St Helens Conservative leader urges Local Plan re-write

Councillor Allan Jones
Councillor Allan Jones

An opposition leader has urged St Helens Council to re-write its Local Plan in the face of public opposition to green belt development.

Rainford Action Group has said it would submit a “robust response” to the St Helens Local Plan publication consultation.

Rainford Action Group objects to proposals to remove agricultural land south of Higher Lane in Rainford from the green belt, which is earmarked for around 260 homes.

Tory leader Allan Jones said he and fellow Rainford Conservative councillors Linda Mussell and Rob Reynolds stand firm with the campaign group.

Coun Jones said: “Rainford councillors support the action taken by Rainford Action Group and have themselves submitted comments suggesting the field in Rainford should be taken out of the Local Plan.

“To concrete over prime agricultural land will reduce growing potential, will damage our farming industry and could lose jobs.

“These issues are contradictory to the aims of the Local Plan.”

Coun Jones called on St Helens Council to follow the lead of the Labour-controlled West Lancashire Borough Council, which recently consulted on a review of its adopted Local Plan.

West Lancashire Council said it carried out the review as recent changes to national planning policy requires local authorities to review their Local Plans every five years.

“In the face of public opinion, West Lancs Council are now rewriting their Local Plan,” Coun Jones said.

“I urge St Helens Council to do the same.”

The St Helens Local Plan 2020-2035 submission draft was approved by full council in December, although all opposition councillors voted against it.

Coun Jones claimed during that meeting that the development of the agricultural land in Rainford could lead to the loss of 98 jobs.

However, St Helens Council maintains that the land was actually submitted for consideration for development by its owner, Lord Derby.

A council spokesman said: “Overwhelmingly, local authorities will only look at sites for future development where land has been put forward by the owners.

“The local authority cannot take land from owners for the Local Plan.

“In the case of the agricultural land in Rainford, this was submitted for consideration for development by its owner.”

The council plans to adopt the Local Plan in 2020, subject to approval from an independent planning inspector.