• Conor’s response to St Helens Council’s Local Plan preferred options consultation

    The public consultation on St Helens Council’s Local Plan preferred options closed today at noon, and as previously stated I am publishing my response to it.

    It’s important to clarify that the Local Plan is the responsibility of the Council, and the preferred options are those put forward by the Council. The Council was responsible for running the consultation process and is responsible for answering queries about the details of the plan and what it proposes. As a Member of Parliament, I do not have any formal role in any decisions taken in relation to the Local Plan.

    I do, however, have very strong interests in something that is of such significance to the community I represent as one of two local Members of Parliament. I made clear at the start of the process that in formulating my response to the Local Plan consultation, I would take on board the views of residents, businesses, community groups and all those constituents who wished to contact me about it. I received a total of forty-eight emails from constituents, and a further four constituents came to see me at my surgeries. I passed on their views to the Council as well as personally responding to each one. As well as reflecting the views expressed by constituents, I have also put forward my own views based on the platform that I stood on when I was elected as MP for St Helens North in 2015, and the vision I have for St Helens to be an attractive place to live, work and visit.

    I realise that the Local Plan will continue to be a topic of debate and discussion. I look forward to St Helens Council’s response to the submissions received through the consultation and I will continue to closely monitor progress on these matters.

     

    Mike Palin

    Chief Executive

    St Helens Council

    Town Hall

    Victoria Square

    St Helens

    WA10 1HP

     

    30th January 2017

    Dear Mike,

    I am writing to set out my response to St Helens Council’s Local Plan preferred options consultation. In doing so I shall be reflecting issues and concerns which have been raised with me by my constituents over the consultation period.

    I welcome the vision set out in the plan for St Helens to be an attractive place to live, work and visit.

    I fully support the ambition to win investment and create employment in our borough, making the most of the opportunities afforded to us by our location in the heart of the North West situated between Manchester and Liverpool.

    I recognise that the Council is required by the Government to produce a local plan which must be based on strong evidence of need.

    The proposals include the removal of land from the greenbelt, and I believe it is therefore important that the Council clearly demonstrates and fully explores the need for this and commits where possible to meeting land requirements for both housing and employment sites from the redevelopment of brownfields sites.

    Many of my constituents have expressed concerns about the amount of greenbelt land the plan proposes to release. If the Council believes and can demonstrate it has no alternatives to the release of greenbelt for housing then it could address some of those concerns by, for example, considering a stepped housing target, with identified land released in phases rather than altogether with a focus maintained on bringing back into use brownfield sites.

    I am disappointed that the funding historically provided by the UK Government to bring brownfield sites back into use has been stopped, which makes it difficult to decontaminate land previously used by industry in areas like Parr.

    I support the need to encourage investment within the borough and for the plan to reflect ambition in terms of creating opportunities for jobs and growth. However the Council must take into account the impacts such developments will have on transport infrastructure, particularly the road network, which is under significant pressure in Haydock, Blackbrook, Moss Bank and the eastern part of the borough where local roads meet the M6 and the A580.

    The Council must also take into consideration the capacity of local schools, NHS and other services and their ability to meet the demands of an increasing population in the areas identified in the plan for housing. This applies across the constituency but is a particular issue in the communities of Rainford, Billinge, Garswood and Windle where residents already feel services are stretched and would have difficulty meeting additional demand created by additional housing.

    I welcome the inclusion of Parkside within the plan and the identification of Earlestown as the second town centre within the borough, but the plan needs to be clear that any traffic generated from the Parkside development will be directed to the motorway network in such a way as to minimise the impact on Earlestown, Newton-le-Willows and in particular Newton High Street.

    If the Council allocates land for employment at the level envisaged, it must strive to encourage a mix of sustainable employment opportunities. I recognise the high level of demand from the logistics sector because of our location, and I welcome the job opportunities this will bring for local residents, but we must encourage the delivery of a range of employment opportunities including the creation of highly skilled jobs.

