Please remember we have to respond again to the St Helens Local Plan. This time responses go to the Planning Inspector, not St Helens Council. The inspector will be looking at the plan and deciding if changes are needed. Although we recognise this version of the plan is much improved, we still think there are compelling reasons why the field at Higher Lane/Rookery Lane should to be protected.
It’s unlikely the planning inspector will look in any great detail at the individual sites that have been chosen for development. So we believe our best argument is to point out that releasing green belt land in St Helens Borough is unnecessary. If we can convince the inspector of that point, we think we can save Rookery Lane/Higher Lane and stop 259 houses being built on that field.
So here are some things to consider:
Green belt land should only be released in exceptional circumstances. That is official government and council policy and remains a central part of planning law in this country.
There are no exceptional circumstances in St Helens – a borough with a falling population and house prices below the national and regional average. Housing in St Helens is comparatively cheap and in low demand.
The green belt was created to prevent urban sprawl and over-development. It has served that purpose well. The proposals in the Local Plan would undo that good work.
St Helens is a borough with few other physical assets and significant health problems such as childhood obesity, high rates of heart and lung disease. Destroying protected green belt land in such circumstances would be a step in the wrong direction given the long-term health trends in St Helens.
St Helens Council wants 486 houses built every year in the borough. But the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show St Helens only needs 383 houses a year.
If these most recent figures from the ONS were used, the amount of building on protected land could be significantly reduced.
The council’s own register shows there is enough brown field land in St Helens for 5,818 houses. That would support the council’s housing supply – on its inflated figures – for nearly 12 years.
We will be reflecting these points in the Rainford Action Group response to the Local Plan. You can respond by filling in the form here: https://www.sthelens.gov.uk/planning-building-control/planning-policy/local-plan/comment-form/
Please make sure you fill it in before March 13. And remember to encourage as many people as possible to take part.