THE leader of St Helens Conservatives has branded the Local Plan a “shambles” that should be “torn up” and replaced.

St Helens Council recently wrote to residents to inform them of the implications of new national guidance on the procedural aspects of the examination of local plans published by the Planning Inspectorate in June.

However, the information given to residents – namely that there is now a necessity to publish names and addresses of respondents and that anonymous representations would likely not be considered by the government’s planning inspector – contradicts information issued by the Planning Inspectorate to a local campaign group.

The Planning Inspectorate said the new guidance does not necessarily require the local planning authority, St Helens Council in this instance, to publish names and addresses.

It also confirmed that anonymous representations will be considered by the planning inspector, although they may not carry the same weight as those with names and addresses included.

In its defence, St Helens Council said it sought legal advice on what the changes meant for the Local Plan process, based on information provided by the Planning Inspectorate.

The council is now seeking clarification from the Planning Inspectorate on the matter.

The confusion has led to scathing criticism from St Helens Conservative group leader Allan Jones, who accused Labour of “misleading” the public.

Cllr Jones said: “This Labour council never ceases to amaze me. Once again they are misleading the public.

“The Local Plan is a shambles and now it’s in complete chaos it is clear it should be torn up and a more logical plan put in its place.

“Currently this plan, like the Labour Council, is a disaster for the people of St Helens.”

St Helens Star: Cllr Allan Jones, leader of St Helens Conservative group Cllr Allan Jones, leader of St Helens Conservative group

Following his comments, Labour’s Richard McCauley, cabinet member for economic regeneration and housing, accused the Tory leader of trying to score “petty political points”.

Cllr McCauley said the confusion around the Local Plan has come about due to the Planning Inspectorate issuing “conflicting advice”.

He said the council is now awaiting clarification from the Planning Inspectorate, which will guide the council’s actions moving forward.

Cllr McCauley said: “We have been clear in that we wanted everyone who submitted representations into the Local Plan process to have their submission be given as much weight as possible, whilst the plan is being considered by the inspectorate, and followed the guidance to do just that.

St Helens Star: Cllr Richard McCauley, cabinet member for economic regeneration and housingCllr Richard McCauley, cabinet member for economic regeneration and housing

“Hopefully the confusion caused by conflicting advice will be sorted today.

“Cllr Jones’ comments are quite ironic, given it’s his government’s policies that set the framework that Local Plans must be taken in.

“It’s his government’s agencies that keep moving the goalposts during the process, and even giving conflicting guidance out.

“I think he needs to look much closer to home, rather than playing to the gallery trying to score petty political points.”