West Lancashire Borough Council is pressing on with its intention to update its Local Plan, declaring that changes in national and local context mean that an updated plan is the best way to position the borough for growth in the years up to 2050.
The issuing of the draft Preferred Options document, which is intended to replace the extant 2012-2027 plan, received a baptism of fire as West Lancs’ cabinet meeting was last week overwhelmed by members of the public, with police called to the scene.
The preferred options document will go to public consultation between 11 October and 23 November, with the headlines being the intention to add 470 acres of employment space – 225 acres of it for large logistics facilities – and three garden villages close to Skelmersdale, as part of a plan to deliver close to 16,000 homes over the period.
Factored into this is West Lancs’ preparedness to meet the shortfall of 6,000-plus homes faced by the Liverpool City Region – West Lancs is a non-voting associate member of the LCR and the notes presented to cabinet point out the struggles boroughs such as Sefton are likely to face meeting development targets, espeically in the years following 2027.
Cllr John Hodson, cabinet member for planning, told Place North West: “There were two big deciding factors in updating the local Plan, one being the National Planning Policy Framework, which was introduced just after the initial Local Plan, and has had a profound effect on planning; and secondly, the evolving of the Liverpool city region’s sphere of influence – we’re closely linked and there’s an irrefutable logic to reviewing our employment sites and housing in this context.”
Although there is clearly public hostility to green belt development, Hodson believes that there is some misinformation afoot, and said that the percentage of green belt development was more than reasonable given the context. Skelmersdale is slated to take more than half the housing, with 8,500 dwellings, and Ormskirk & Aughton around 3,000.
With the deep water terminal at the Port of Liverpool now operational, the development of 170 acres of logistics facilities at junction 3 of the M58, is presented as a key opportunity.
So too is the development of garden villages, extensions that Hodson said will be “people-focused rather than car-based”. He said: “There is a strong emphasis on environmental improvements, what we want to do is enhance bio-diversity. We’re a green borough and not having that damaging mono-culture is important to us.”
The proposal is for villages to be developed to the north of the A577 at Dicket’s Lane, with 1,500 homes; for 2,500 homed east of Lyelake Lane; and north east of the Rainford bypass, with a further 2,000 dwellings. Together with increased employment, it is hoped a business case for a rail link can be made.
Hodson continued: “Green belt development is something that makes people jump up and take notice, but West Lancashire has one of the highest proportions of green belt in the country, at 90.5%, and there’s got to be some adjustment – by not building any houses on it, you run the risk of Government imposing what they think is appropriate.
“By 2050, we should still have 88% green belt, which is not outrageous, and doing it this way means we can plan strategically rather than see things come forward piecemeal.”
As far as Ormskirk is concerned, the main proposals centre around the development of purpose-built student accommodation for Edge Hill University, in line with market trends but also reflecting a desire among local residents and council alike to reduce the number of Houses in Multiple Occupation. Student living and a knowledge park at St Helens Road are proposed.
One of the individual sites noted for development is Yew Tree Farm, Burscough, which is proposed for 1,000 homes, a 100-bed care home and 50 acres of employment land.
Further details on the Local Plan preferred options consultation can be found online.