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News, Articles and interesting stuff

Welcome to Our Green Warrington's latest newsletter, featuring news, pieces on green space, architecture, the environment, placemaking - and what we've been up to.


We are always interested in hearing from you with ideas for articles, blogs, interviews, accounts of historical interest in the area, photos and of course, any green news from you or your community.


If you have any ideas for content for our website, newsletter or blogs do get in touch via




WARRINGTON'S Green Links


Although many of us have continued to enjoy our walks in Warrington’s countryside and green spaces during the winter, now that spring has finally arrived there may be more of us who are looking forward to pulling on our walking boots and trainers and fastening bicycle clips to the various pieces of leisurewear we all got for Christmas – before embarking on a good stride or wheel about the great outdoors. Our Green Warrington’s Facebook membership continues to grow with fantastic contributions from the group, showing us not only an extraordinary number of great nature photographers in the area - but also just how many beautiful green walks we have around us.


One idea we would like to explore more is Warrington’s green connectivity – that is – how easy is it to get from North to South Warrington and East to West Warrington on foot or bike – using attractive, scenic and safe routes. An example would be the walk along the River Mersey from Howley suspension bridge all the way to the weir at Woolston. But what about from Howley through the town centre stretching further West to Sankey and then on to Penketh? Is there an entirely green link that could get you there?


The Timberland Trail / The Mersey Forest Trail will take you from Walton, through to The Dingle / Fords Rough in Appleton, through Parrs Wood at Grappenhall Heys and Grappenhall Woods, onto the Bridgewater Canal and then on to Lymm. But what about a green route from Lymm to Birchwood? It seems possible to get from Birchwood to Lymm via Warburton Bridge and then head North towards the cycle paths at Birchwood Station – but how safe and green is it? Are there possible greener routes that require only a right of way through nearby fields?


While one can cross the Manchester Ship Canal at Latchford Locks from Grappenhall as part of the Transpennine Trail and then walk or cycle to Woolston Eyes Nature Reserve, how easy is it to find such a green route from Padgate or Orford or Fearnhead? How easy is it to get from Callands to Moore Nature Reserve via an attractive green route, avoiding traffic?


We would love to hear from you with your own experiences, photos and maps of travelling North to South or East to West in Warrington without a car – or if you have identified partial green routes that have gaps that could be “green filled” in some way do let us know so that we can start to build a map of Warrington’s green connectivity, identifying any weak spots before presenting our findings to Warrington Borough Council – who we know are keen to improve and expand green routes in Warrington.


 


“it’s an industrial, working town surrounded by all this lush countryside.”




The Times’ Best Place to Live in the UK 2021


While in our last newsletter we proposed that Warrington could aspire to become a “Forest City” like London, Ontario, Canada because of our own surrounding woodlands, there is a place slightly closer to home that does have some similarities to Warrington and it has just been named The Times’ newspaper “Best Place to Live in the UK” 2021.


Taken from a list of seventy eight locations, Stroud, a town in Gloucestershire was the winner, with the decision this year based on community, countryside and convenience. It received the award based on its schools, transport links, green space, attractive, well designed homes and what was considered to be a “unique independent spirit”.


If that doesn’t sound entirely like Warrington at present it does have some parallels with Stroud - it too is a former industrial town and it too is surrounded by beautiful countryside and with a number of characterful villages on the periphery. There is abundant wildlife, green space, attractive waterways, wooded hills, a mix of demographics and some good schools. Like Stroud, Warrington also has good transport links to nearby towns and cities.


Stroud was chosen as the winner in part because of the number of independent businesses, restaurants and creative enterprises there. Its residents place an emphasis on creativity, self sufficiency and relying on local resources - by many accounts it's a pretty sustainable town. This would be a great model to which Warrington could aspire. Along with plans to redevelop many former retail premises in the town centre as new homes and the successful independent restaurants already present, for example at Palmyra Square we need to see innovative and quirky uses of spare space, more pop ups, appealing business rates and help with the marketing of entrepreneurs in the town. We could see more frequent farmers’ markets and recycling fairs. We could devote more time to learning about the history of the town, including its people and employment – and look to turning this knowledge into valuable heritage “currency”.


