Rainford needs more green space not less say campaigners who have learnt the village has the least amount of green space in the whole of St Helens Borough.
Rainford Action Group has seen a report produced by St Helens Council that states the provision of green space in Rainford is below every other part of the town.
The village has no maintained parks and the amount of green space in Rainford falls short of the recognised standard.
Yet the council wants to tear up the green belt boundary in Rainford and allow building on six sites that are currently protected - further reducing the amount of green land.
Rainford Action Group has also seen figures that suggest building on the land in Rainford would have “national significance”.
Each site in the village that the council included in its development blueprint, the St Helens Local Plan, is Grade One farmland, the highest quality land possible.
Rainford Action Group has seen figures from Natural England show that just 2.7% of land in England is classed as Grade One farmland.
According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, between 1998 and 2008 only 900 houses were built on Grade One land across the whole of England.
St Helens Council proposed building more than 1,140 houses on Grade One farmland in its Local Plan in Rainford alone.
Campaigners say the loss of so much fertile land would have an impact nationally on food production, particularly at a time when Britain’s withdrawal from the EU will mean domestic food production will be even more important.
he environment minister Michael Gove has recently raised his concerns about soil quality.
James Wright, chairman of Rainford Action Group, said: “Rainford is a beautiful part of the world but the amount of green space the public can actually use in the village is very low compared to other areas. For example there are no parks in Rainford unlike other parts of St Helens.
“This is why the countryside means so much to the people of Rainford. The green belt is the only green space we get to enjoy and St Helens Council is threatening to take it away.
“Not only will this have a massive impact locally but we think the loss of so much Grade One farmland will be nationally significant.
“St Helens Council proposed building more houses on Grade One farmland in Rainford than were built on such land in the whole of the country over ten years. That’s reckless and irresponsible.
“This Christmas, people across the UK will be eating vegetables grown in Rainford’s fields. Our farmers supply some of the biggest supermarket chains in the country. If these fields are built on, the country will lose a significant amount of its most fertile land and supermarkets will lose important suppliers. This is the exact opposite of what we should be doing now we face the prospect of food insecurity caused by Brexit.”
In a 2016 report, St Helens Council found that:
Rainford has no parks but does have other land for people to use such as the protected fields the council now wants developers to build on.
Rainford only has 1.92 hectare per 1,000 population of natural and semi-natural green space – less than the recommended standard of 2 hectare per 1,000.
Rainford has 0.28 hectare per 1,000 population of amenity green space – this is the lowest in the borough. This includes things like recreational space.
Given the shortage of green space in the village Rainford Action Group is calling on St Helens Council to reconsider its plans.
Mr Wright said: “Rainford needs more green space not less. St Helens Council must recognise their own findings that clearly show Rainford people get a poor deal when it comes to green space.
“That is currently offset by the protected land they can enjoy but if this land is destroyed the lack of available green space in Rainford will become a serious problem.
“The council has said it won’t publish the next version of its Local Plan until next summer. For many reasons, the proposals for Rainford need to be radically rewritten.”