health. Building a housing estate would take that away from the people who live around the course and from people across Widnes.
Our MP Derek Twigg has stated that he believes this land should never be built on as it would change the entire character of this area of Widnes and Widnes itself. I agree with him.
There were hundreds of objections against these planning applications, there is almost universal opposition to this land being built on from the Highfield Ward residents and opposition from across Widnes.
I want to pay tribute to all the residents that have fought against these plans through difficult times, through Covid Lockdowns and have worked together with me through many ups and downs throughout this process. They have kept hope that the right decision will be made. Despite what I believe to be tactics by the developers, to deflate local residents’ hope and opposition, the developers have not succeeded. The community remains joined together and willing to help the Council to fight on against this.
This is not about NIMBYISM, this is about protecting an integral part of our landscape heritage. This land is part of the green network that runs from Spike Island, through to Leigh Rec and King George’s Playing fields and then the final piece now is the designated green space known as Widnes Golf Club. This land is in the heart of Widnes and is part of our Green Lung. This is land that was bought by one of our biggest polluters and is now one of our biggest protectors against pollution, it must remain so.
It is well known that green space and trees soak up pollution out of our atmosphere. This green space is home to a wide variety of wildlife, locals have even named the woodpecker that lives there Woody. Many of the trees are subject to tree preservation orders. There is already flooding in this location and building on it can only make that worse.
Allowing this application would put the road junctions over capacity and put children’s safety at risk when walking to school. Now I know this is not a material planning concern but allowing this application would knock children who live in existing Widnes homes out of the catchment zone for the most popular schools. This land is unique in Widnes because of its central location and proximity to the high schools, two of which are already over subscribed.
When work is done to Liverpool Road, it leads to chaos across the road network in Widnes. I have personally tried to get out of the estates and roads around this area many times and each time it is difficult and can actually be quite frightening to try to turn in the opposite direction to the oncoming traffic lane. Foxley Heath, Liverpool Rd, Heath Rd, Highfield Rd and the roads off them – Shakespeare, Tennyson, Addison, Woodland Lynton and right along to Chestnut Lodge, including Prescot Rd, Tabley and Cradley are all an extremely busy area for traffic.
This application goes against many of Halton’s planning policies, it is against the current Unitary Development Plan is also against the new Local Plan, which as I’ve already stated has been said to be sound by the Planning Inspectorate and in it the Golf Club is designated as Green Space.
At its very core this planning application seeks to cash in on many millions of pounds, hurt our town and invest part of the cash they make in a green space over the border in St Helens! Just let that sink in, we in Widnes would lose a huge swathe of our urban green space and St Helens would gain investment and protection in one of theirs, that cannot be just or fair on the people of Widnes and Halton.
I, along with Cllr Bob Gilligan and Cllr Paul Nolan and the local community, including golf club members that have contacted me, urge you to please refuse this planning application and fight the appeal with the Planning Inspectorate. The community is here, it stands ready to support you and will be behind you. Thank you for listening.”