    Residents in a number of areas have also raised concerns over the allocation of land at risk of flooding. I would like to be assured that in putting forward these sites the Council has undertaken a full flood risk assessment and any developments on these sites would not increase existing risk of flooding.

    I am aware that other authorities, in particular those in Greater Manchester are in the process of producing their own local plans, and that these plans identify land in areas bordering my constituency. In these instances, St Helens Council and the relevant other authorities in Wigan, West Lancashire, Warrington and Knowsley should work in close cooperation to ensure balance on both sides of local government boundaries, which often do not reflect the hinterland of some of our communities and where residents access services. The plan needs to take greater account of these areas in the final recommendations.

    I want every resident of St Helens to have a good quality of life and I welcome recent investments in projects like the restoration of Sankey Canal to open up our borough and provide excellent green spaces and landscapes for recreational and health related activity. Investment in projects such as this, alongside parks and areas like Lyme and Wood Pits Country Park, enhance the natural beauty of our area and accessibility to nature and greenspace.

    Any development will need to include corresponding work to improve and enhance current infrastructure to meet the needs of a growing population. Economic growth has to provide quality and sustainable employment opportunities and opportunities for local businesses to benefit from any developments which take place. As part of this, I want to see opportunities for local construction and related companies and trades people, with developers and the local authority working in conjunction with St Helens College and St Helens Chamber to guarantee apprenticeships and local jobs.

    I understand the challenges faced in producing a local plan and the balance which must be struck in addressing the concerns of residents and in equipping the borough for the future. I hope the issues and points I have raised will be taken into account.

    In 2018 we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the creation of our borough of St Helens, which led the industrial revolution. We provided the fuel upon which the future was crafted through coal and chemicals, and shaped the country with rail and glass, engineering and production.

    We now have an opportunity for St Helens to take its place again at the heart of the North West and the UK, optimistic about our future and ready to lead once more.

    Yours sincerely,

    Conor McGinn MP

    St Helens North

     

     

  • Conor visits Happy Hands

    Happy Hands

    Conor McGinn MP visited the Happy Hands group based in St Helens. Happy Hands supports families and children who are deaf, hard of hearing or have communication difficulties through a disability.

    The group, funded through Children in Need, is based at the Deaf Resource Centre on Dentons Green Road. It meets every week to provide support and information for families as well as days out and activities for the children to increase self-confidence and improve communication.

    Conor visited the centre to meet the children attending the group, parents and volunteers and discuss the work they do, and some of the issues faced by the local deaf community.

    Conor said:

    “I would like to thank Joa Lee for the invitation to visit the group, they are providing an excellent and important service.

    “The opportunity for parents to find support and for their children to meet, play together and take part in activities is invaluable. The young people certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves.

    “The visit was also an opportunity to talk to their parents about some of the issues facing the Deaf community.

    “That the Department for Work and Pensions has failed to provide interpreters at benefits assessments is seriously concerning.
    “It is important that Government and the public are aware issues facing the Deaf community. I will continue support Happy Hands and help in any way I can.”

  • Conor McGinn urges local charities to apply for funding from People’s Postcode Lottery

    Peoples Postcode lottery

    Conor McGinn, St Helens North MP, is encouraging local charities to apply for grants from a £6 million funding pot from the People’s Postcode Lottery.

    The cash is available from three different funds: The Postcode Local Trust; The People’s Postcode Trust; and the Postcode Community Trust.

    People’s Postcode Trust seeks applications for projects that focus on the prevention of poverty, promotion of human rights, equal rights and conflict resolution for some of society’s most vulnerable groups. Postcode Local Trust supports wildlife, sustainability and volunteering initiatives. Postcode Community Trust focuses on grass-roots sports, arts, recreation and healthy living programmes.

    There will be two opportunities for groups to apply in 2017 (January and August) and £3 million will be available for each funding round.

    In the first round of funding, charities have from now until February 10 2017 to submit an “expression of interest” form. Charities will then be shortlisted to complete a full application for funding.