Stroud was also chosen because of its easy connection to attractive green space, despite being a former industrial town. Dale Vince, a green energy pioneer and owner of Ecotricity, the town’s largest employer told The Times that he was drawn to the area because “it’s an industrial, working town surrounded by all this lush countryside.” Another resident said "It's a real town surrounded by beautiful countryside".


The Times' property editor, Helen Davies was reported to say, "This guide has never been so important. The pandemic has taught us just how much we rely on our homes, our communities and our surroundings...Stroud has been chosen as our winner because it has all the basics covered in perfect style: it has excellent schools, convenient transport links and easy access to lots of glorious green space."


Warrington also has these green assets on its doorstep - a rare commodity and one that must be cherished. Perhaps protecting Warrington’s own countryside for the benefit of its residents could remain a priority when revisiting the Local Plan this year - and then who knows - in a few years' time - maybe Warrington could be at the top of the list.


Photo by Dave Weston, Our Green Warrington


 

Warrington Borough Council's

Town Centre Design Codes

Consultation


Warrington Borough Council recently published its draft Town Centre design code guidance, formally called a Supplementary Planning Document, or SPD.


Accessible here, it set out draft proposals for future would be landowners, developers and planners, with the aim of regularising the standard of design of our homes and green and public spaces, setting an expectation that these design standards would be met if permission for development was granted, and perhaps aiming to to bring some cohesion to the development and regeneration of our town centre after many years of decline.


We submitted a response to the consultation and referenced our own ideas for the town centre, which can be found on our 'Ideas' page here. Overall, we think the SPD is an important document, written thoughtfully and with a clear knowledge of the challenges Warrington faces in its aims to regenerate and develop the town.


It features some astute observations about the issues in the town centre – in particular the disparity between the west and east sides of the town centre as a result of vehicle centric late 20th century planning, the harshness of some of the built environment and the lack of aesthetic coherence in some areas of town.


The content below forms a solid foundation from which action can be taken to rectify the mistakes of the past:


• Vehicle-dominated environments at key junctions/ gateways into the Town Centre which do not provide as positive an experience to those entering the Town Centre as they should and contributes to a sense of placelessness.


• A relatively harsh, and in places cluttered, urban environment which for large portions of the Town Centre lacks any natural features.


• The need to give greater priority to pedestrians and cyclists, such as in the eastern half of the Town Centre, where a legacy of wide carriageways and junctions have fractured the historic urban grain and make it a vehicle dominated environment.


• The vastly under-utilised River Mersey, which should be contributing more to the town as both a natural amenity and as a placemaking feature.


• Areas of the Town Centre which lack a visual consistency degrading the sense of place.


We also agreed with these sections:


2.8 Delivering this sense of community is also an important aspect of making the Town Centre an attractive alternative to suburban living in the Borough. There is huge potential for the increasing residential population of the Town Centre, but this must be realised with a focus on providing a high-quality residential environment and delivering Warrington Town Centre as a highly liveable town environment which will support maintaining it as a place people choose to live. Good Placemaking = Good Economic, Long-Term Outcomes.


2.9 Great places have a strong sense of place stemming from a clear local identity which people and communities can identify with, fulfilling the deep-rooted human desire for a sense of belonging. As the population of Warrington increases through the expansion of its residential population and the bolstering of the retail, leisure and commercial community of the Town Centre, it is important that people can still identify strongly with Warrington as a place and town.


2.10 A strong sense of place and local identity is intrinsically linked to a place’s memorability, we attribute value to places that have a clear, legible design language. The design guidance provided within this SPD is a vehicle for delivering future regeneration that will foster and engender a strong sense of place and local identity, which includes maintaining a human and town scale to development, improving access and visibility to the River Mersey as well as providing guidance to assist in establishing neighbourhoods within the Town Centre.


2.11 This strong sense of identity created by well-designed places instils a human connection and draw which adds commercial and civic value to all activities, be that: shopping, dwelling, working or relaxing. This guidance is people-focused and supports and builds upon the environmental improvements proposed by the First and Last Mile Transport Masterplan. Delivering these improvements and focusing on repairing the fractured urban grain caused by 20th century vehicular infrastructure will be fundamental to reinstating the connection between people and the environment that good placemaking demands.


