Angry residents are up in arms over proposals for a major new development at The Heath Business and Technical Park in Runcorn, with planning chiefs poised to give it the green light in the coming weeks.

Halton Council’s development management committee meets on May 20 where it is recommended to rubber-stamp outline plans by SOG Ltd for up to 545 ‘net zero’ homes including 59 senior living apartments, a 55,000 sq ft vertical farm powered by hydrogen, as well as retail, office and leisure space. Known as Heath Park, backers have dubbed it a ‘21st century Port Sunlight’.

More than 700 objections have been received, with a group of local residents claiming they have not been adequately consulted - a claim disputed by SOG Ltd.

Runcorn and Widnes World: Artist impression of the new development including 'vertical farm'. Image from SOGArtist impression of the new development including 'vertical farm'. Image from SOG (Image: SOG)

Local resident Matthew Morris, said: "We as the Heath and Weston community voice invite the council and SOG LTD to come to the table and discuss these plans. We as a community have had no consultation and no discussion about these plans. These plans are not fit for purpose and do not fit in with area."

He added: "Yet again we can’t help but feel that Halton Council are trying to push these plans through although there is significant opposition."

Paul Smith, Head of Communications for Heath Park, said: “SOG has issued more than 50 news releases and statements since the company first unveiled its vision for Heath Park in December 2019. SOG’s proposals have been extensively reported in local and regional media over the past five years. Two years ago, SOG created a dedicated Heath Park website to keep the local community fully informed and this contains a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section that is regularly updated to address matters that have been brought to our attention by local residents and the local authority.”

He added: “Throughout this entire process we have been clear and transparent with the public with regard to our proposals, and we have kept the Halton Borough Council ward councillors informed too. It is thoroughly disingenuous to suggest that SOG has disregarded and ignored the view of local residents.”

A Halton Council spokeswoman, added: "Public consultation has been undertaken several times in relation to this planning application. The officers’ report to a future committee will set out all material comments made about this planning application.”

The residents’ group have also hit out at the use of council money to help conduct a safety assessment on behalf of SOG.

They said a Freedom of Information request they submitted to the council found that HBC paid a company called RAS LTD £3,800 to undertake a hazardous substance consent review to ensure any information regarding the sources of risk was up to date.

Addressing those claims, a council spokeswoman added: “The work undertaken by RAS reflects policy 5.7 and Paragraph 5.9 of the Planning for Risk Supplementary Planning Document which states: 'Where planning applicants submit additional expert information demonstrating to the council’s satisfaction that calculated accidental risk levels are less than those shown in policy 5.7, then such applications will be considered to comply with that policy. It is in the public interest that the model has used verified source data."

The Heath plans were due to be discussed this coming Monday but were put back a week, due to what the council called a ‘technical issues’ which meant the meeting’s agenda was published late online, and not in time to meet the requirement of publishing five days before a meeting.