• 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