NORTHWICH MP Mike Hall has welcomed a decision to allow plans to build a massive urban village in Northwich to go ahead - but says he still has major concerns over traffic issues.
That's despite a pledge by the Winnington Urban Village Consortium, which is behind the proposals, to pump £2.5m into the local road infrastructure.
Speaking after an earlier decision to refuse permission to build 1,200 homes on former industrial land in Winnington had been overturned by Vale Royal Borough Council, Mr Hall said that, on balance, the development should be welcomed.
He said: 'I have followed the planning application very closely since it was submitted and I am very concerned about the impact it will have on traffic in Northwich.
'I fully appreciate that the traffic surveys have shown that the impact can be mitigated and the use of a brownfield land site to build houses should be applauded as well as the financial contribution to the roads which is very much welcomed. Northwich has a wonderful future and the urban village is part of that.
'On balance it is to be welcomed but I am very concerned about the impact of traffic, especially around the Winnington area were the traffic problems are already acute.'
The consortium was left stunned last week after its application was refused for a second time by the planning committee, which said it still had concerns about traffic issues. That was despite the council's own planning chief stating that any refusal on those grounds would be almost impossible to sustain at an appeal which the consortium would have lodged. The decision went to full council on Thursday and was overturned when the majority of councillors voted in favour of the application.
Work is set to begin on the site on 2004 and Brunner Mond, the leading company in the consortium, says that by approving the application councillors have secured the jobs of hundreds of local people. Spokesman Mark Chitty said: 'Brunner Mond is a main employer in Northwich with more than 400 staff and we support a further 2,000 jobs in support and service industries. We make a major contribution to the economic development of North-wich.
'The proceeds of the sale of the land are a vital part of our survival in Northwich.'
Now that the plans have been given the go ahead, a £2.5m contribution to road improvements needed as part of the Northwich Vision will also be made by the developers.
The development envisages up to 1,200 houses, employment areas, a village centre, a new primary school, community facilities and a variety of open space. It is intended that the scheme will seek to be very 'people friendly' by reducing reliance on the private car and by encouraging walking, cycling and use of public transport. Much of the development will offer views of the River Weaver.
Leader of Vale Royal Borough Council, Cllr Keith Musgrave, welcomed the decision. He said: 'This outline application details an exciting regeneration plan for the former soda ash sites in Winnington, and once built this significant development will increase the attraction of Vale Royal as a place to live and work. Plans for Winnington complement the council's newly launched Northwich Vision and will allow the strategy to be put into action.' Although the application has now been approved it still has to be referred to the Secretary of State for approval because of the size of the development.