Having received new information, we now believe an application to build a housing estate on protected land by Rookery Lane / Pasture Lane will be made in the coming months by Miller Homes or by a party acting on their behalf.
We believe this application will be outside the St Helens Local Plan and will likely be in addition to whatever other Rainford sites are allocated by St Helens Council in the next version of the plan. It could also prompt other builders to apply for planning permission again outside the local plan on the Rainford sites they have optioned, in short builders could soon be scrambling to develop our countryside.
We have come to this conclusion following extensive research and discussions with Resolve Public Affairs. This PR firm sent letters to businesses and a limited number of residents last week asking for views on proposals for a road from Pasture Lane to Sandwash Close, apparently to serve a new warehouse to be built on land allocated for employment use.
Crucially their letter also talks about bringing forward green belt for development. They have since told us that the road won’t happen without the housing. The land in question is HS21 in the Local Plan and in the last version was safe until 2033. We now believe the developers won’t wait until that time and won’t even wait for the local plan to be approved.
This is a lot to take in, we have decided to hold a public meeting on Sunday July 8th in which we will attempt to outline what we think the current situation is and our position on it. The meeting will be held at Rainford Village Hall at 6.30pm.
In the meantime, we urge everyone who wants to see the protected sites in Rainford and the character of our village maintained, to respond to the public affairs company via the attached questionnaire or the below email addresses:
Tamsyn.firstname.lastname@example.org / Emily.Parkin@resolvepublicaffairs.co.uk
They have asked for a Yes or No answer to whether their proposal is a good idea, there is a small optional section for comments, there is no need to add a comment but if you do please keep objections generic, so we don’t reveal arguments we may need later.
Please be aware your responses relate to the early development of site HS21 for housing and not just the road and industrial development, Resolve have admitted there is no option to have one without the other.
Please help us protect our village and submit a reply all replies must include your name and address
Rainford needs more green space not less, say campaigners
- Village has least green space in whole of St Helens
- Development of Rainford’s Grade One farmland would have “national significance”
Rainford needs more green space not less say campaigners who have learnt the village has the least amount of green space in the whole of St Helens Borough.
Rainford Action Group has seen a report produced by St Helens Council that states the provision of green space in Rainford is below every other part of the town.
The village has no maintained parks and the amount of green space in Rainford falls short of the recognised standard.
Yet the council wants to tear up the green belt boundary in Rainford and allow building on six sites that are currently protected – further reducing the amount of green land.
Rainford Action Group has also seen figures that suggest building on the land in Rainford would have “national significance”.
Each site in the village that the council included in its development blueprint, the St Helens Local Plan, is Grade One farmland, the highest quality land possible.
Rainford Action Group has seen figures from Natural England showing that just 2.7% of land in England is classed as Grade One farmland.
According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, between 1998 and 2008 only 900 houses were built on Grade One land across the whole of England.
St Helens Council proposed building more than 1,140 houses on Grade One farmland in its Local Plan in Rainford alone.
Campaigners say the loss of so much fertile land would have an impact nationally on food production, particularly at a time when Britain’s withdrawal from the EU will mean domestic food production will be even more important. The environment minister Michael Gove has recently raised his concerns about soil quality.
James Wright, chair of Rainford Action Group, said: “Rainford is a beautiful part of the world but the amount of green space the public can actually use in the village is very low compared to other areas. For example there are no parks in Rainford unlike other parts of St Helens.
“This is why the countryside means so much to the people of Rainford. The green belt is the only green space we get to enjoy and St Helens Council is threatening to take it away.
“Not only will this have a massive impact locally but we think the loss of so much Grade One farmland will be nationally significant.
“St Helens Council proposed building more houses on Grade One farmland in Rainford than were built on such land in the whole of the country over ten years. That’s reckless and irresponsible.
“This Christmas, people across the UK will be eating vegetables grown in Rainford’s fields. Our farmers supply some of the biggest supermarket chains in the country. If these fields are built on, the country will lose a significant amount of its most fertile land and supermarkets will lose important suppliers. This is the exact opposite of what we should be doing now we face the prospect of food insecurity caused by Brexit.”
In a 2016 report, St Helens Council found that:
Rainford has no parks but does have other land for people to use such as the protected fields the council now wants developers to build on.
Rainford only has 1.92 hectare per 1,000 population of natural and semi-natural green space – less than the recommended standard of 2 hectare per 1,000.
Given the shortage of green space in the village Rainford Action Group is calling on St Helens Council to reconsider its plans.
James Wright said: “Rainford needs more green space not less. St Helens Council must recognise their own findings that clearly show Rainford people get a poor deal when it comes to green space.
“That is currently offset by the protected land they can enjoy but if this land is destroyed the lack of available green space in Rainford will become a serious problem.
“The council has said it won’t publish the next version of its Local Plan until next summer. For many reasons, the proposals for Rainford need to be radically rewritten.”
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?”