St Helens Council has announced the next steps in preparation of the Local Plan, which 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. This will be the version of the plan that the council wants to see adopted, subject to inspection by the independent Planning Inspectorate in Bristol.
Depending on the outcome of the inspection, the council hopes to adopt the Local Plan in 2019 and take the borough through to 2049.
Public consultation on the Local Plan Preferred Options was held over an eight-week period between 5 December 2016 and 30 January 2017 which saw a total of 5,695 responses from local residents, businesses and land-owners.
Councillor John Fulham, St Helens Council’s Cabinet Member for Growth, said: “I would like to thank all of those who submitted their views and evidence to the council earlier in the year, which planning officers have been examining. Following Government’s announcement of a review of technical planning methodologies we 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.”
Local Plans submitted to the Government for examination after 31 March 2018 will be expected to use the new approach to calculating objectively assessed needs, meaning that the St Helens Local Plan must take this into account.
Cllr Fulham continued: “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.”
Government has also requested that all councils publish a register of brownfield land suitable for housing before the end of the year. This has involved council staff conducting lengthy technical assessments, whereas in the past developers have done it at their own expense.
Cllr Fulham added: “Assuming central Government doesn’t make more changes that further slow us down then we hope to progress to the next stage by summer 2018, giving us plenty of time to consider all of the considerable evidence that has been submitted, and to prepare a transport and infrastructure plan, and allow feedback on the second draft.”
“In particular, we are undertaking further work with Highways England on any impact of traffic on the highway network as although we want to see growth we do not want to see an increase in congestion as that will simply work to strangle growth.”
“Although the Local Plan sets the framework of what we want for our communities, any actual planning applications must always be considered on their own individual merits and if they do not live up to the standards and requirements of the Local Plan then the council will find it easier to reject sub-standard applications.
In the plan’s Preferred Options consultation, the regeneration of brownfield land was a key priority for the council, but this would be supplemented by release of a number of sites from the green belt to meet the needs for new homes and employment up to and beyond 2033.
The proposals at that stage included releasing 1,187 hectares of land from the green belt, but keeping 56 per cent of the borough’s land area protected as green belt – still the highest across Merseyside. The proposed submission version of the Local Plan will confirm the council’s approach to this.
For more information visit www.sthelens.gov.uk/localplan where you’ll find the latest Local Plan documents and an extensive list of frequently asked questions.
You can also request to be notified of progress on the Local Plan via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by calling 01744 676190 or by post by writing to Planning Policy Team, Town Hall Annex, Victoria Square St Helens, WA10 1HP.