The council has decided to stop work on the preparation of its local plan while it assesses the impact of Covid-19, the Government’s proposed planning reforms and national guidance on calculating housing need.
“The delay aims to give the council time to reflect and be confident that the local plan submitted for examination is the right one for Warrington, given the events of this year and the effects they are likely to have for years to come,” a statement from the council said.
It added that it expects to progress the Warrington Local Plan in summer 2021.
Warrington Council ran a consultation on its draft local plan last summer, eliciting around 3,500 written responses from members of the public and other stakeholders.
While the council has continued to make “good progresss” with the plan since, the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the Government’s proposed changes to planning rules and the national housing methodology are expected to affect development needs in the borough.
Cllr Russ Bowden, leader of Warrington Council, said: “Our local plan will shape Warrington’s future – and that’s why it’s vital we get it right.
“We have been working hard for many months to analyse each and every one of the representations we have received. This has taken time, but is a crucial, central part of our commitment to balancing the housing and employment needs of the borough with protecting the Green Belt and following Government policy.
“We have been steadfast that roads and infrastructure must be delivered ahead of houses being completed – in particular, in the proposed ‘garden suburb’ area in South Warrington. We’ve been working closely with landowners and developers to ensure that this infrastructure can indeed be delivered, and this work continues.
“However, the landscape has now changed. Our efforts to deliver a Local Plan that works for Warrington have been impacted by events beyond our control.”
The challenges of the pandemic will “undoubtedly have an impact on the way society interacts, the way the town moves, and in particular the way Warrington does business” Cllr Bowden added, while anticipated policy shifts have placed the council in a period of uncertainty.
“It would, therefore, be inappropriate to move ahead with the submission of our current plan to the Planning Inspector at this time. It’s only right we pause.
“This delay will give us the chance to consider our position, as we wait for the housing and planning picture to become clearer,” he added.
The council is now preparing to upload all 3,500 representations to the Warrington Local Plan website over the coming weeks so people can view them.