2.12 The overarching aim of this SPD is to deliver Warrington Town Centre as a highly liveable environment. Liveability is intrinsically important to people’s wellbeing. Providing a high quality urban environment in the Town Centre encourages healthier behaviours by providing safe and attractive places to walk and cycle alongside providing environments that can give good access to important amenity facilities that can and should include access to nature.*


2.13 Placemaking has a significant impact upon achieving liveability. Good Placemaking reinforces the link between people and environment and is therefore fundamental to delivering liveability in the Town Centre. The guidance provided within this SPD is borne out of a people-focused, placemaking-led approach and seeks to enable the delivery of Warrington as a great place, delivering not just new development but genuine regeneration.


* We must try and ensure that this remains a priority


The concerns we did voice within our submitted feedback focused on enforceability - how does this guidance show its "teeth" if developers refuse or fail to adhere to these design codes? And also on vision and imagination - how do we ensure that sufficient creativity and originality is involved in the regeneration of our town? Will decisions be taken by a few professionals who are either unfamiliar with the town's heritage or who wish to reimagine the town as a mini Manchester? Is the team of designers and planners and architects sufficiently broad? And finally - where is the mechanism for contributions from the community? How do we have a say in what we would like our town to look like? Input from the local community brings with it a value that cannot be measured on a CGI render. Residents can bring an additional layer to any proposed development with their own unique knowledge of the area's demography, history and geography. This can bring real economic benefits to the area and of course - be an important tool in successful placemaking.

 


Our Green Warrington's Helen takes a look at the Arts and Crafts movement, its presence in Warrington and how we could follow some of its principles today.


Throughout the pandemic, our green spaces and surrounding environment have become incredibly important to us. We have shopped and spent leisure time locally, we have become more familiar with our communities, and we have come to appreciate that along with connectivity and cooperation, self sufficiency is also important. We have learned to accept a less complicated, less frantic day to day experience in a way that we probably couldn't have envisaged before 2020.


So imagine stepping back in time to a simpler way of life - a time before the traffic, noise and fast pace that we accepted was part of our day to day living - prior to lockdown. Imagine being part of an approach to design and living that encompassed natural materials, local craftmanship, the beauty of the countryside as a source of inspiration, social responsibility, the role of education and working together as a community. This was the Arts and Crafts movement.


In the space of a few decades the landscape of Britain, both figuratively and literally had transformed - from farming and agriculture to factories and mechanised processes with the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Warrington is an example of the move from a rural to an urban lifestyle, with mills and factories around the town and on the River Mersey, changing the face of the environment for good.


Nevertheless, a desire to be closer to nature and a rejection of what was seen as mass production at the expense of quality began to grow with the increasing urbanisation and industrialisation of our towns, cities and lives.


More of an intellectual approach than a specific "style" of art, architecture and design, the Arts & Crafts movement brought about a return to emphasis on fine craftsmanship as an alternative to mass production. It focused on, as Mary Greensted described, "functional design, on the human desire to make things, and on nature as the primary source of pattern."


Designers from this era include William Morris & Phillip Webb, who focused on nature, plant forms and their accompanying simplicity as the basis of their creativity. This they hoped would influence the society they saw around them as the result of the Industrial Revolution. In their interior designs, they drew inspiration from the natural world, often comprising rich olive colours that were enhanced with botanical motifs for soft furnishings. Block printing techniques were used to produce their decorative finishes for wallpapers.


Morris also saw the need for his designs to serve as a practical function in the home, combining the beauty of the natural world with the utility of simple handwork. He was noted to have famously said, ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful’.


Morris was not only an artist, designer and manufacturer, he was also a renowned architect along with Webb and together, they formed Morris & Co. Morris asked Webb to design The Red House (below), which he then lived in. Often called the first arts and crafts house, it is a Grade I listed building now run by The National Trust.


Red house, Bexley Heath – Designed by Phillip Webb

The Arts and Crafts movement and its application to architecture is not an architectural style as such, more a set of principles in approach to the design and creation of the buildings themselves.


