PLANNING chiefs are being urged to include Fiddlers Ferry power station in Warrington's emerging local plan to protect green belt land.

But a senior Town Hall figure says it will be kept under review because of uncertainties over how long the decommissioning and demolition of the site, off Widnes Road, will take to complete.

Warrington Borough Council's draft local plan states the authority recognises the potential of Fiddlers Ferry to contribute to meeting future employment needs, with the likelihood that it will be decommissioned during the plan period.

Tory Warrington South parliamentary candidate Andy Carter believes Government plans to end UK coal-fired power generation mean the power station could be used as a new employment site within the timeframe of the 20-year local plan.

He says, with the Government commitment to ending 'dirty' fuels electricity production by 2025, it is a 'sensible step' to look at all the options for brownfield land in the borough to make best use of what is available through to 2037.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

Andy Carter

"This area has huge potential – we know the site owners have already decided to close one of the four generating units and I am keen that we understand their time line for what comes next, so that the council can consider how we mitigate the impact on jobs in the area by having a plan for reusing this area.

"The council are supposed to be looking ahead over the 20-year period, identifying what land will become available for future use throughout Warrington.

"The current plan makes few references to Fiddlers Ferry as a future option, it's too large to be ignored and could play a critical role in minimising the release of green belt for commercial purposes, this area can't just stand idle."

Cllr Judith Guthrie, Cabinet member for environment and public protection, confirmed the authority does not consider that residential development would be 'appropriate' for the land.

She says that is due to the current operator's intention to maintain some form of power generation, issues of potential land contamination and the importance of ensuring future development is consistent with Halton’s plans for the wider Widnes waterfront area.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

Cllr Judith Guthrie

"We are aware that, while Fiddlers Ferry power station is likely to continue operating into the next decade, the Government energy policy is putting pressure on the cessation of coal power by 2025," she said.

"The site may therefore come forward for redevelopment and represents a major future brownfield redevelopment opportunity.

"The owners have indicated that the site could be redeveloped for new employment uses and this could include a smaller electricity generating facility.

"The decommissioning and demolition of the existing power station will take a number of years to complete.

"Therefore, there is not currently sufficient certainty for the site be included within the council’s developable employment land supply, but given the scale of the site, this will be kept under review."

Site operator SSE says when a decision is made on the long-term future of the site it will communicate this with employees, the council and stakeholders.

A spokeswoman added: "The UK Government has committed to phasing out coal power stations by 2025.

"Three of the four units at SSE’s Fiddler’s Ferry power station have contracts out to September 2019 and SSE is continuing to review the long-term future for the station."