CAMPAIGNERS who oppose development on green belt land say they welcome the delay in the Local Plan - saying it gives the council the "opportunity to listen to the views of the people".

Campaign groups say they will continue to speak out against major development on green belt and believe the large public response to the initial plan has had an impact on the delay.

Yesterday (Tuesday, October 24) St Helens Council revealed the next steps in preparation of the controversial Local Plan - with the latest version due in early summer 2018.

The initial draft said it would see the green belt reduced from 65 per cent of the borough to 56 per cent.

James Wright, chair of Rainford Action Group, said: "We're pleased St Helens Council has finally provided the public with some clarity around the timings of its Local Plan.

"This was overdue but is still welcome. It's also good news the council will be working with the Highways Agency.

"The agency warned about the negative impact proposals in the last version of the plan would have on our road network.

"The last version of the plan was a builder's charter that would have destroyed precious green land, caused chaos on our roads and put profit before people. The next version has to be radically different.

"The council now has the opportunity and time to listen to the views of the people they serve, St Helens borough residents, and produce a much better blueprint for the future of the town that is ambitious and sustainable.

"Everyone wants to see a better future for St Helens. We are in favour of development, in the right locations and on a sensible scale. We hope the council can come up with proposals we can support."

In a statement, the Eccleston Community Residents Association said: "ECRA is pleased that at long last we have been informed as to where the St Helens Plan has reached.

"It is interesting that the council are already blaming the government for this delay which will be at least 12 months beyond the original date.

"We believe that the real reason for the delay is because local residents across St Helens borough have been so active during the earlier consultation period with over 6000 responses to the original plan that this is the main cause of the delay. The crucial thing now is what happens next.

"ECRA now hopes that the council will take more account of residents views and have the sense to revise their thinking to create a more realistic and achievable plan without the need for major housing developments on green belt land.

"ECRA will continue to work hard to prevent that from happening."