Rainford Action Group

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Press Release – 13/03/2019

Rainford Action Group (RAG) Representation;

 St. Helens Local Plan 2020-2035 Proposed Submission Draft

 

March 2018

  1. Purpose
  2. Introduction
  3. Overall Plan
  4. Comments on site 8HA (Land South of Higher Lane and East of Rookery Lane, Rainford)
  5. Appendix 1

 

Key
Abbreviation Full Title
SHLP St. Helens Local Plan 2020 -2035 Proposed Submission Draft
SHBC St Helens Borough Council (“The Council”)
RAG Rainford Action Group

 

  1. Purpose

 

  • This submission is made on behalf of Rainford Action Group (RAG) in consultation with the concerns raised by the local residents and complements the SHGBA submission by Kirkwells.
  1. Introduction

 

  • RAG was formed in Dec 2016, initially to help Rainford residents to understand what was being proposed by St. Helens Council in the SHLPP, and to help them through the somewhat complicated submission process.

 

  • Many residents were deeply concerned by the scale of development in Rainford proposed by that document. A committee was formed to represent the views of the community and encourage participation in the process.

 

  • Public meetings were held with over 400 attendees, and a Facebook Group was set up which currently has 1,500 members, as well as a Twitter account with over 1,000 followers.

 

  • RAG welcomes the reduction in the number of sites and housing numbers proposed for Rainford in the St.Helens Local Plan 2020-2035 Proposed Submission Draft.

 

  • RAG is not against development per se, and accepts the need for new housing in the right amount and location and where there is a proven need.

 

  • We would also like to see the early adoption of a local Plan. However, we do not believe that this Proposed Submission Draft passes the tests of soundness as set out in paragraph 35 of the National Planning Policy Framework (February 2019) (NPPF ) and there are number of issues we feel need to be addressed which are set out below.

 

  1. Overall Plan

In summary our issues with the overall plan are;

 

  • There are no exceptional circumstances to justify not using the standard method to calculate housing need

 

  • The economic analysis is flawed and based on over-optimistic assumptions

 

  • The level of land needed for housing and employment is therefore not as high as set out in the Plan

 

  • There are therefore no exceptional circumstances to change Green belt boundaries

 

  • Other reasonable alternatives have not been fully explored, including lower target figures and using more previously developed land and remedial work to bring back into use land currently classified as contaminated

 

  • The Council have failed to co-operate with other councils and have not published any statement(s) of common ground.

 

  • Traffic & congestion are already a serious issue for Rainford residents, with the village situated at the ‘wrong’ side of the A580 East Lancs Road for access to St Helens. Windle Island has been a severe pinch point for many years and the current works to improve the junction will only give 13% headroom over current levels. This will be swallowed up by additional freight traffic from warehouse and housing developments in the Plan and already approved at Florida Farm, plus increased Superport traffic. This will serve to limit economic growth.

 

[Note: Points 3.1 to 3.6 are covered in detail in the Kirkwell’s submission on behalf of St Helens Green Belt Association, and by Dr Athey’s submission.]

 

  1. Comments on Site 8HA

(Land South of Higher Lane and East of Rookery Lane, Rainford)

 

  • Only 4 sites score 4 negatives* (red) on the Sustainability Appraisal, and the other 3 have all been discarded. SHBC’s own assessment is that 8HA is the least appropriate Green Belt site allocated for housing in Phase 1. It is therefore logical that this should be the first site Green Belt site released from development if the housing need is reduced. We are arguing (3.1 above) that the Council should use the Standard method of 468 rather than the uplifted 486, which over 19 years equates to 342 fewer houses. This comfortably exceeds the 259 houses planned for site 8HA

 

  • This site is next to an Industrial Area and subject to the risks associated with industrial activity such as pollution and even explosions, both of which have been recorded recently. Other sites have been excluded during the site assessment phase due to being next to similar industrial employment land – for example see SHLAA 2016 site assessment ref 16m & 142. (See Appendix 1 for further details)

 

  • The site is Grade 1 Agricultural Land and is some of the most fertile land in the Country. Just 2.7% of the surface area of England is as Grade 1 Agricultural Land. It is actively farmed, providing 2 crops per year and employment in the agricultural sector. These jobs are threatened by the proposed removal of this site from the Green Belt. Housing in close proximity to the Industrial Area will limit future activity and expansion of this site, due to health, safety and amenity concerns. The SHLP is intended to promote employment and economic growth yet this will have the opposite effect.

 

  • Site 8HA is close to two accident blackspots in Rainford at either end of Mill Lane and traffic from this site will inevitably pass through one or other of these junctions on the way to/from St Helens

 

  • The site is reasonably well served by bus, with hourly bus services to St Helens and Ormskirk, but poorly served by rail with the nearest train station located in Rainford Junction over 2 miles away with minimal parking facilities.

