St Helens Council unveil latest Local Plan

St Helens Town Hall
St Helens Town Hall

St Helens Council has unveiled the next version of its much-anticipated Local Plan.

The long-delayed plan, which covers development in the borough from 2020 to 2035, has today been published as part of the cabinet papers for its next meeting on Wednesday, December 12.

Biscuits are just one of many items concerned in the plan

Biscuits are just one of many items concerned in the plan

The plan has gone through numerous changes since the last version was shown to the public in 2016.

In the “preferred options” version of the plan, the council allocated land to accommodate 570 housing units per annum.

The new plan proposes delivery of 486 per annum, which takes into account increased housing need due to employment growth.

The consultation on the “preferred options” version of the Local Plan sparked a public backlash after the council suggested releasing 1,187 hectares of land from the green belt.

Since then two new brownfield sites, the Cowley Works and the former Suttons distribution centre, have been brought forward for housing development.

In being put forward, it reduces the need for green belt release.

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.

Following the completion of the St Helens Green Belt review, several sites that were previously proposed to be released from the green belt will now remain in the green belt.

This means 59 per cent of the borough will remain in the green belt.

There are sites in eleven wards that were intended to be removed from the green belt but are not now.

These include sites in or extending into Thatto Heath, Moss Bank, Billinge and Seneley Green, Bold, Rainhill, Rainford, Newton, Earlestown, Haydock, Blackbrook and Eccleston.

This is as a result of the technical process of site assessment and the reduced overall need to go into the green belt.

Other green belt sites that were previously earmarked for housing have also been “safeguarded”, which means they cannot be developed over the next 15 years.

One area to be safeguarded is the 49-hectare former Eccleston Park Golf Club site, which is owned by Lymm-based developers Mulbury Homes Ltd.

Previously, 383 homes were earmarked for the site, although development was due to continue beyond 2033, the original end date of the Local Plan.

Another green belt site that was previously earmarked for housing that has now been safeguarded is a 50-hectare site on land south of the A580 between Houghtons Lane and Crantock Grove in Windle.

One site that is no longer safeguarded under the new plan is a 129-hectare site at the Bold Forest Garden Suburb.

Construction of up to 480 homes is expected before 2035, with more than 2,400 homes earmarked for after 2035.

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 it in 2020.

Cabinet will be asked to approve the St Helens Local Plan 2020-2035 before going to full council on December 20.

Both meetings will be streamed live via the council’s webcast service.

There will also be a limited number of seats in the town hall for people to attend in person.