St Helens Borough’s Local Plan is now a step closer to adoption following approval of a report to Cabinet today (Wednesday 23rd September) that recommended submission of the plan to the Secretary of State.
The Local Plan sets out the borough’s existing needs for housing, employment, infrastructure and services, together with its future development plans, and strikes a balance between growth, prosperity and quality of life for residents.
Government requires that every local authority area adopts a plan. St Helens Borough’s has been developed around five key priorities: supporting a growing population and strong economy; a continuing commitment to brownfield first development; regenerating town and district centres; protecting and enhancing open green spaces; and investing in infrastructure.
In March this year, the Cabinet asked council officers to review the Local Plan to consider the land use planning implications of the Council’s game-changing partnership with English Cities Fund (ECF), that could unlock the potential to transform large areas of the borough.
Officers resolved that the ECF partnership will help the Council to accelerate delivery on the sites that have been identified in the Local Plan and will put St Helens Borough in a strong position to secure high quality development, supporting the borough’s economic recovery.
The ECF’s contribution will be within the tolerances already identified in the plan and so officers concluded that there is no need to delay submission of the Local Plan to take further account of the proposal.
Their findings were presented and discussed in the report to Cabinet today and agreed unanimously.
St Helens Borough Council Leader, Councillor David Baines said:
“With this decision from Cabinet today we have taken a great stride towards the adoption of a balanced Local Plan for a better future.
“The Local Plan Submission Draft protects the majority of our borough as greenbelt, plus our outstanding parks and open spaces, while also being ambitious for employment and housing growth. And we will continue to explore all opportunities for bringing brownfield sites back into use, as we have done recently in bidding for Liverpool City Region funding to transform the Moss Nook and Cowley Hill sites.
“We want St Helens Borough to be a vibrant, attractive and prosperous place. We want local people to benefit from a good choice of affordable homes, skilled local jobs, efficient infrastructure, beautiful open green spaces, good transport links and better health and wellbeing. This is an even more vital mission after Covid-19. Everything we do is in pursuit of these goals.”
Councillor Richard McCauley, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Planning, said:
“We have developed a plan that allows us to meet the required Government targets on housing, and that can accommodate the growth we want to achieve in St Helens Borough.
“This plan sets out our ambitions to create jobs, build a mix of high quality, affordable homes and shape infrastructure investments utilising brownfield first and foremost.
“It gives residents some certainty about our development plans and future use of land in the borough. It shows where development is planned, and therefore where resources and possible additional infrastructure, such as roads or new schools, are needed to support it.
“It will protect the vast majority of our open green spaces, develop our town and district centres, and help to prevent decisions being made on developments that may not be in the best interests of our local community, as without it we are at the mercy of developers who would be able to cherry-pick development sites without our input.
“Our Local Plan will help us to achieve all the things that matter to you as residents, and to us too.”
The plan has undergone three public consultations with residents, local communities, businesses and other stakeholders, beginning with an initial invitation for feedback on the scope of the plan in 2016.
The Council received nearly 6,000 consultation responses on the Preferred Options version in 2016/17, which were all considered in the latest version of the plan, called the Submission Draft. Approximately 2,000 comments on the Submission Draft have been collated and will be submitted with the plan to the Secretary of State in October.
The Secretary of State appoints an independent planning inspector to examine the plan and representations. The planning inspector will assess the legal compliance of the plan and whether it meets the ‘tests of soundness’ set down in national policy.
They will then decide when the public examination will be conducted. Once known, details of the timescales will be shared online at www.sthelens.gov.uk/localplan.
Publication of the inspector’s report on the Local Plan will formally close the examination stage of the process.
The council will only be able to adopt the plan if it is found to be legally compliant and sound by the planning inspector as set out in their final report.