Along with William Morris, the theorist, social thinker, philanthropist and art critic John Ruskin was a significant figure in the development of the architectural Arts and Crafts movement. As an art critic Ruskin believed in the notion of "truth to nature" - asking that artists observe their landscape and reflect the natural world as truthfully as possible, rather than elaborating on what they saw in their work. Ruskin's emphasis on the natural (along with his dislike of mass production) also had an impact on the Arts and Crafts architectural movement. Although not an architect himself, he described architecture as "the art which so disposes and adorns the edifices raised by man for whatsoever uses, that the sight of them contributes to his mental health, power and pleasure." He was a champion of medieval and Gothic architecture and placed great emphasis on respect for the environment, the use of local materials and he believed that the essence of the natural world should be reflected in our built environment. He said, "Whatever is in architecture fair or beautiful, is imitated from natural forms....an architect should live as little in cities as a painter. Send him to our hills, and let him study there what nature understands by a buttress, and what by a dome."


Ruskin was one of the most influential figures of the 19th century in terms of art and the built environment and his writing impacted not only the Arts and Crafts movement, but also played a part in a move towards the modern architectural styles of Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier - and even the garden city movement.


The main principles in Arts and Crafts architecture were:


Truth to materials: using natural materials as far as possible in their simplest form

Pattern and design inspired by nature

Use of vernacular materials - local building materials close at hand - which would then sit more harmoniously in their surrounding environment

Can we see evidence of Arts and Crafts architecture in Warrington?


On a leisurely stroll around Walton, towards the Walton Arms where Old Chester Road meets Walton Lea Road you will find some period properties influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement. You can almost feel the timelessness & ambience of this past time with late examples of Arts and Crafts design in the rows of cottages there. Designed and built, according to Historic England, by architects Wright and Hamlyn of Warrington around 1912, the architectural style is described as "vernacular revival" - and very much exhibits the principles of the Arts and Crafts architectural feel - with its asymmetrical design, use of local sandstone and low lying roofs. Built for Sir Gilbert Greenall, these Grade II listed buildings stand as representatives of the importance of nature, of the local, and of the pleasure of simple beauty in our surroundings.


The principles set out above translate to wider and more contemporary issues today - the need for sustainability in our buildings and practices; the use of local resources rather than using materials from far away and the benefits to the environment in doing so; the importance of respecting the natural world and the countryside around us, and the desirability of working together as a community, relying on the different strengths and "craftsmanship" we each can bring to the place in which we live.


 

URBAN SPLASH

As you may be aware, Our Green Warrington have been involved in some of the discussions with Alastair King on behalf of Grappenhall Heys residents group, Councillor Ryan Bate and Urban Splash themselves in connection with the proposed development at Grappenhall Heys in South Warrington. Although there will undoubtedly be some differences of opinion there was a broad consensus among the residents that the architectural style and materiality in the proposed masterplan did not reflect the nature and appearance of the housing and surrounding semi-rural area. There were also concerns about the location of the housing within the site and the height of some of the buildings.


As part of the initial consultation process Our Green Warrington submitted an ideas document that we hoped would bring about a rethink in the style and materials used at the development. Urban Splash did to an extent take on board these ideas and they revisited some of their original designs, producing some new colour schemes and materials, including some brick and some rural colour palettes that would better reflect and blend with the adjacent developments already there. While we were pleased that Urban Splash had taken some account of the ideas proposed, the changes in tangible terms were limited and the architectural design of the town houses that have caused such a pushback from residents has remained unchanged. The "townhouse" with its flat roof and boxy exterior is a signature design of Urban Splash's 'House" brand - and it seems that it has the approval of the Design Review Panel appointed by Homes England / Warrington Borough Council.


Alastair King and Councillor Bate presented robust arguments on behalf of the Grappenhall Heys residents and their attention to the detail and specifics of the proposed plans meant that they achieved some positive results in terms of the placing of the housing, the location of the taller accommodation and the general aesthetic of the proposed development in comparison to the housing already there. They argued that it was not a binary choice between the architectural style that Urban Splash were proposing "or" a generic, boxy housing estate that we've seen too much of in recent times - there were and are alternative architectural styles that could better bridge the gap with the existing developments yet still maintain a sensitivity to the rural nature of the surrounding landscape.


