St Helens Council’s cabinet will next week be asked to approve the draft of the borough’s Local Plan, a key feature of which is a reduced target for housing completions, from 570 per year to 486.
The council resolved in November 2015 to replace he ‘saved’ Unitary Development Plan policies and its 2012 Core Strategy with a Local Plan, with an initial consultation followed by consultation on a preferred options document in late 2016 and early 2017. More than 5,500 responses were received.
The plan now is to publish the Local Plan in January, opening eight weeks in which representations can be made ahead of submission to the Secretary of State in summer 2019. Following examination, it could then be adopted in 2020, running to 2035.
The preferred options document included the delivery of 10,830 dwellings from 1 April 2014 until 31 March 2033 at an average of 570 completions per year, the delivery of 758 acres of employment land up to 2038, support for the regeneration of St Helens and Earlestown town centres and other smaller centres.
While promoting brownfield-first, it proposed to remove 25 sites from the Green Belt to meet development needs before 2033 – 16 for housing and nine for employment – and a further 26 sites to be removed from the Green Belt but ‘safeguarded’ to meet potential longer term needs.
That would have left 56% of the borough’s land area as Green Belt, down from the current 65%, which the council said is the highest proportion in the Liverpool city region. However, with housing targets now reduced, only six Green Belt sites are now proposed for housing.
In terms of employment need, the report said that at least 532 acres of employment land will be needed up to 2035, noting the clear demand shown for logistics space in recent years..
The draft plan proposes to allocate 11 sites for employment development before 2035:
- Site 1EA – Omega South Western Extension
- Sites 2EA, 5EA and 6EA – 3 sites to the west of Haydock Industrial estate, the largest of which is Florida Farm North
- Sites 3EA and 4EA – 2 sites to the north and south of Penny Lane, east of Haydock Industrial Estate
- Sites 7EA and 8EA – 2 sites at Parkside, east and west of the M6
- Site 9EA – Sandwash Close, Rainford
- Site 10EA – Land at Lea Green Farm West, Thatto Heath
- Site 11EA – Gerards Park, College Street, St Helens
The Parkside site is the largest, with potential for rail freight, while the Omega extension is included following dialogue with Warrington under ‘duty to co-operate’. Apart from Gerards Park, all sites are B2 and B8-focused.
In housing, St Helens has the leeway to refer back to the 2014 method of projections, which would leave it with a target of 468 completions a year. However, St Helens believes with the emplyoment gowth it has in mind, this underestimates need, and it proposes a target of 486 completions per year. Dating back to completions since plan work started and projects on site, the target for completions before 2035 in total is 9,234 dwellings.
St Helens estimates that the sites to be removed from the Green Belt would be capable of providing 2,056 completions before 2035, or 22% of the total, with the remaining dwellings to be met from various sources including completions on live projects, extant planning permissions as at 1 April 2018 and other sites identified in the St Helens Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment.
The largest site proposed for removal from the Green Belt to accommodate new housing is at Bold urban extension, which could ultimately take more than 2,900 homes. Due to the site’s size and fractured ownership, the council intends to prepare a formal masterplan to be ultimately adopted as a Supplementary Planning Document.
The list of large sites includes the former Penlake industrial estate, Moss Nook urban village, land north of Elton Head Road in Sutton Heath and land east of City Road in Cowley Heath, all within the existing urban area. It also includes land at Florida Farm, the former Redbank Community Home in Newton-le-Willows and land south of Higher Lane in Rainford.