    Commenting, Mr McGinn, said:

    “This is a great chance for charities in St Helens to get a special project off the ground to benefit the local community.

    “The money will go to many different types of projects so I would encourage local charities to make an application and try to secure some funding.”

    Clara Govier, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said:

    “We encourage charities to put themselves forward for this funding and to have a look at the different Trusts to see where their project fits in.”

    More information on how local charities can is available at the following websites: www.postcodetrust.org.ukwww.postcodelocaltrust.org.uk,www.postcodecommunitytrust.org.uk

  • Conor McGinn MP backs Cervical Cancer Prevention Week as new figures reveal one in four local women miss vital tests

    Cervical cancer to upload

    Conor McGinn, St Helens North MP, is supporting a new drive to encourage more women to get tested for cervical cancer.

    Latest figures show that cervical screening coverage in the North West is only 72.3%, meaning that more than one in four eligible women in the region did not attend their screening appointment.

    Mr McGinn is backing Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust to help raise awareness of the disease and the importance of cervical screening.

    Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is the only UK charity dedicated to women affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities.

    Every year around 3,200 women in the UK are given a cervical cancer diagnosis.

    Almost 900 losing their lives to the disease, but the cervical screening programme saves an estimated 5,000 lives every year.

    However, the number of women taking up this potentially lifesaving test is declining and uptake is now at a 19-year low in England.

    Commenting, Conor McGinn said:

    “I am very concerned that more than one million women in England – including more than one in four across the North West – did not attend cervical screening last year.

    “Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35 and is on the rise in women over 50.

    “But screening provides the best protection against the disease and can detect abnormal cells which if not treated or monitored, could develop in to cervical cancer.

    “We need raise awareness about the importance of cervical screening and I am glad to support Cervical Cancer Prevention Week.”

    Robert Music, Chief Executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “We have one of the best cervical screening programmes in the world which saves approximately 5,000 lives a year. However, the number of women attending their screening is at a 19-year low.

    “If we do not increase investment in prevention, we will be faced with more women facing the physical and psychological cost of cervical cancer, increased burden on the NHS and state, and more lives lost.”

    Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust (www.jostrust.org.uk) is the UK’s only charity for women dedicated to women affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities. The National Helpline is on 0808 802 8000.

    Cervical Cancer Prevention Week runs from 22-28 January 22-28.

  • Animal cruelty sentencing

    Groups such as the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) and Battersea Dogs and Cats’ Home have expressed concern about the sentences for animal cruelty, which do not always appear to match the abuse suffered by the animals, especially in the case of extreme cruelty such as dog fighting. I agree that any sentences given by the courts must reflect the seriousness of these crimes. The level of cruelty to animals is worrying and it is important that we send out a strong and powerful message that animal cruelty must stop.

    At the 2015 General Election I stood on a manifesto which included a commitment to improve protection for cats and dogs. And I continue to support the LACS’ dog-fighting action plan which, amongst other things, proposes a national register of individuals banned from keeping dogs to be held by statutory agencies.

    Unfortunately, the Government is yet to make any significant changes to ensure that the punishment for animal cruelty reflects the gravity of the crime. The Government recently said that it has no plans to introduce an animal abusers register. I believe the Government should consider increasing magistrates’ sentencing powers, and ensuring that the most serious cases of animal abuse are heard at the Crown Court.

    As I am sure you are aware, there are two Private Members’ Bills currently before Parliament, which aim to increase the maximum sentences available for the offences of animal fighting and animal cruelty. The Animal Fighting (Sentencing) Bill and the Animal Cruelty (Sentencing) Bill are both scheduled to have their second reading debate on Friday 24 February 2017. However, they are currently the fifth and sixth Bills on the order paper for the day and so it is therefore unlikely that these Bills will be debated or progress any further.

    Nevertheless, I will monitor any developments and I can assure you that I will continue to press for clear and enforceable penalties against anyone who commits animal cruelty offences.