Battle lines drawn over controversial plans to build hundreds of homes on a golf course

There were applause from the public gallery as committee members voted to refuse planning permission and go to appeal.

<p>The proposed development at Widnes Golf Course.</p>

The proposed development at Widnes Golf Course.

Battle lines have been drawn over controversial proposals to build hundreds of homes on Widnes Golf Course, after planning chiefs voted unanimously to fight the scheme when it goes to appeal.

Plans to build 233 properties on the course, which will reduce it from 18 holes to nine, had been taken out of the council’s hands, after a deadline for it to make a decision had passed.

The council had asked developer Anwyl Homes for an extension to the 13 week time limit but did not receive a response, with Anwyl instead opting to appeal to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate on the grounds of ‘non-determination’.

It means the Government inspector will now determine the outcome.

Halton fight development plans

But at a meeting of Halton’s Development Management Committee on Wednesday the committee voted to formally refused the application and will defending its decision at an upcoming appeal on February 28.

The meeting had to be moved from Runcorn Town Hall to the DCBL Stadium in Widnes due to the amount of public interest.

Almost 2,800 people have so far signed a petition created by Highfield councillor Andrea Wall, with over 400 also lodging planning objections.

Speaking at Wednesday night’s meeting, Cllr Wall told the committee it was “not about nimbyism” (not in my back yard), but about “protecting an integral part of Halton’s landscape heritage”.

She said: “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.”

What are the issues with the proposal?

Anwyl Homes had its original proposals for a similar scheme thrown out by the council in March. It appealed that decision and also submitted an application for the new project.

In a report to the committee, members were told Anwyl had tried to make amendments to the new project four days before a decision was due, which did not give the council adequate time to consult on or publicise the plans.

Speaking last night, committee member Cllr Dave Thompson said he had been ‘less than impressed’ with the approach taken by Anwyl.

He said: “I’ve been on this committee now for 17 years and I’ve never seen anything like this before, ever, we have never seen anything like this before with an applicant behaving in this manner.

“It is entirely reasonable to expect to extend a 13 week period and it’s good relations between an applicant and local planning authority to do that.”

He added: “To be submitting new paperwork four days before a deadline that tells you all you need to know, I hope the planning inspector will understand that’s playing games, I think the approach taken is appalling and denies both sides a chance for a fair public hearing.”

Reaction to the committee’s veto

The committee voted unanimously to refuse the plans and defend its decision at appeal, which was met with applause from around two dozen objectors in the public gallery.

No representatives of the applicant attended the meeting.