NORTHWICH councillors say that they will fight for a new school to be built in Winnington if proposals for 1,200 new homes at Winnington Works go ahead.

However, they have admitted that despite the council being in a ‘strong’ position, policies in place to fight for it are ‘not bulletproof’.

The comments were made during a public meeting organised by the Winnington and Castle Residents Voice group held in the village last week.

This was attended by Cheshire West and Chester councillors Andrew Cooper, Bob Cernik, Kate Cernik and Sam Naylor, who vowed to take resident’s concerns over education provision into account during planning considerations.

But they also conceded that despite having the CWAC Local and Northwich Neighbourhood plans in place, which give the council greater scope to refuse planning permission, it is central government that has the ultimate say as to whether major developments go ahead.

In response to a question from a resident on school provisions, Cllr Cooper, Labour member for Leftwich, said: “Developers do not build schools or medical facilities - developers make section 106 contributions to provide schools or medical facilities.

“It is the council that builds schools after looking at trends using a formula system.

“Rather than hand over the cash, developers go to councils and say that they will provide land equivalent in value to the cash that a school could be built on.

“With the proposed development at Winnington Works, the developer has had initial discussions about what school facilities CWAC would want.

“Winnington Park Primary School is expanded as much as it possibly can be, as are most schools at that end of town.

“What it’s looking like is that there will have to be a new school built.”

Residents also raised similar questions on provisions for healthcare, however unlike education, councillors said that this is ‘not in the council’s gift’.

Cllr Kate Cernik, Labour member for Winnington and Castle, said: “Decisions for new medical facilities are made by the NHS, which is cash strapped.

“Medical practices in Northwich are at capacity and Firdale is currently struggling with the Winnington Village development, so it would have to look for a solution to that.

“Even if a new practice was secured, the NHS would struggle to get the staff, as there are currently huge vacancy rates to acquire trained staff and current staff are leaving.

“We can’t reassure residents on this as it is not in the council’s gift.

“The issues will be looked at, but it’s a difficult decision.”

If sufficient progress is not made on providing better education and medical provisions, residents called on the council to refuse permission for more homes, as this is ‘in the council’s gift’.

However, councillors added that even when permission is refused on a local level, this can be and often is overturned by central government.

“We frequently say no to more houses being built and then that decision is overturned by the secretary of state,” responded Cllr Bob Cernik, Labour member for Winnington and Castle.

“All planning decisions are made on what is known as material considerations, which are referenced in the local and neighbourhood plans.

“We say that developers can’t just build what they want as it has to be sympathetic to these plans, but this can be overturned by central government.”

In addition, Cllr Cooper said: “These plans are not bulletproof, but having the planning policy in place gives us reasons for refusal.

“Developers have to take the plans seriously.”