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The New Local Plan for St Helens 2018-2033

St Helens Council is preparing a new Local Plan. This Plan will set how much new development for housing, employment and other uses should take place in the Borough. It will identify where new development should take place and set out the policies for assessing planning applications. Details of the stages of the Plan's preparation are set out below.

Preferred Options Consultation

Public consultation on the 'Local Plan Preferred Options' was held over an eight week period between 5th December 2016 until 30th January 2017. Responses received on the Preferred Options consultation are now being considered as the Council prepares the next stage of the Local Plan. This version will present what the Council wants to see adopted for use in the Borough and will be made available for public comment later in 2017.

This next version of the plan and the comments received will then be submitted to the Government for examination by an independent Planning Inspector in early 2018. The Inspector will examine the plan along with the comments made and organise public hearings about the Plan before issuing a report saying if the Council can adopt the Plan or not. We expect to adopt the plan in late 2018.

The Preferred Options consultation document along with other supporting documents including the Draft Green Belt Review is available to view and download below.

Scoping Consultation

The 'Local Plan Scoping Consultation' was held over six weeks between 20th January and 2nd March 2016. It sought views on the scope of the new St. Helens Local Plan. Comments received during this consultation have been considered by the Council when preparing the next stage  - the Preferred Options. The Scoping Consultation document and a summary of the key issues raised and the Council’s response are available to view and download below.

Consultation Documents

The view and download the various evidence base documents such as studies or assessments that are referred to in the Local Plan Preferred Options document, please see our Research, Evidence and Monitoring pageFor further details on the SA and HRA of the Local Plan including the Draft SA Scoping Report, see the Sustainability Appraisal and Habitats Regulations Assessment page. Any Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) also referred to in the plan can be viewed on the Supplementary Planning Documents page.

AECOM have been commissioned by St.Helens Borough Council to undertake a Sustainability Appraisal (SA) and Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) of the Local Plan Preferred Options. These documents and available to view and download below.

For further details on the SA and HRA of the Local Plan including the Draft SA Scoping Report, see the Sustainability Appraisal and Habitats Regulations Assessment page.

What is a Local Plan?

A Local Plan sets out the local planning policies and identifies how land is used.  It determines how much development is required what will be built where.

Why are we having a new Local Plan?

Each local authority has to have an adopted local plan (national government requirement), which needs to be reviewed regularly and has to be kept up to date to meet the development needs of the area it covers.  A review of our employment and housing land provision in 2015 has identified a deficit in both. This has triggered the requirement to prepare a new plan.

What period will the Plan cover?

It is proposed to have the plan adopted by 2018 to cover 15 years up to 2033. The Plan will also propose to release land from the green belt for a further 15 years period thereafter to provide greater certainty over future development in the Borough and to avoid the need for further green belt reviews in the future. This land will be safeguarded from development until the next local plan starts, which is planned to be in 2034, but it could be sooner.

How have we got to this stage / what has happened so far?

In October 2012 the Council adopted a St.Helens Local Plan Core Strategy which stated that land may be required from the Green Belt to meet housing need from 2022 onwards.  Work began on a Green Belt review and Site Allocations Local Plan to identify land to meeting housing and employment needs.  However, in November 2015, in light of new evidence on employment need and housing need and land availability, the St.Helens Council Cabinet agreed to proceed with a new Local Plan to replace the Core Strategy and include site allocations

A consultation was carried out in January 2016 on the scope of the new Local Plan.  It was envisaged that the new Local Plan would contain new targets for housing, employment and retail provision, identify land for housing, employment, retail and other development, be informed by a new housing land availability assessment and Green Belt review, identify land to be protected from development and enhanced and set out policies on the design and location of new development.  The Council then prepared the 'St.Helens Local Plan Preferred Options', which sets out its preferred options for the policies to be contained in the Local Plan.  A consultation was held over an eight week period between 5th December 2016 until 30th January 2017.

Do we need more employment land?

Yes, the Council thinks that an assessment of our employment land supply by independent consultants, as well as market demand, demonstrates that we need more employment land and specifically large sites in strategic locations for the logistics industry.

Do we need more housing?