Alastair said, "My sense is that Urban Splash’s response to both the alternative (OGW) brochure and the many comments raised by residents has been at best limited. They have concentrated any changes on specific layout rather than materiality and appearance.They appear constrained by their own capability, by their own portfolio of house types, by their own “ethos” and by the rules of the Homes England pilot. Therefore, one can conclude that they were never capable of “fitting in” with the existing built form or rural nature of the surrounding area from the onset. As you say, as a consequence it was a done deal."


There are some excellent aspects to the Urban Splash masterplan in terms of its green space (and to a degree the wooden housing design in terms of its fitting into a rural landscape) but there will undoubtedly be concerns that remain.


The problem seems to be that the planning process, the decision making and the partnerships involved in developments in Warrington is still somewhat opaque and beyond the reach of community input until it is too late. Despite the goodwill of Urban Splash in their consulting with the public on an informal basis - the project was presented as pretty much a fait accompli.


It is hoped that the proposed changes to the planning system will facilitate earlier public engagement in development, as has been promised. However, even if those changes are made we'll have to see how it works out in practice.

 


Six56



Early this year Langtree resubmitted its Six56 proposal to Warrington Borough Council (WBC) with only minor amendments to the one they submitted in 2019. Now is a good opportunity to make another representation to WBC (devcontrol@warrington.gov.uk) asking for a refusal for Six/56 massive commercial development on green belt land on the edge of Appleton Thorn. Rethinking South Warrington's Future and the local parish councils had a great result securing a refusal of the Stobart's application for planning permission to construct a large national distribution centre with extensive warehousing in South Warrington. Six/56 is a much bigger development and if the developers are successful this will have an enormous impact on all of South Warrington.


If you feel strongly about the potential elimination of the countryside and have concerns about the environmental impact of this proposed development please make a representation and send it to WBC at devcontrol@warrington.gov.uk. Please ensure you attach your name and address, application details: Planning Application 2019/34799, Langtree PP & Panettoni Amendments


In short the arguments are:- there exist no very special circumstances for the destruction of precious green belt (250 acres+), the impact on local biodiversity / the environment, the availability of better alternative sites e.g. brownfield sites like Fiddlers Ferry which has more efficient and healthier multimodal transport capability, intense road congestion, and dreadful health consequences in our area which already breaches WHO limits.

 


Warrington Speaks Out on Climate



Free event organised by Hope for the Future and Warrington CEE Bill Alliance.


About this Event


Calling all Warrington residents!


Do you live in Warrington or the surrounding area? Are you concerned about climate change? Or are you just interested in hearing some real life stories from local people?


We're bringing together a range of voices from across the town to share their stories on climate change - these include voices from the NHS, local nature conservation, education and business, as well as perspectives from young and old alike - we'll also be joined by local MPs; Andy Carter and Charlotte Nichols.


Whether you're interested in climate action or not, this event is for everyone. Join us to hear a range of voices from across Warrington, and discover things you never knew about the town from those that live and work here.


This event is a collaboration between Hope for the Future and Warrington CEE Bill Alliance, a group of local residents, all acting as volunteers, to try to make a difference on the climate agenda.


This event is made possible with funding from the European Climate Foundation.


Register here



 

Nina's Blog: The Search for Good Sustainability Practices


What could Warrington and Los Angeles (LA) have in common?


It is not annual average sunlight hours, that is for sure! In Warrington we have 1420 versus a much sunnier and more than double 3348 in LA. LA is one of the wealthiest places in one of the wealthiest states in America (California). Still not seeing the common ground Warringtonians? I am not surprised, but we could copy their Sustainability Plan, and that is something great we could have in common. Stay with me, there is method in what might sound madness.


When I started my sustainability discovery in Warrington, our sustainability plan was the first thing I looked for. Warrington had declared a Climate Emergency in 2019 and the focus became energy in line with the net zero carbon targets we associate with the Paris Agreement https://www.warrington.gov.uk/climate-emergency other than the recently introduced Green Bond https://www.edie.net/news/10/Warrington-Borough-Council-launches-resident-funded-green-bond-in-bid-to-reach-net-zero/ I couldn’t see how Warrington Council had engaged with its residents and together come up with a sustainability plan we could all feel part of.


