Controversial plans to build a housing development on former playing fields in Runcorn have been given the green light despite objections from the Health and Safety Executive.

Halton Council’s planning committee voted last night, Monday, to give officers power to approve the construction of 139 houses at the former Pavilions Club in Weston Point, pending the completion of a legal agreement.

The plans met 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.

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

In its objection, 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.”

The HSE added: “Although the likelihood of a major accident occurring is small, it is felt prudent for planning purposes to consider the risks to people in the vicinity of the hazardous installation.”

However, officers said the plans complied with council policies on the risk from industrial sites and members of the planning committee were more focused on traffic issues.

Cllr Bill Woolfall said: “Local members of the public are concerned, not necessarily with the application, I get the impression the application doesn’t seem to be a problem.

“What they are concerned about is the access once the site is finished, that there’s only one access to the whole of that development.”

But highways officer Phil Peak said the proposed entrance to the site was “suitable” and an improvement on previous proposals.

Along with the 139 houses, the proposed development would contribute £570,481 towards sports facilities and open space in Runcorn and secure a long-term home for Runcorn Town FC at the site via a long lease for the club’s current ground.

Matt Smith, planning manager at developer Gleeson Homes, told councillors the homes would be aimed at first-time buyers and key workers with a starting price of £115,000 for a two-bedroom house.

He added that, with the government’s Help to Buy scheme, this should be “affordable to a working couple on minimum wage”.

After Monday evening’s decision, planning officers will be able to formally approve the development once a legal agreement is reached regarding Gleeson’s financial contributions to the local area, providing the Health and Safety Executive does not ask the government to “call in” the application for review.