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17th September 2020

Charlotte's Speech to Peel Hall Planning Inquiry


I am Charlotte Nichols MP, the MP for Warrington North.

Peel Hall is in my constituency and my purpose today is to lodge my strongly held objections to the Satnam appeal. In equal measure my purpose is to support the large number of my constituents who are adversely affected by this appeal and steadfastly object to the proposals to develop the site.

That is, proposals to build 1,200 properties on green open land at Peel Hall.

Like my predecessors, Doug Hoyle and Helen Jones, I have already placed on record my detailed objections to Satnams’ proposals and given my full backing to my constituents in their heroic efforts to keep Peel Hall as green open space.

For over 30 years Satnam have been seeking planning permission to change the Peel Hall site from a publicly accessible green field site to a high-density housing estate and associated development.

And, for over 30 years, successive generations of local residents have fought tooth and nail to save this area of much-loved green space. Despite the strength of local opposition, Satnam have endlessly pursued the development of this site.

The appellant’s proposals totally disregard what is best for the area and ignore the views of those people who live in the communities affected. On each occasion Satnam’s planning applications have been refused. When subjected to a planning appeal their plans have again been rejected or withdrawn.

Their planning applications have been successfully resisted because the case against developing this valuable site of accessible green open space is demonstrably very powerful, grounded in planning and development legislation and is overwhelmingly supported by residents. And yet, despite these refusals and despite the strength of local opposition to their proposals, the developer’s mantra over the last three decades has been – if at first you don’t succeed – try and try again.

And so here we are once again. I am here today to I urge you in the strongest terms, not to reward Satnam for their persistence. Make no mistake, these development proposals will have a hugely adverse impact on our local area.

Satnam’s long-term ambition to consume the green space for development in this area of Warrington will result in irrevocable changes to the landscape. The land at Peel Hall is a much-loved green open space located in an otherwise densely populated part of Warrington.It offers our area many benefits – for the local environment and for health and wellbeing. Like many local people I do not want to see this local ‘green lung’ consumed for development.

And so today I am calling on this Public Inquiry to reject proposals that would result in a development that would be, in the words of one local resident, “a drain, blight and spectre over our community.”

Over the years, north Warrington has borne the brunt of housing development, particularly since the designation of Warrington as a ‘Partnership New Town’ in 1968. The vast concentration of the town’s new housing development has taken place here in the communities of Birchwood and Cinnamon Brow in north east Warrington and Callands, Hood Manor, Old Hall, Whittle Hall and Westbrook in north west Warrington.

My constituents are concerned that by building on this green open space, the character of the area would be changed forever. They do not want to see this happen and I share their concerns. This area of green open space is strategically important. It is the last remaining section of green open space between the residential development of Orford, Poplars and Hulme and the M62. It acts as a green wedge and a much-needed natural barrier south of the M62.

Locally, accessible green open space in this area is in very short supply. We need more open and accessible open space, not less! There is a wealth of accepted academic research that confirms that land is of great value to local people – providing amenity open space. There are substantial health benefits in accessing this land for recreation and leisure purposes and ultimately this land can improve quality of life for local residents. Green space is an important environmental asset for local communities, particularly in otherwise densely populated areas.

In January 2018 the Government published a report called, ‘A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment’ which said: “.... People in greener surroundings have longer and healthier lives. Green infrastructure brings wider benefits, including sequestering carbon, absorbing noise, cleansing pollutants, absorbing surface water and reducing high temperatures. The number and condition of green spaces has declined. We risk losing more good quality green spaces. As we build more homes, preserving and creating green spaces in towns is more important than ever.”

Green spaces like the land at Peel Hall offer many benefits to people who live near them and who visit them including the nature that they host. A recent report from Public Health England highlights the importance of areas of land such as the land at Peel Hall: “...This ‘natural capital’ can help local authorities address local issues that they face, including improving health and wellbeing, managing health and social care costs, reducing health inequalities, improving social cohesion and taking positive action to address climate change.”

It goes on to say that: “Evidence shows that living in a greener environment can promote and protect good health...People who have greater exposure to greenspace have a range of more favourable physiological outcomes. Greener environments are also associated with better mental health and wellbeing outcomes including reduced levels of depression, anxiety, and fatigue, and enhanced quality of life for both children and adults. Greenspace can help to bind communities together, reduce loneliness, and mitigate the negative effects of air pollution, excessive noise, heat and flooding. Disadvantaged groups appear to gain a larger health benefit and have reduced socioeconomic-related inequalities in health when living in greener communities, so greenspace and a greener urban environment can also be used as an important tool in the drive to build a fairer society.”

