Councillors in Halton took barely a minute to agree to send the borough’s transformational Local Plan to the government for review.
The decision was made without debate at a full council meeting in Runcorn Town Hall on Wednesday, the vote passing unanimously.
The plan, which lays out the blueprint for Halton’s development over the next two decades, will now be examined by a planning inspector before being returned to the council for final adoption in a process likely to take several months.
If approved, the plan would see 8,050 more houses built in Widnes and Runcorn by 2037 and includes allocations for employment space, shops and, if necessary, three new schools.
The council received more than 1,000 objections to the plan, mostly concerned with the loss of green belt land and the suitability of the various housing sites identified in the document.
These sites include large areas of undeveloped land around Daresbury and Sandymoor , which have been earmarked for around 2,000 homes.
But some objections claimed the council should be aiming to build even more houses, suggesting raising the annual target from 350 homes to 466 or 565.
Some 62 letters objected to the loss of green belt land, claiming there were no special circumstances that would justify the 16% reduction in Halton’s green belt.
A previous version of the plan proposed reducing the green belt by 20%, but councillors changed this before putting the plan out to consultation.
Proposals to set aside land for the expansion of Liverpool John Lennon Airport also drew significant criticism, not only due to the loss of green belt land but also due to the impact on air quality and noise in the west of the borough.
If this proposal is overturned, it would deal a significant blow to the airport’s plans to extend its runway to accommodate long haul flights.
Now the plan has been submitted to the government, it will be examined by a planning inspector, including at a series of public hearings at some point in 2020.
The inspector will then either recommend the plan for approval or suggest modifications needed to make it sound.
Once approved, the plan will form part of the legal framework the council uses to decide planning applications.