I started to look for an example of somewhere that did, and had someone I knew who lived there, so I could get behind the marketing. That was LA.



Interesting, because Trump withdrew the USA from the Paris Climate Agreement and was a climate change denier (predominately because he did not think that the people who voted for him wanted him to focus on that, something we do have in common politically in Warrington) finding a positive American case study was great.


When President Trump announced his plan to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, Mayor Garcetti announced his plan to adopt it. He has since brought 400 Climate Mayors along and has kept the Sustainable City pLAn in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. More interesting is that he did not do this on his own:


  • A goal of a collation of Climate Mayors - Mayor Garcetti co-founded Climate Mayors, a bipartisan network of over 400 U.S. mayors representing nearly 70 million Americans from 47 states working together to express and build political will for effective federal and global policy action on climate change

  • A goal of Fossil Fuel Free Streets - Mayor Garcetti and 11 other international mayors signed the Fossil Fuel Free Streets Declaration, pledging to purchase only zero-emission buses beginning in 2025 and ensure that a major area of their city is zero emission by 2030

  • C40. Connecting 94 of the world’s megacities for climate action, C40 is the premier city-led coalition in the fight against climate change. Mayor Garcetti was re-elected for a second term as C40 Vice Chair in September 2017


It is impressive, built on a backdrop of no support from the then elected President Trump. A reminder that we do not all get the leaders we vote for, and this should not stop us getting involved and influencing decisions that impact us all. The best decisions are made when a diverse set of voices are heard. The collaborative approach taken by Mayor Garcetti should be celebrated and not underestimated. Getting politicians to work together seems to be getting harder, even when the topics like Sustainability and Climate Change should be effortlessly cross party.


This was not the bit I was looking for though, the Neighbourhood Toolkit was the head turner for me. Check it out here https://plan.lamayor.org/neighborhood-council/neighborhood_council.html a neat, simple idea. “Thoughtful actions have a big impact, and there is no time to wait. The goal of this toolkit is to provide support and sample materials for Neighbourhood Council leaders and members to accelerate sustainable action in their communities”.


  • Plant Trees - Plant Free Trees in Your Neighbourhood

  • Landscaping - Plant CA Friendly Landscaping in Your Neighbourhood

  • Electric Vehicle - Make Your Next Car Electric

  • Install Solar - Install Solar Power Where You Live

  • Grow Your Food - Grow Your Own Food

  • Reduce Food Waste - Reduce Food Waste at Home

  • Certify Green Business - Help Businesses Get Certified as Green

  • Monitor Air Quality - Monitor and Improve Air Quality in Your Neighbourhood and Household


You may live in Warrington or LA, the list is the same and creates the same thoughtful impact. Please take the time to click on the links on the website, each one contains a PDF on how to get involved and the benefits of doing that.


What did my friend in LA say about it?




He has some feedback that Mayor Garcetti should listen to for the next evolution of the plan but let us not let the perfect get in the way of the good (Gretchen Rubin Voltaire).


Who would like something like this in Warrington?


Photo by Dave Weston, Our Green Warrington


 

Books


The Natural Health Service:

Isabel Hardman


Journalist Isabel Hardman's acclaimed account of the way in which nature, exercise, and being outdoors helped her recovery from anxiety and depression.



"In 2016, Isabel Hardman's mind, in her own words, 'stopped working' as she fell prey to severe depression and anxiety. She took time off on long-term sick leave and despite several relapses has returned to work in much better health. She has since become one of the country's most prominent public voices on mental health issues.She credits her recovery to her passion for exercise, nature and the great outdoors - from horse-riding and botany to cold-water swimming and running. In The Natural Health Service, she will draw on her own personal experience, interviews with mental illness sufferers and psychologists, and the latest research to examine what role wildlife and fresh air can play in helping anyone cope with mental illness.Straight-talking, thoroughly-researched, and compassionate, this important and often funny book will be fascinate anyone touched by a mental health condition, whether themselves or through the experiences of a loved-one.


Available also as an audiobook




 


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