And the report warns that we should not lose sight of this importance of a greener environment in the face of competing demands: “However, population growth and consequent urbanisation combined with competing demands for land use and budgetary constraints, are putting much of our existing local, accessible greenspace under threat...we must not lose sight of our growing population’s need for it...”

Rather than losing the land to make way for further development in an already built up area, green spaces like this should be protected in their entirety. And in these extraordinary times of the Covid-19 pandemic now is not the time to be depriving areas like Orford, Poplars and Hulme of highly valued green open space. I also have serious concerns about the impact a development of this size would have on our local road network. It is a self-evident fact that the road network in Warrington is routinely choked with congestion. The development of Peel Hall will only serve to worsen Warrington’s chronic congestion problems. The proposal calls for 1,200 dwellings to be built on the site. And we know that the number of homes with 2 cars is on the rise.

If each dwelling has on average two cars, this means that approximately 2,400 extra cars could be added to Warrington’s roads to gain access and egress from the site should the development be approved. Local roads in the area will simply not be able to accommodate additional traffic from this proposed development and the inevitable outcome will be more congestion and more gridlock. At peak times, and even outside these, the A49 is severely congested.

The road junctions onto and off the A49 are likewise congested. Poplars and Hulme is a highly populated area. The roads here were not designed to provide access points into the Peel Hall site, nor to accommodate additional flows of traffic from a future major development of the appeal site.

As Inspector Schofield noted in his findings at the previous Public Inquiry on peak hour traffic flows: “along those streets that serve as routes into and out of the residential area chiefly Poplars Avenue, Capesthorne Road, Cleveland Road, Cotswold Road, Howson Road, and Sandy Lane would increase significantly. Sandy Lane West, Poplars Avenue and Capesthorne Road would see Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) levels over 10,000 by 2030.”

It is no wonder that Inspector Schofield concluded that the: “level of increase in the flow of traffic along them...would, inevitably make them less pleasant routs to walk (cycle) and, indeed, to drive. They would be busier, noisier and potentially more difficult to cross especially for certain residents.”

I would add the inevitable increase in traffic flows will make it less pleasant for the residents who live adjacent to or in proximity to these roads for the same reasons. So rather than transforming the character of the area, as the appellant would have us believe, the proposals will adversely affect the quality of life of local residents.

The national road network is no better. The M62 is a critical part of the North West transport network in England. However, the mix of local traffic and strategic traffic, together with the design of the road, exacerbates congestion and environmental problems. Junction 9 onto the M62 is busy all day and often extremely slow and heavily congested at peak times both am and pm.

Accidents on the M62 between Liverpool and Manchester and accidents on the M6 Thelwall Viaduct have an immediate effect on traffic in Warrington, bringing the town to a standstill. Whichever way traffic exits or enters the proposed development at any time of day it will place an extra, unbearable burden on an already distressed and congested road network. The development of this land could also have an impact on the health of local residents due to air pollution from the additional car movements in a concentrated area.

With increased traffic flows comes increased pollution and reduced air quality. Road transport accounts for a third of NOx emissions and is the dominant source in urban, heavily trafficked areas. The European Environment Agency estimates that road transport contributes to excessive concentrations of about 70% for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and about 30% for particulate matter (PM).

There is much evidence to suggest that air pollution causes significant harm to the environment and to the health of our communities. Evidence from epidemiological and toxicological studies indicates that transport-related air pollution affects a number of health outcomes. Such pollution contributes to an increased risk of death, particularly from cardiopulmonary causes, and it increases the risk of non-allergic respiratory symptoms and disease.

Additionally, air pollution particularly affects the most vulnerable in society: children and older people and those with heart and lung conditions. Dr Maria Neira, the World Health Organisation Director with responsibility for air pollution, is blunt: “It is a global public health emergency.” The appeal site is a key sensitive location insofar as air quality is concerned.

There are two Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) directly adjacent to Peel Hall: The M62 directly to the north of the site and, The A49 150 metres to the west of the site.The development of Peel Hall will bring increased levels of traffic flow which in turn will have an unacceptable adverse effect on local air quality in the AQMA sites adjacent to Peel Hall and the proposed new development should the appeal be granted. Clearly, any increase in traffic pollution levels in this area would be harmful to local people.

