A RUNCORN MP has questioned claims that building 250 houses in the open countryside will improve the variety of plant and animal life.

Mike Amesbury is objecting to an outline planning application by Government agency Homes England for an extension to the Sandymoor South residential development.

Proposals will follow for a further 600 houses on farmers’ fields either side of Red Brow Lane.

Homes England literature claims retaining mature trees, hedgerows and ecology ponds will achieve ‘biodiversity net gain’.

A sceptical Mr Amesbury responded: “How can Homes England argue bio-diversity net gain when concrete will be poured over wildlife habitats across a large area of countryside?

“They can dress it up in academic language, but you will never convince me that decimating vast swathes of green space will enhance nature.

“I do not like a situation where Homes England feels it can take my constituents for fools. I believe this is a PR exercise that amounts to little more than greenwashing.”

Runcorn and Widnes World: Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury at the Sandymoor siteWeaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury at the Sandymoor site (Image: Mike Amesbury)

A former shadow housing minister, Mr Amesbury agrees with the need to build more houses generally, but says there must be a ‘brownfield first approach’ and a mix of tenures that includes genuinely affordable homes.

The Weaver Vale MP, whose constituency covers east Runcorn, also argues all new housing must be built to the highest energy efficiency standards.

Mr Amesbury commented: “I know this kind of detail may come later. But it is concerning Homes England has already highlighted to me that it is not required to go above and beyond standard building regulations when we have a global climate crisis, as highlighted at the recent COP27 environmental summit in Egypt.

“I am not hearing a commitment to housing with an energy performance rating of A or B.

“At the moment, there is just a mention of electric charging points – which are required by law – and a pledge to reduce ‘embodied carbon’ within the development.

“There is also no reference to space being allocated for self-build homes that allow people to slash construction costs and ramp up energy efficiency measures to reduce bills.”

To comment on the application, search the planning section of Halton Council website for case number 22/00543/OUTEIA then leave your observations by clicking where it says ‘comment now’ by December 6.