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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.

Local Plan Proposed Submission Version

Council approval for the next version of the Local Plan – known as the 'Proposed Submission' version – is now expected in early summer 2018. This will be the version of the Plan that the Council wants to see adopted, subject to approval by an independent Planning Inspector. The Council hopes to adopt the Local Plan in 2019.

This revised timetable for the preparation of the Local Plan has been determined by several factors that are outside the Council's control.

These include the Government’s proposed new approach to calculating housing need. A key requirement of the Local Plan is to identify how many new homes should be provided. However in September 2017, the Government consulted on a new approach that once finalised, must be taken into account.

The Government has also set a new requirement that all councils must publish a register of brownfield land suitable for housing before the end of 2017. This work will in turn feed into the Local Plan. The St Helens Brownfield Land Register has now been published on the Council website and contains approximately 98 sites of previously developed land with a cumulative area of 212.11 hectares.

The extended period will allow further time to evaluate the significant amount of valuable feedback received from the previous public consultation.  It will also allow the Local Plan to be informed by updated evidence regarding local housing and employment and for further work to be undertaken to address the impacts of the Plan on transport and other forms of infrastructure.

For further information, please see the Frequently Asked Questions section 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. A total of 5,695 responses were received providing valuable information about the views of local residents and businesses.

The Council will consider the key issues raised in the consultation, along with any changes to national policy and the updated evidence base, when preparing the next version of the Plan as detailed above.

The Preferred Options consultation document 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 were considered by the Council when preparing 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.

Related Documents

To view and download various evidence base documents that will underpin and inform the Local Plan please see our Research, Evidence and Monitoring page and the Sustainability Appraisal and Habitats Regulations Assessment page. 

What is a Local Plan?

A Local Plan sets out local planning policies and how land should be used. It also determines how much development is required and what should be built in different locations.

Why are we preparing a new Local Plan for St Helens?

The Government requires each local authority to have an adopted Local Plan. This must be reviewed regularly to meet the development needs of the area.  A review in 2015 identified a deficit in employment and housing land provision in St Helens. This triggered a need to prepare a new plan.

What area will the new Local Plan cover?

The new Local Plan will cover the Borough of St Helens.

What period will the Plan cover?

The Plan will focus on the period 2020 to 2035, but may also include “safeguarded” land (see later questions) to meet development needs after 2035.

What evidence must the Plan be based upon?

The Plan must be based on a wide range of evidence covering matters such as: need for employment and housing development; land availability; town centres and shopping; and environmental issues (list not exhaustive).  

What steps must the Council go through in preparing the Plan?

Before the Council can adopt the Plan, it must go through steps set out by the Government. These include: initial consultation; publication of the Plan; submission of the Plan to the Government; and examination of the Plan by a Government-appointed independent Planning Inspector. The overall process takes several years to complete.

What has happened so far?

The St Helens Local Plan Core Strategy, adopted in October 2012, stated that land may be required from the Green Belt to meet housing need from 2022 onwards. In November 2015, in light of new evidence concerning development needs and land availability, the St.Helens Council Cabinet agreed to prepare a new Local Plan to replace the Core Strategy.

A consultation was carried out in January 2016 on the scope of the new Local Plan. The Council then prepared the 'St Helens Local Plan 2020-2035 - Preferred Options' document, which set out its preferred options for the policies to be contained in the Local Plan. A consultation was held over eight weeks from 5 December 2016 to 30 January 2017.

How was the Local Plan Preferred Options consultation publicized?

The consultation was publicised widely for example in local newspapers and websites and via consultees on the Local Plan database. Letters were sent to properties within 200m of sites proposed to be removed from the Green Belt. Notices were placed next to sites being proposed for development, and posters were distributed. 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 responses were received to the Preferred Options consultation?

5,695 responses were received to the Preferred Options consultation.

What is happening now and how will my comments be taken into account?

Since the consultation on the Local Plan Preferred Options closed on 30 January 2017, Council officers have been assessing the issues raised in the comments received, and undertaking further work on the evidence base. Work has also started on preparing the next stage of the Plan. 

How will I know what issues were raised in the Preferred Options consultation?

When the Council publishes the “proposed submission” version of the Plan in January 2019 (see next stage below) it must publish a Report of Consultation setting out: which bodies and persons were consulted at the Preferred Options and other earlier stages; how such consultation was undertaken; a summary of the main issues raised; and how these have been taken into account.

What is the next stage of the Local Plan?

As the next stage, the Council intends to publish the “proposed submission” version of the Plan. This will be the version that the Council intends to adopt at the end of the process.

