A public inquiry is set to be launched into plans for a controversial housing development in Runcorn.

Proposals by Gleeson Homes to build 139 properties on the site of the Pavilions sports and social club on Sandy Lane were given the green light by council planning chiefs last October.

The scheme had met fierce opposition from neighbours when they were first put forward in 2017, due to the loss of playing fields and the proximity of the Viridor energy-from-waste plant.

It was a different industrial plant, an Inovyn Chlorvinyls site dealing with hazardous chemicals, that caused the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to object to the plans.

In its objection at the time, the HSE said: “The assessment indicates that the risk of harm to people at the proposed development site is such that HSE’s advice is that there are sufficient reasons on safety grounds, for advising against the granting of planning permission in this case.”

However, Halton Council’s planning officers said at the time that the plans complied with council policies on the risk from industrial sites and the proposals were passed.

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But the plans were then referred to Secretary of State or Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick, and he has now called a public inquiry.

A Halton Borough Council spokeswoman, said: “Halton’s Development Control Committee made a resolution to approve the application, but could not approve it without reference to the Secretary of State.

“The Secretary of State has decided to hold a public inquiry to look at issues that relate to the site.”

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A Gleeson Homes spokesperson, said: “We are disappointed by the decision in respect of our application which officers and members of Halton Borough Council moved unanimously to approve last year, and accords with Local Planning Policy.

“Our new development at The Pavilions would bring 139 high quality, affordable homes for those on low to average incomes to the area giving the opportunity of home ownership to many first time buyers.

“We await the outcome of the inquiry process.”

The date of the public inquiry is yet to be announced.