And crucially, let’s not forget that we are facing a climate emergency. We need to act now - not tomorrow to save our planet. According to the UN, we have under ten years left to avoid the worst impacts of catastrophic climate change. In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the international body for assessing the science on climate change, published a report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and emissions pathways to limit the global average temperature increase to this level. It found that climate-related risks were higher for global warming of 1.5°C than at present, but lower than at 2°C. It found that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would decrease climate-related risks compared to 2°C and would require “rapid and far-reaching” change. It said global net human-caused carbon dioxide emissions would need to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero around 2050. The Government has stated that it intends to deliver a greener UK economy and is taking steps to meet its target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Unfortunately, as the Committee on Climate Change’s recent progress report on emissions reductions makes clear, the gap between our current net zero target and the action needed to achieve it remains far too great.Even meeting this target falls short of the ambition we need. We must act with far greater urgency, aiming to achieve most of our emissions reductions within the next decade.

According to Friends of the Earth, transport is currently the worst performing sector for carbon reduction in the UK. While emissions from all other sectors (and the UK as a whole) since 1990 have fallen, total transport emissions have increased. It would seem counterproductive to develop and forever lose this green asset to bring about proposals that would result in increased levels of traffic pollution.In evidence to the last Peel Hall Public Inquiry my constituent Jon Parr stated that if the appeal was to be approved then between 60,000 and 80,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide would be emitted during the construction period and 10,000 per annum thereafter.

How then does this application meet the urgent demands to reduce emissions? In an already densely populated area these proposals would remove the only green space that is acting as an environmental buffer for residents. The Land Trust tells us that our green spaces are more than just places for recreation or to help wildlife thrive – they also provide important functions to society.

Woodlands, for example, absorb pollution and lock up carbon, which cleans our air.These functions benefit society and help reduce costs on local and wider communities, such as to the NHS and other public sector services.

The proposed development would also undoubtedly increase local noise levels.

As the site is bounded to the north by the M62, motorway traffic noise is a constant across the whole appeal site and beyond. The increased volumes of traffic flow generated by the development of Peel Hall will only add to the problem making it worse. Again, this will adversely affect existing local residents and be a constant problem for the new residents should this appeal be allowed.

Before I conclude, I would like to touch upon the strain a development of this scale will have on our local infrastructure. Local primary schools are currently full. GP services are stretched to breaking point. Parts of Warrington Hospital are over 100 years old. The proposed development of Peel Hall will impact adversely on all these services and more.

Radley Lane is not designed for pedestrian use. Yet during the proposed construction period it will be designated as the primary route for pedestrians and cyclists. This could put these users at risk for ten years. Mill Lane and Birch Avenue have been identified as the access point for a small 20 dwelling development on the proposed site. Birch Avenue is a narrow short cul-de-sac giving access to The Alders, Warrington Child and Adolescent Metal Health Services. There is little off-street parking on Birch Avenue leading to heavy on-street parking which in turn further restricts access. The proposed 20 dwelling development will result in increased traffic and compromise highway efficiency and safety.

In summary, local opposition to this application is very strong and I support the views of my constituents. If this appeal was granted and the development was allowed, a valuable area of green open land would be lost forever. I ask the Inquiry to recognise that new houses need to be built in a manner that is sustainable, that provides the infrastructure to support local residents and, above all, that gives residents a real say in how their communities look and feel. Planning is about managing change and only preventing change from occurring when properly justified. In the case of Peel Hall preventing change has been properly justified on each and every time plans have come forward for development.

Developing a large number of houses on this land would cause increased congestion on local roads. The scale would be such that it would mean more traffic on already overcrowded and congested local roads and it would cause more pressure on schools and services like GPs and hospitals. This would also increase pollution, which would adversely impact the health of local people, particularly those with asthma or respiratory conditions. And it threatens the town’s work to try to tackle the climate emergency.

Local residents are concerned that the development of such a large number of houses on this green open space could change the character of this area forever. If this is allowed to happen my constituents will suffer a loss of residential amenity, a reduction in the daily enjoyment of their homes and an adverse effect on their quality of life. They do not want to see this happen and nor do I. I have given a number of reasons why I see this proposed development as having a negative impact on the quality of life for local residents and the need to preserve green open spaces for physical activity and for health and well-being.

As the local Member of Parliament and on behalf of my constituents, I ask that the Inquiry upholds the decisions that Warrington Borough Council made on this application.

I ask that the appeal be rejected.