Councillor says Local Plan is 'insulting' to St Helens residents

The Local Plan goes before the council this week
The Local Plan goes before the council this week
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An independent councillor has called on Labour members to vote down the latest version of the St Helens Local Plan.

The plan, which was published last week, is expected to be approved by cabinet on Wednesday and will go before full council on December 19.

A number of changes have been made since the “preferred options” plan was shared with the public in 2016, most notably in regard to the green belt.

Currently, 65 per cent of the borough is in the green belt.

The preferred options plan set out intentions to cut this to 56 per cent. This has now shifted to 59 per cent under the latest version.

In addition, some green belt sites that were previously earmarked for housing have now been “safeguarded”.

These include Eccleston Park Golf Club, which is owned by Mulbury Homes, and land south of the A580 between Houghtons Lane and Crantock Grove in Windle.

Safeguarded sites are protected from development for 15 years and would need allocating in a future plan.

However, the 15-year protection is not sufficient for Rainhill councillor James Tasker, who said the plan is “insulting” to residents.

Coun Tasker was voted onto the council in May, defeating Labour’s Stephen Glover by a landslide in May’s local elections after campaigning heavily against green belt development.

He has now called on Labour councillors to vote down the Local Plan to seek further amendments.

Coun Tasker said: “I think that the final draft of the Local Plan is insulting to the people of Rainhill and to the people of St Helens.

“The council has managed to come up with a 15-year plan that doesn’t include as much green belt as before but then for some reason at the end of the 15-year plan the council wants to allow large areas of green belt land, such as Eccleston Park Golf Course, to be removed from the green belt.

“To me it doesn’t make any sense. Why have a 15-year plan and then at the end of it throw this in? You have to ask yourself who is this going to benefit?

“I think that the responsibility now lies with the 41 Labour councillors to say no to this plan and to have it amended so that these safeguarded areas that come into play at the end of the Local Plan are removed and we just focus entirely on a 15-year plan from 2020 to 2035.

“We need a Local Plan that is going to be for the people of St Helens not for land developers.

“This will be a huge test for Labour and the decision they make could affect the future of their Party locally and the long-standing control that they have had over St Helens.”

Council leader Derek Long said a new Local Plan process would take place after the 15-year period.

The Labour leader added that the council would be “open to challenge” by developers if it did not safeguard land.

Coun Long said: “Our balanced plan means that 59 per cent of the borough cannot be built on.

“In addition, we are safeguarding even more land for at least 15 years, after which a new Local Plan process would take place.

“Without safeguarded land, our current plan would be more open to challenge by builders.

“The sites in the Local Plan were allocated using an evidence-based approach.”

Subject to approval by cabinet and full council, an eight-week publication period will begin in January to allow the public to view the plan and submit representations to the council.

The plan will be submitted to an independent planning inspector in the summer, with the council aiming to adopt the plan in 2020.