Controversial proposals for up to 500 homes, primary school, local centre and elderly accommodation in Widnes look set to be approved by planning bosses.

The plans by property developer Harworth Group are recommended to be rubber-stamped by Halton's development management committee next Monday, despite opposition from two local parish councils.

The scheme would be located on land off Hale Gate Road in Halebank and cover 56 acres of greenfield land. The site is bound by Halebank Road and close to Halebank Conservation Area, as well as two parcels of protected green belt land.

As the application is a hybrid plan - some of the finer details of location and design do not yet have to be ironed out.

But design documents indicate a new school would be big enough for up to two form entry, with a local centre that would provide new facilities for the new community. Local centres can generally include shops, cafes and community facilities.

The plans have met strong local opposition. Halebank Parish Council has lodged a formal objection. Halebank Parish Council and neighbouring Hale Parish Council have also contacted the Fleetwood Hesketh family, which owns large swathes of agricultural land in the green belt surrounding the villages of Halebank and Hale, and urged them to reconsider allowing the development to take place.

They claim the scheme will harm a ‘vital green lung’ of countryside separating urban areas.

Cheshire Police has asked for a financial contribution of more than £156k if the plans go ahead, claiming it could increase the population by 1,150 and place extra strain on its resources, but the request is set to be knocked back.

The land is designated for residential use under the borough’s strategic planning document - the Delivery and Allocations Local Plan (DALP) - with the council saying it needs to pave the way for more homes in order to meet government targets. The land in question was previously protected green belt, but the boundaries were shifted when Full Council voted in a new DALP in 2022.

The plans do deviate from what was originally permitted in terms of proposed school location in that new DALP, but recommending approval, a report to the committee, said:

"Although the proposal is a departure from  the Delivery and Allocations Local Plan in terms of the location of the allocated education site, it is considered on balance that the proposed development is acceptable given the education allocation is still included within the scheme, just in a different location.

"This area of the site will remain allocated for education and such information will be contained in a legal agreement covering the site.

"Consequently, the application should not be refused on the grounds of non-compliance with the development plan, given the planning judgements contained in the above assessment the development is not considered to be contrary to the development plan as a whole."