When will the “proposed submission” version of the Plan be published for comment?

The Council expects to make the “proposed submission” version available for public comment in January 2019.

How will we let people know about this?

The Council will widely publicise the “proposed submission” version via a range of methods. It will also notify people who have made comments at previous stages or asked to be notified so that they know that they can make new representations.    

If I wish to comment on the “proposed submission” version of the Plan, how will I be able to do this?

The Council will issue guidance notes to help you submit comments on the “proposed submission” version. You will be advised that any comments submitted at that stage (formally known as “representations”) should cover whether the policies in the plan are “sound” (i.e. whether they comply with government policy) and whether the Plan has been produced in line with national requirements.  

How long will I be given to comment on the “proposed submission” version of the Plan?

The Council expects to allow a period of 8 weeks in which to comment on the proposed submission version of the plan. This exceeds the legal requirement of 6 weeks.

Will the Plan be changed after the “proposed submission” version has been published?

The “proposed submission” version of the Plan will be the last currently scheduled opportunity for people to make comments on the Plan. The Council does not intend to modify the Plan after this, unless the Planning Inspector during the following examination stage (see below) recommends that changes be made.

What will happen after the “proposed submission” version of the Plan has been published for comment?

Following the end of the publication period, the Council will need to submit the “proposed submission” version of the Plan to the Government for examination by an independent Planning Inspector.

When and how will the Plan be examined?

The Council expects to submit the “proposed submission” version of the Plan for examination in Summer 2019. It will also submit supporting documents and evidence as well as the representations received in response to the “proposed submission” version and a summary of the key issues raised in them. The Inspector will examine the documents and hold public hearings to decide if the Plan meets requirements set out by the Government. He or she will then issue a report setting out his or her conclusions.

Will I be able to take part in the public hearings?

The Inspector will determine who will be invited to the public hearings. He or she will also take into account all the representations received in response to the “proposed submission” version.

Will the comments submitted in response to the Preferred Options consultation be forwarded to and considered by the Inspector?

A summary of the key issues raised by respondents to the Preferred Options and earlier scoping consultation and how they have been addressed will be supplied to the Inspector. However, the actual comments received during these stages will not be submitted unless the Inspector asks to see these.

What may the Inspector decide when he or she examines the Plan?

The Inspector may either decide that:

  1. The Plan is “sound” and legally compliant in the form that it has been submitted by the Council; or
  2. The Plan is not “sound” and/or legally compliant; or
  3. Changes (known as “modifications”) to the Plan are required.

If the Inspector finds the Plan to be “sound” he or she will then issue a report allowing the Council to adopt the Plan. If he or she finds that the Plan is not “sound” the Council will not be able to adopt it. If he or she finds that modifications are needed (option 3 above) people will be invited to submit comments on the modifications. If the Inspector agrees that the modifications are satisfactory following this further publicity, he or she would then issue a report allowing the Council to adopt the Plan.

When does the Council expect to finally adopt the Plan?

The Council expects to adopt the Plan in 2020.

How will the Plan be implemented?

The Plan will be primarily implemented via planning applications, which must be submitted by landowners or developers and be subject to public consultation before being considered by the Council.

How can I get involved?

You will be able to make comments (“representations”) on the “proposed submission” version of the Local Plan when it is published in January 2019.You can ask to be added to the Local Plan database so that you will be notified of this and other future stages.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT ISSUES BEING ADDRESSED IN THE LOCAL PLAN

Do we need more employment land?

The Council’s Preferred Options document (2016) identified that, having regard to the St Helens Employment Land and Premises Study 2015 and other relevant evidence a substantial amount of additional employment land is needed.  

Do we need more housing?

The Council’s Preferred Options document (2016) identified that new land for housing development is needed. This had regard to relevant evidence including the Mid Mersey Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2015. The Plan will also be influenced by Government Policy in the National Planning Policy Framework (July 2018).

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

To support the Local Plan the Council will develop an Infrastructure Delivery Plan which will look at the infrastructure requirements resulting from new development. Work to address any effects on the motorway network is being undertaken in consultation with Highways England.

What are the possible benefits of the Local Plan?

The Local Plan could bring a wide range of benefits. For example, it could help generate more jobs for local people and thereby support local retail and leisure facilities and other services, creating yet more jobs. It could also enable a wider choice of affordable and general market housing to be provided, including dwellings that can be adapted to the needs of the elderly. The Plan could also, by creating more jobs and better housing and reinforcing the protection of public open space and sports facilities, benefit the health of local people.

