St Helens Green councillors focus on green belt development affecting residents

David O\'Keefe  (left) and David Van Der Burg
David O\'Keefe (left) and David Van Der Burg
Share this article

St Helens Council’s newly-elected Green Party councillors have said they plan to work closely with opposition councillors over the Local Plan.

The party now has its first Green councillors after David Van Der Burg and David O’Keefe were elected at last week’s local elections in Haydock and Bold respectively.

Coun Van Der Burg first stood in Haydock in 2015 – where two seats up for election following the death of Bill Anderton – but only managed to secure five per cent of the vote.

He also failed to be elected in Newton in last year’s elections.

But last week Coun Van Der Burg stunned Labour by securing 1,791 votes, crushing Labour cabinet member Jeanette Banks.

Coun Van Der Burg said he ran a “positive” election campaign that focused on the issues affecting residents – most notably that of green belt development.

Moving forward, Coun Van Der Burg hopes to maintain an “entirely constructive” approach to his work on the council.

The Haydock councillor said he intends to work constructively with Rainhill’s independent councillors James Tasker and Donna Greaves.

Both councillors campaigned largely on green belt issues, with Coun Greaves elected last week following Coun Tasker’s 2018 victory.

Coun Van Der Burg also opened the door to supporting Labour if the party comes up with policies that benefit the people and environment of St Helens.

“A few more opposition councillors will hopefully remind the Labour majority that we all have to work for all our residents,” Coun Van Der Burg said.

“Otherwise they will rightly throw us out.”

Coun O’Keefe added: “We want to have a great working relationship with all of the opposition councillors with regards to the Local Plan.”

Coun O’Keefe has been heavily involved in work the Green Party has carried out in Haydock over the past three years.

Despite this, he said the victory was a “surprise win” for the party.

“We campaigned extensively in Haydock for a three-year period over the green belt release in the Local Plan,” Coun O’Keefe said.

“Bold is a surprise win for the party.

“That was down to our reputation as a pro-green belt and anti-Local Plan party.

“We have been listening to residents in Bold and Haydock and other parts of the borough.

“We will be their voice in the council chamber and we will defend our local environment.”

As well as winning two seats on the council, the Greens also made gains in other areas.

Ellen Finney came particularly close in Blackbrook, missing out to Labour’s Linda Maloney by fewer than 100 votes.

Coun Van Der Burg said the main issue for voters in the borough is the prospect – and reality – of development of green belt land.

In Haydock, there has been heavy opposition from green belt campaigners to the Florida Farm North Project.

Coun Van Der Burg paid tribute to the group, saying members helped him “immeasurably”.

“They have been an invaluable source of information about the developments,” he said.

“Bear in mind that I was only selected to stand for Haydock three months ago, so I had to get up to speed very quickly.

“Both the Residents Against the Florida Farm Development and our dedicated local Green Party members have been out in all weathers delivering leaflets to raise awareness and promote my campaign.”

Coun Van Der Burg also credited the support of the Greens’ 2018 Haydock candidate, Amy Deluce, who came close to winning the seat from Labour.

“Her assistance and support was unstinting,” Coun Van Der Burg said.

“I hope in the future that she will join me on the council.”