A DEVELOPER will need to make a payment towards NHS services in St Helens if the former Eccleston Park Golf Course is turned into housing, it can be revealed.

Mulbury Homes has come under fire from councillors and the public for launching a pre-application consultation over proposals to create nearly 1,000 homes at the former Eccleston Park Golf Course.

St Helens Council leader David Baines said he was “shocked and disappointed” about the timing of the consultation and urged Mulbury Homes to come back later in the year when residents could give it their full attention.

And on Friday, Labour MP for St Helens South and Whiston, Marie Rimmer wrote to Mulbury Homes’ founders Greg Mulligan and Martin Bury urging them to reconsider the timing of the consulation.

However, Mulbury Homes seem undeterred by the political pressure and public backlash and intend to push on with the consultation.

Under the proposals, the Eccleston Park Village development would include 989 homes, including at least 200 “affordable homes”,  accommodation for over 55s, a health centre, pharmacy, and a shop.

The scheme would also see a significant payment go to local NHS services, as part of a legal clause stemming back to when the land was sold to Pilkington in the late 80s.

While it is too soon to say how much the payment will be as it depends on a number of complex factors, it is understood that it will be in the millons and could even reach a double-digit million figure.

St Helens Star: Mulbury Homes' masterplan for the former golf courseMulbury Homes' masterplan for the former golf course

A spokesman for Eccleston Park Village development said: “There is an overage clause which will see the NHS receive a significant funding boost if the land is developed in the immediate future.

“We are therefore keen to bring the scheme forward so the NHS benefits from the development and that is a further reason for us to be launching the consultation at this time.”

Eccleston Liberal Democrat councillors were the first to hit out at Mulbury Homes when they unveiled their plans earlier this month.

Mulbury’s decision to push ahead with the plans has now angered the Lib Dem councillors even further, who said they “strongly oppose” the development.

Cllr Teresa Sims, leader Lib Dem group on St Helens Council, said: “As Eccleston ward councillors, we think that it is an absolute disgrace, that despite being offered the opportunity to withdraw their plans, they have chosen to carry on with their consultation regardless.

“Under normal circumstances, we would be able to hold a public meeting and consult directly with residents. But, due to them not responding to our request to withdraw their plans, this has not been possible.

“We strongly object to the development of the Eccleston Park Golf Course site and we will be working closely with residents and community groups to oppose these speculative plans.”

Cllr Sims said the site, which sits entirely within the green belt, has “significant infrastructure constraints”, namely highways and schools.

St Helens Star: Cllr Teresa Sims, leader of the Liberal Democrats on St Helens Council Cllr Teresa Sims, leader of the Liberal Democrats on St Helens Council

The Lib Dem leader said the local road network surrounding the site is already “gridlocked” and said and the idea of introducing thousands of extra vehicles onto Rainhill Road and Portico Lane, is “quite frankly ridiculous”.

“Many parents already struggle to secure a school place for their children and all our local schools are at full capacity,” Cllr Sims said.

“As such, we have serious concerns about school places and education.

“This is compounded by the impact of other housing developments, in nearby Prescot and Whiston, which has placed our local infrastructure under immense strain.

“The idea that we, as a local community can accommodate 1000 extra houses is simply not acceptable.

“Consideration must also be given to the impact on the local environment. The Eccleston Park Golf Course site is the ‘Green Lung’ for our local area and should be protected and enhanced.

“St Helens has one of the highest rates of respiratory diseases in the country and development of the site would have a considerable negative impact on our area.

“These speculative plans constitute inappropriate development and are not sustainable.

“As such, any planning application brought forward should be refused outright by St Helens Council”.

In its defence of launching the consultation during the pandemic, an Eccleston Park Village spokesman said people will need homes and jobs “more than ever” in the wake of the crisis.

Mulbury Homes estimates that construction of Eccleston Park Village will create 4,000 jobs and help address the region’s housing shortfall.

The spokesman said this will help play a role in St Helens’ recovery after the pandemic.

St Helens Star: An artist's image showing the style of home the developer hopes to createAn artist's image showing the style of home the developer hopes to create

“Our plans for Eccleston Park Village are an opportunity to create a new neighbourhood of homes to accommodate families, the over 55s, and people in need of affordable houses,” an Eccleston Park Village spokesman said.

“We absolutely recognise that this is an incredibly challenging and unprecedented time but we will come through this crisis and when we do, people will need homes and jobs more than ever and St Helens, like many other towns, will still need investment.

“The creation of up to 1,000 new homes through the development will help to address the region’s housing shortfall, and the 4,000 new jobs the construction of the development would create will help play a role in the town’s economic recovery after the pandemic.

“We have worked incredibly hard to make sure that everyone can have their say, even if they are unable to leave their homes and don’t have access to a computer. We have sent details of the plans to over 6,500 homes, there’s a website, social media channels, people can email in their comments and return a freepost response form.

“There’s a telephone hotline so people can simply pick up the phone and talk to someone about their views and those will be considered in the consultation feedback evaluation.

“We are very keen for everyone to have their say despite the restrictions on social contact and have done everything we can to make it easy for people to be involved so please, do get in touch.”