What is Green Belt land?

Green Belt is not a physical feature but a concept created by the planning system. It is not about the ecology or habitat value of the land and most parts of England do not have any Green Belt. Green Belts are not intended 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.

How much of St Helens is covered by Green Belt?

At present, 65% (or 8,844 hectares) of the Borough’s land area is designated as Green Belt. This percentage figure exceeds that within any other local authority area in Merseyside.

What changes to the Green Belt has the Council proposed?

In the Preferred Options consultation, the Council proposed to release a number of sites (totalling about 1,187 hectares in area) from the Green Belt to meet future needs for housing and employment development. These included: about 730 hectares of land to be allocated for housing and employment up to 2033; and about 457 hectares of land to be “safeguarded” for future development beyond 2033.

What is the current status of the proposed changes to Green Belt?

No changes to the Green Belt have been finalised as the Preferred Options were only draft proposals. The Council will confirm its approach in the “proposed submission” version of the Plan, scheduled for publication in 2019. Any changes to the Green Belt would only be finalised once the Plan has undergone its examination in public and been formally “adopted” by the Council.

What about brownfield land?

Previously developed land (often referred to as “brownfield” land) is land which is or was occupied by a permanent structure and any associated fixed surface infrastructure. Most brownfield land in St Helens is in existing urban areas and its regeneration remains a key priority for the Council. The Preferred Options consultation document proposed that 59% of new housing development from 2018 to 2033 should be on brownfield sites. The Council has published a register of all brownfield sites considered suitable for housing.

What is meant by “allocating” a site for development?

The Local Plan may allocate land for specific purposes, such as housing or employment development. Such an allocation would, in principle and subject to planning permission being granted, allow it to be developed for the purpose for which it is allocated. It is anticipated that sites which are allocated for development in the Local Plan will mostly be developed before 2035.

What is meant by “safeguarded” land?

If land is removed from the Green Belt but “safeguarded”, it would be identified for potential future development but only after 2035 (i.e. after the planned lifespan of the currently emerging Local Plan). The Council intends to confirm its approach to this issue in the “proposed submission” version of the Plan in 2019.  

How can I identify the sites which were proposed to be allocated in the Preferred Options consultation document?

The Preferred Options consultation document (2016) identified sites which were proposed to be allocated for housing development as sites “HA1”, “HA2”, “HA3” etc. Sites proposed to be allocated for employment development were identified as sites “EA1”, “EA2”, “EA3” etc.

How can I identify the sites which were proposed to be “safeguarded” in the Preferred Options consultation document?  

The Preferred Options consultation document (2016) identified sites which were proposed to be safeguarded for potential housing development after 2033 as sites “HS01”, “HS02”, “HS03” etc. It identified sites which were proposed to be safeguarded for potential employment development after 2033 as sites “ES01”, “ES02”, “ES03” etc.

Why did the Preferred Options document not allocate more brownfield land for housing development?

The proposed housing allocations set out in the Preferred Options consultation document (2016) were on land which is currently in the Green Belt. The Council considered that brownfield sites in the urban areas did not need to be allocated as many of these had already been identified as suitable for housing in its published Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA). The Council will confirm its approach to this and other issues in the next stage of the Plan.

Did all the proposed employment allocations involve loss of Green Belt?

Most of the employment allocations proposed in the Preferred Options consultation document (2016) were also on land that would be removed from the Green Belt. However, sites EA10, 11 and 12 are outside the Green Belt.

Did the Preferred Options document propose any changes to Green Belt boundaries which were not linked to any proposed future development?  

The Preferred Options also proposed to remove some small areas from the Green Belt which were not proposed to be allocated or safeguarded for future development. This was to exclude sites which no longer serve a Green Belt function.

Is it likely that the sites proposed to be allocated or “safeguarded” for future development in the Preferred Options document will be included in the final Plan?

These details will only be confirmed once the Plan has been finalised and gone through its remaining stages, including its examination by an Inspector and been adopted.

What type of development will occur and when will it happen?

As the Local Plan continues to emerge details of how sites should be developed, for what purposes and when will continue to be refined. Precise details of any specific development will only be confirmed if and when a planning application is submitted and approved. In some cases, the Council may require these to be informed by a wider master plan. The timing of any development will also be affected by the intentions of the landowner and developer.

How much weight does the emerging Local Plan carry?

The policies of the Plan will only carry full weight in the consideration of planning applications after the Plan is adopted. However they may in some cases, depending on the stage of the Plan and extent of unresolved objections to them, be attributed some weight before the Plan has been adopted.