Key issues in St Helens for 2019: Bin collections, Central Library and local elections

It now looks increasingly likely that three-weekly brown bin collections will be rolled out across the borough in 2019.
It now looks increasingly likely that three-weekly brown bin collections will be rolled out across the borough in 2019.
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Despite opposition from the public and within the council it now looks increasingly likely that three-weekly brown bin collections will be rolled out across the borough in 2019.

From February, a trial will be carried out at approximately 1,000 properties across two areas within the town centre.

A revised recycling service will form part of the pilot, which will include the weekly collection of food waste, paper, plastics and cans.

Coun Lynn Clarke, cabinet member for better neighbourhoods, has said the trial will be a “learning experience” for the council, with residents “driving the process” of improving the collection service.

The results of the pilot will return to cabinet following its conclusion with a view to rolling it out across the borough later in the year.

The controversial plans are part of a wider shake-up of waste services and are intended to help the borough reach a 50 per cent national recycling rate target by 2020.

In 2016-17 the recycling rate was 38.9 per cent, but this is expected to fall to 35 per cent by 2018-19 if the authority sticks with the current waste system.

However, council leader Derek Long has said the council will rethink plans if the pilot does not yield the right results.

Central Library has remained closed throughout 2018, much to the public’s dismay.

The council closed the library in March 2017 due to the significant remedial work required in the Gamble Institute.

A Freedom of Information request revealed earlier this year that the estimated cost of refurbishing the building is £427,895.

The council, which is still carrying out a review into the borough’s library service, has previously stated its intentions to move Central Library to a new town centre venue.

The World of Glass has been touted as the most likely destination.

Other suggested venues include St Mary’s Market, the former Burton’s store and the Beacon Building.

Coun Anthony Burns, the portfolio holder for libraries, was grilled by the environment, regeneration, housing, culture and leisure overview and scrutiny panel in November.

The panel’s chairman Martin Bond said people were “crying out” for the Central Library situation to be resolved.

And Billinge and Seneley Green Labour councillor Dennis McDonnell said he was getting daily complaints from elderly residents regarding the closure of Central Library.

With the public’s patience wearing thin, it seems likely the council will come under increasing pressure to resolve the situation in 2019, one way or another.

It’s more than two years since St Helens Council approved its town centre regeneration strategy, with the authority unveiling its ambitious 10-year masterplan late last year. On the face of it appears as though little has changed in the last two years.

While a number of new businesses have launched in the town centre in 2018, vacant units continue to blight the high street.

Next year the town centre will receive a massive boost with the opening of the £1.8 million bowling alley at West Point, which will see the creation of 35 jobs.

The 14 lane 10-pin bowling venue, operated by Superbowl UK, is set open in March, and will include a soft play centre, amusement arcade, diner and bar.

It’s also safe to expect to see changes within Church Square Shopping Centre, which the council bought for £26.6 million in October 2017. The council see Church Square as “pivotal” to its overall strategy.

However, the town centre will be dealt a huge blow in 2019 when Marks & Spencer leaves its Church Street base and relocates to Ravenhead Retail Park and Argos closes its Hardshaw Centre branch.

In November, council leader Derek Long said “solid progress” was being made on the regeneration of the town centre but warned that things would not “happen overnight”.

Regardless, members of the public will certainly expect to see more visible evidence of this progress in 2019.

Construction is expected to conclude on the first warehouse at the Florida Farm North development in 2019

While there has been strong opposition from members of the public, the fact remains that the Haydock development will bring much-needed jobs to the borough.

Bericote Properties say the first warehouse, referred to as Unit 1, will bring 1,000 jobs, and has confirmed that an occupier has been found.

Numerous reports in the trade press have linked Amazon with the development, although the online retailer has remained tight-lipped.

Construction on the second warehouse, which is the bigger of the two, is expected to begin shortly after Unit 1 is occupied.

Bericote revealed in September that £40 million of funding had been secured from a “multi-billion-pound US investment company” to construct Unit 2, which it says will deliver 1,500 jobs.

In addition to the Florida Farm North development, a major new logistics site in Haydock is also expected to be completed in 2019.

The Haydock Green development centres on the construction of two large warehouses, one on a 7.2-acre plot and the other on a 17-acre plot.

Pharmaceutical logistics firm Movianto is due to move to the site in 2019 from its existing base at Knowsley Industrial Estate.

Movianto’s operations will centre on a 373,000-sq ft distribution centre, which is expected to deliver 300 jobs.

May will once again see residents head to the polls to vote for their local councillor.

In St Helens, residents are asked to elect one third of the local councillors every year for three years, with no election held on the fourth year.

While it is still far too early to predict the outcome, it may be a safe bet to expect a number of independent councillors run in certain wards, given the outcome of the Rainhill election in May.

Independent candidate James Tasker won the seat by a landslide, trouncing Labour’s Stephen Glover, following a campaign that centred heavily on green belt issues.

Given the growing discontent from green belt campaigners and those who have become disillusioned with local government, there may well be more independents who decide to run for council come May.

There may even be a change of leadership at the helm of the council, following the local elections.