Yes, the Council thinks that an assessment of our housing land need and supply by independent consultants demonstrates that we need more housing land.

What are the possible positive effect of the Local Plan for St. Helens?

It will help generate more jobs for local people which will support the local economy which in turn will support local retail and leisure, creating further more jobs.

More housing in all the key settlements of the Borough will create a wider choice and greater affordability for local residents.

Both increased employment and better housing will have a positive impact on the health of the Borough, and new hot food takeaways near schools will be prevented.

The Plan will require that new housing development over 10 homes in size provide a proportion of the new housing as affordable housing, as bungalows and as housing that can be adapted to the needs of the infirm or elderly.

The Plan reinforces the protection of public open space and sports facilities, and requires new development not to increase the risk of flooding, and in places it will be required to reduce the likelihood or severity of flooding.

What is Green Belt land?

Green Belt is not a physical feature but a concept created by the planning system in the 1930s. It is not about the ecology or habitat value of the land and most parts of England don’t have any Green Belt. The purpose is not to prevent development at all cost but to restrict it to ensure efficient use of land and prevent major settlements from merging into each other.

Is the Green Belt changing? What are the proposals for the Green Belt in the Borough?

The Council is proposing to release some of the Green Belt for housing and employment land though the Local Plan process.  At present 65% of the Borough is Green Belt (8,844 hectares), and the preferred options being consulted on proposes releasing some green belt land as there is a need for that land to be released to meet our housing and employment land need from 2018 to 2033, and then from 2034 onwards.  The Council has prepared a Green Belt review to show what areas of the Green Belt it thinks can be removed from the Green Belt as they do not have a strong Green Belt role and their removal will not harm the overall function of the Green Belt in St. Helens.  There are also some minor changes to make the boundary more robust but where no development is proposed. 

If the Preferred Options proposals were endorsed, a total of approximately 1,187 hectares would be released from the green belt for the next 30 years, which will still leave 56% of the Borough remaining as Green Belt. The Green Belt release will be spilt in sites that will be allocated for housing and employment up to 2033 (approximately 730 hectares), and the remaining land to be released from the Green Belt (approximately 457 hectares) will be safeguarded for future development beyond 2033. No changes to the Green Belt have been made so far, and they will not occur until the Local Plan is adopted in 2018.

What about brownfield land?

The regeneration of brownfield land will remain a key priority for the Council and the majority of new housing for the new plan from 2018 to 2033 will still come from brownfield sites (approximately 59%).

What is the difference between "allocating" land for development and "safeguarding" land for development when removing the land from the Green Belt?

Removing land from the Green Belt and allocating it for development will allow the immediate development of the land once the Local Plan (subject to adoption of the Plan and planning permission being granted).  All of the Preferred Options Local Plan housing allocations (referenced as HA in the Preferred Options) are on Green Belt land. Brownfield sites in the urban areas do not need to be allocated for housing as they are naturally favoured for redevelopment.   Most of the employment allocations (referenced as EA) are also on land to be removed from the Green Belt by the Local Plan, but some (EA10, 11 and 12) are on brownfield or greenfield land that is not in the Green Belt.  We are also proposing some minor amendments to the Green Belt to exclude land which we consider no longer serves a Green Belt function – we are not proposing that land for development, but development on that land is more likely to be considered acceptable than if it was kept as Green Belt.

"Safeguarded land" (the HS and ES sites) is land that will be removed from Green Belt by the Local Plan but these sites will only become available for development for the next Plan period. In the meantime development that would prevent their future development for housing or employment use will not be permitted.  This land is intended to meet the development needs of the borough following the period 2018-2033 (the planned lifespan of the proposed plan we are consulting on).  After this 2018-2033 Local Plan is adopted, we expect that the next Local Plan (no date fixed for this) will decide if the Safeguarded sites should be allocated for development in the period 2034 to 2048 or kept as Safeguarded land.  The reason we plan to remove land from the Green Belt now and safeguard it rather than keeping it in the Green Belt is to make the changes to the Green Belt long-term (as required by national planning policy) and avoid the need for further significant changes to the Green Belt in the period up to 2033.  It also allows for longer term planning of infrastructure and services by indicating the likely future direction of growth. 