 

  • The site promotes biodiversity and sustains wildlife. Building will destroy habitat and reduce biodiversity. Mitigation is not properly addressed in the Plan.

 

APPENDIX 1

 

Supporting details for point 4.2

 

The requirements scheduled for this development in the site profile in Appendix 5 are;

  • Safe highway access should be provided from both Rookery Lane and Higher Lane (with any necessary off-site improvements).
  • Appropriate noise attenuation measures, should be incorporated to protect new residents from unacceptable noise levels from the adjoining industrial area.
  • A flood attenuation feature and habitat creation (similar to existing woodland to the south-east of the site) would be required along the south -western boundary with Rainford Linear Park (minimum 25m).
  • Existing protected trees within the site should be given due consideration in line with Policy LPC10. • The design and layout should provide for a range of house types in accordance with Policy LPC01 and LPC02.

 

There is no indication that either safety or pollution issues have been adequately considered. Smoke and pollution have been observed on a number of occasions extending onto the proposed site.

 

NEWS REPORT ON EXPLOSION

 

On 28th May  2018 there was a “huge explosion” at one of the units adjacent to this site, which is an example of the dangers of siting housing so close to industrial activity. See report and photo below from the Liverpool Echo

 

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/reports-massive-explosion-before-fire-14711206

 

A “massive explosion” was heard shortly before a fire broke out at a Merseyside industrial estate this evening.Fire crews were called to Rainford Industrial estate, in St Helens , at around 7.40pm to reports of thick black smoke coming from the building on Sandwash Close.People in the area at the time said the bang was so loud it “shook the windows”.

One woman, who lives on Mill Lane, told the ECHO: “We we’re having a barbecue out the back and heard a massive explosion. It startled us all a bit and my husband said it shook the windows in the kitchen.“When we came out to look we could see the black smoke coming out. It looked like it was travelling for miles.”

Another local resident said she was walking her dog on the “dirt track” next the industrial estate when she heard between six and eight bangs and saw thick smoke and big flames shoot into the air.

Crews are still battling the large fire at the site but the smoke has subsided significantly and it appears to be under control.

A road closure is currently in place on Sandwash Close and people are asked to avoid the area.

A Merseyside Police spokesperson said on Twitter: “Please be aware that we have received reports of a large fire at MillLane – RainfordIndustrialEstate.

Press Release – 25/02/2019

*IMPORTANT*
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.

Press Release – 14/02/2019

Campaign group putting together “robust response” to St Helens Local Plan

– Rainford Action Group says no evidence green belt land needs to be destroyed

– Group working with experts to make “compelling case” to the Planning Inspector

– Brexit and the climate crisis show the importance of saving protected land.

Rainford Action Group is preparing a “robust response” to the St Helens Local Plan and will make a “compelling case” to the Planning Inspector that destroying protected land in St Helens is “unjustifiable”.

The group has enlisted expert professional advice following a fundraising effort.

These professionals are helping Rainford Action Group respond to the St Helens Local Plan, which was approved by St Helens Council last year. A consultation on the plan closes on March 13.

The council included a huge piece of grade one agricultural land in Rainford for development. Testing on the field, which is owned by the estate of Lord Derby, began this week.

But Rainford Action Group says the site, between Higher Lane and Rookery Lane, should be saved. It’s been earmarked for 259 new houses.

James Wright, chair of Rainford Action Group, said: “Planning law states that green belt land can only be released if exceptional circumstances are shown to exist. The Draft Local Plan barely mentions exceptional circumstances and provides no evidence to justify destroying protected land. There are no exceptional circumstances in St Helens so the green belt should stay exactly as it is.

“Throughout this whole process there has been this pretence that St Helens is some kind of boom town with people flocking to live here. The reality, as all residents know, is very different.

“However much we may wish the situation to be different, wishful thinking doesn’t count in planning law. This borough has had a falling population for 30 years and has some of the lowest house prices in the North West. The facts don’t support a green belt review so protected land must be saved.”

The group is currently drawing up its response to the Local Plan with the support of professional planning experts.

James Wright said: “We’re putting together a robust response to the plan and believe we have a compelling case that destroying protected land is unjustified.

“With Brexit now days away, the ability to grow our own food in this country has never been more important so destroying some of the most fertile land in the country would be reckless in the extreme. And with each new day bringing fresh details of the climate crisis our planet faces, we should be looking to save rural land not build on it.

“We hope as many people as possible respond to the planning inspector and point out the obvious flaws in this latest plan.”