THE St Helens Green Party has voiced concerns that the views of residents opposed to the proposed green belt developments in the Local Plan "will be ignored".
The Local Plan will set out how much new development for housing and employment there should be in the borough up to 2033 and beyond, where this development should take place, and the policies for protecting the environment.
Council approval for the next version of the Local Plan – known as the proposed submission version – is now expected in early summer 2018. Public consultation on the Local Plan Preferred Options received a total of 5,695 responses from local residents, businesses and land-owners.
The initial draft of the Local Plan document had sparked strong opposition from residents, with campaign groups set across the borough with proposals including reducing green belt from 65 per cent of the borough to 56 per cent. Anti-green belt development groups and the St Helens Green Party have welcomed the delay, with campaigners stressing the crucial thing "is what happens next". Cllr John Fulham, cabinet member for growth, said the delay had come following government’s announcement of a review of technical planning methodologies meaning the council will need to consider the implications for St Helens. "Government has asked local authorities to adopt new Local Plans as soon as possible, and then has increased the workload, slowing us down," he said.
He added: “Looking at the government’s review we are confident that our planning for growth will meet the government’s proposed new standardised method for calculating housing need, and we’re confident that St Helens will achieve growth.” Cllr Fulham added the authority is undertaking further work with Highways England on any traffic impact. In response, St Helens Green Party chair David O'Keefe said: "The councillor’s comments give us reason to believe that respondents to his fundamentally flawed local plan will be ignored. "Cllr Fulham’s new-found concern about congestion resulting from his local plan is interesting to say the least. "Is this the same John Fulham that enthusiastically voted for the extra 6,700 vehicles that the Florida Farm development will bring to our already congested road network?
"Cllrs Fulham and Grunewald are still not listening to the people of St. Helens. Mr Fulham has already ignored the concerns of local residents over congestion at the Florida Farm planning committee meeting. "The road network in St. Helens is at the breaking point and over 100 people in St. Helens die each year due to air pollution from cars and HGVs."
Mr O'Keefe added that the plan was in the interests of the people of St Helens.
He added: “It is a short term plan that will do nothing to stop the decline of our community. "If anything, it will make things much worse for people living in St Helens. Many of those wanting a job in a sector other than logistics will leave the town."
(Courtesy of St Helens Star)