What likelihood is there that development will occur on the sites allocated or “safeguarded” for future development in the Preferred Options Local Plan? What type of development will it be and when will it happen?

We are unable to say as the plan is only at an early draft stage.  The sites shown in the Preferred Option consultation as “allocated” or “safeguarded” sites are the Council’s preferred sites for housing or employment development in the future.  The Council indicates when it thinks they can be developed (either from 2018 to 2033, or possibly 2034 onwards) and for what (housing, employment, retail, etc).   However, the Plan still needs to be finalised, taking account of the consultation comments received, and any relevant new evidence.  Some sites may be removed, some may be added, the use of the sites may be refined, and we may add more detailed about exactly how the site should be developed and when. 

The finalised version of the plan will be made available for public comments in late 2017 before it is sent to a Government Planning Inspector to be examined in early 2018.  The Inspector will recommend in mid 2018 whether the Plan can be adopted or not, with or without changes, before the Council can adopt it (expected to be in late 2018).  So until the plan has finished being examined, we will not know exactly what sites will be developed, for what and when.  Even after the plan is adopted, some sites will require a masterplan for detailed design issues such as where access should be taken, building design styles, layouts, phasing, etc.

It is also important to note that we cannot prevent someone submitting a planning application at any time for development anywhere, even in the Green Belt. Whilst development in the Green Belt needs to demonstrate Very Special Circumstances, which is a high bar to clear, planning permission has been granted for significant greenfield employment development in the Green Belt.

How much weight do policies in the draft Local Plan have?

Only when the plan is adopted will proposed policies, site allocations or designations in the plan be formally adopted and be given full weight when considering a planning application. Between the "publication" later this year and the "adoption" in late 2018, proposed policies, allocations and designations in the plan will have some weight given to them when planning applications are determined, but this will vary according to the stage the plan is at and the degree of support or objection to the Local Plan policy from people and the Inspector's view.

How will this impact on other services and infrastructure, for example schools?

As part of the development of the Local Plan we will develop an Infrastructure Delivery Plan which will look at the infrastructure requirements resulting from the development, for example where increased school capacity will be required.

What happened in the consultation?

The consultation was publicised widely in the local media and online, with letters sent to all properties within 200m of any sites proposed in the Preferred Options to be released from the Green Belt and either allocated or safeguarded for future development.  We have also sent letters to properties close to separate minor changes to the Green Belt.  Council officers also hosted 15 daytime, evening and weekend drop-in sessions all over the borough to provide information on the Preferred Options and answer questions from the public.

How many comments were received?

Just under 6,000 comments have been received, and details of who submitted them and a summary of what they say is being prepared.

How can I check if you have received my comments?

Once we have logged and processed all the comments received, we will publish on the Local Plan web page a list of the names of people who have submitted comments on our webpage.  We will notify the public of this via our website and by sending emails or letters to those people who have commented and to people on our Local Plan consultation database.

How will my comments be taken into account?

Council officers will review the comments made on the Plan and consider whether the Preferred Option policies and preferred sites need to be changed in light of the comments. 

What is happening now?

Since the consultation closed on the 30th January, Council officers have been logging the comments received on the St.Helens Local Plan Preferred Options. 

What is the next stage of the Local Plan?

After considering the comments, existing evidence will be updated and additional evidence gathered where necessary to help inform the draft policies and site selection.  The polices and sites will then be finalised for the final version of the Local Plan that the Council wants to see adopted for use in the Borough, which will be made available for public comment later in 2017.  This will be called the “pre-submission publication” version.

This next version of the plan and the comments received will then be submitted to the Government for examination by an independent Planning Inspector in early 2018.

The Inspector will examine the plan and comments, and organise public hearings about the Plan, before issuing a report saying if the Council can adopt the Plan or not, and what changes will be required to the plan.  The Council expects to adopt the plan in late 2018.

If sites are allocated or safeguarded for future development by the final Local Plan, when will I start seeing development occur on those sites?

Each site is different and ultimately it will be up to the owner of the land and the people who are developing it to decide when they will apply for planning permission and when they start construction.