Objectors who feared the impact of controversial plans to transport more than a million cubic metres of landfill through Winnington and build a gigantic solar farm have been given a reprieve.

Cheshire West and Chester’s planning committee had been poised to rubber-stamp the project at a meeting on Tuesday, but concerns over the impact of HGVs bringing landfill to the site on roads and Winnington Bridge led to chiefs postponing a decision so other options could be investigated.

The scheme -  submitted by Infinis Solar Developments Ltd and Green Earth Developments - proposed the re-engineering, remediation and restoration of the Wallerscote Limebeds and a 1.5km route along Winnington Avenue to the Tata Chemicals Europe site.

It would involve transporting 1.35m cubic metres of non-hazardous material over the next five years to the 138-acre site, followed by construction of a giant solar farm.

Initial planning documents said it would require an average of 193 two-way lorry movements per day, or 20 two-way trips per hour. The solar park would generate electricity that would either be fed into the local distribution network or exported directly by a private wire connection to the Wallerscote Works for use by Tata Chemical Europe in chemical production.

But some local residents and councillors all expressed concern, with 32 objections received.

Speaking at the meeting, Northwich town councillor Lee Siddall, said: “While I appreciate the importance of renewable energy projects, this application poses a significant threat to our local infrastructure. Specifically, the failing single-track grade II listed Winnington Swing Bridge."

John Tackley,  president of the River Weaver Navigation Society, told members he did not oppose a solar power station, but the ‘total traffic disaster’ he claimed would occur with the importation by road of so much landfill.

He suggested instead using the River Weaver would provide a ‘trouble free’ alternative to transport the landfill rather than using local roads, and said a similar operation saw material currently being transported in barges via river to Acton Bridge.

The lime beds were first constructed in the 1930s and 1940s to settle calcium solids from the adjacent chemical works, but previous restoration plans have not come to fruition.

And speaking in favour of the application, David Adams of planning and environmental consultancy Axis, said 'difficult decisions' were needed.

He said: "The council (has) declared a climate emergency. Emergency situations require emergency action and difficult decisions.”

He added: “Rarely does a scheme come before you - I would argue - that has such significant and demonstrable benefits. The proposed development provides for the re-engineering of the site to address historical contamination and stability issues that have arisen from the infiltration of rainwater.

“At the same time, it provides for the installation and operation of a solar park that would generate and store significant volumes of renewable electricity. It will be built on previously developed land and will deliver more renewable energy than any previous scheme the borough has dealt with.”

The committee voted unanimously to defer the plans to 'exhaust' all other viable options for transporting the landfill.