Campaign group calls on council to clarify comments made by senior councillor
Rainford Action Group, which is campaigning to save green belt land in the Merseyside village of Rainford, has called on St Helens Council to clarify comments made by a senior councillor.
St Helens Council wants to redraw the green belt boundary across the borough, allowing vast swathes of protected land to be developed. In Rainford, the council proposed building on six large green belt sites in the village. Each site is grade one farmland, the highest agricultural quality possible.
The proposals were contained in the St Helens Local Plan. A new version of the plan was due to be published earlier this year but has been delayed until summer 2018.
The delay follows a public consultation on the plan which attracted more than 6000 responses from local residents.
In an interview with local radio station Wish FM broadcast on Tuesday November 14, Councillor John Fulham, who is in charge of development at the council, spoke about green belt development.
Councillor Fulham said: “Some of that green belt like at Florida Farm used to be pit head. Some of it used to be coal mines. It’s not as if we are talking about the rolling hills of Shropshire here. But then there are other parts of St Helens that are also listed as green belt that are absolutely outstanding and deserve protection.”
James Wright, chair of Rainford Action Group, said: “We need Councillor Fulham to clarify his comments immediately. St Helens Council is supposed to be reviewing its Local Plan yet the councilor gave the clear impression that it is a forgone conclusion.
“The 6000 people who took part in the consultation earlier this year need to know the council is going to listen to the concerns they have raised. At the moment, it looks very much like the council intends to continue with its development plan unchanged despite the unprecedented outpouring of public opposition it attracted.
“We’d also like to ask Councillor Fulham why he thinks land in Shropshire is worth preserving but land in St Helens is not. He obviously doesn’t know Rainford very well because if he did he would realise the land his council wants to build on in the village is of the highest agricultural quality possible, has been farmed for generations and is outstandingly beautiful.
“The council has never before said a judgement would be taken on which green belt land would been handed over to developers based on past use of the land or for aesthetic reasons. If this kind of judgement is going to be made, who is going to be making it and on what grounds?
“We want St Helens Council to clarify these comments immediately. How can the people of St Helens have faith in this process if senior councillors make such statements so far out from the publication of the next version of the Local Plan?”