The future of a former mining site which could be transformed into an industrial hub bringing hundreds of jobs is being considered once again.
St Helens Council is asking people to fill in a consultation on the former Parkside colliery before the beginning of March.
The site was previously earmarked for a massive rail freight interchange but developer Astral/Prologis pulled out in 2010, leaving the local authority to buy the land.
The latest request for residents to give their opinions comes after St Helens Council developed a new local plan which includes the early stages of work on a scheme for Parkside.
This has drawn a furious response from the Parkside Action Group (PAG), which opposed the rail hub and is angry at the potential loss of green belt land.
However, Parkside Regeneration, the joint venture company responsible for the regeneration, says the development could bring £40m a year in economic activity to the area and create more than 1,200 jobs.
The company stressed work was still in its early stages and several options were being considered.
Parkside Regeneration director John Downes said: “The development proposals at Parkside will take a number of years to complete. The colliery has been identified as a location for a strategic rail freight interchange (SRFI). Work is under way to establish whether this is indeed the required location for this use.
“In the interim there is a need to continue the promotion of development to deliver jobs and regeneration.
“An indicative masterplan will be formulated that will consider the future of Parkside with both rail-linked and non-rail-linked options.
“We have put a lot of thought into how we can minimise the impact of the development on local people and our proposals will include extensive landscape buffers, enhancements to the on-site environment and public access to newly-created parkland areas.
“We are also currently working on a number of studies that will form part of any planning application which will address key considerations such as transport and ecology.”
St Helens Council leader Coun Barrie Grunewald said: “There remains long term, generational unemployment in St Helens and the advice we have received suggests that even a first phase of the colliery’s redevelopment could provide up to 1,200 new jobs.
“That would be a huge boost to the area and a prize worth pursuing.”
However, PAG says it has major concerns about the development as the area already lacks open space and biodiversity due to the area’s road and rail networks.
The group is also worried about congestion on local roads and possible effects on air quality.
Group co-chair Mark Lewis said: “We do not share the council’s vision of this area becoming a logistics hub. The area is already overflowing with traffic and we feel if the development went ahead this would make the problem much worse.
“There have been issues around the area before in regards to air quality and more than 5,000 objections in three separate consultations concerning the green belt.
“We have concerns that other options around the use of brown field land have not been fully explored.
“What cannot be disputed is that jobs will be created but the question must be asked; is this true long-term job creation or simply the transfer of employment from other sites?
“PAG would also like to see all three councils involved consult with the public so they can make their feelings known. Many find the current process difficult to follow and understand.”
However, the group stressed it was not opposed to development but merely wanted to ensure any project to transform the site is sensitive to the local area and within the boundaries of the original colliery.
St Helens Council’s scoping consultation on the Parkside site runs until March 2.