Opposition councillors have risked a “free for all” on green belt development after voting down the Local Plan, the leader of St Helens council has warned.
The submission draft Local Plan was approved by full council on Wednesday, despite Conservative, Liberal Democrats and independent councillor James Tasker voting against it due to concerns over the green belt.
Following the meeting, council leader Derek Long slammed opposition councillors for rejecting the plan, which covers development in the borough from 2020 to 2035.
Coun Long said: “Our opponents voted against all the benefits of the plan.
“By doing this, and not offering any credible alternatives, they have risked the free-for-all development on green spaces that we oppose.”
During the meeting, Rainford councillor and St Helens Conservative leader Allan Jones raised concerns regarding agricultural land south of Higher Lane and in Rainford, which is earmarked for up to 259 homes.
Coun Jones said the farmer and owner of the land would need to look for an alternative site if the land was developed, potentially putting the business at risk.
However, the council has since claimed the site was put forward by the owner.
A council spokesperson 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.”
Following the meeting, Coun Long said he was “delighted” the plan was approved, calling it a “balanced Local Plan for the future our borough”.
Coun Long said: “We have balanced the needs of current and future residents – this plan is about building homes that people can afford to live in.
“It’s about helping local people, young people, to live and work in St Helens – and not have to move away from their area because there are no jobs and house prices are too high because of a lack of availability.
“We are committed to continuously put brownfield development first and are ensuring that 59 per cent of our green belt land cannot be built on, for the life time of this plan.”
Coun Long did not take part in the Local Plan discussion and vote as he is an unpaid council representative of the Parkside Regeneration board, a joint venture between commercial developers Langtree and St Helens Council.
Prior to the meeting, Coun Long said: “As council leader, I became one of the unpaid council representatives on the long-standing partnership set up to regenerate the former Parkside Colliery site.
“For openness and transparency, I will follow my usual practice and make a declaration of interest and follow the convention of leaving the room for that item.”