THE much-delayed St Helens Local Plan is set to go before cabinet next month.

In March this year, cabinet asked council officers to review the Local Plan to consider the land use planning implications of entering into a strategic partnership with English Cities Fund (ECF) to regenerate the borough.

An initial review has now taken place and the findings, together with any implications on the Local Plan, will be reported back to cabinet in September.

READ > Recycling pilot still going ahead, insists St Helens Council

On Wednesday, September 23, cabinet is expected to review the Local Plan and determine the next steps.

If a decision is made to approve the plan, it will be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate this autumn.

Once the council submits the plan to the inspectorate, it is the decision of the Government’s planning inspector to decide when the public examination will be conducted.

However, the timescale for the public examination may be further delayed due to Covid-19.

Cllr Richard McCauley, St Helens Borough Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration and housing, said:  “We have developed a new Local Plan – one that looks at our existing needs together with our future development plans, and strikes a balance between much needed growth, aspiration and quality of life for our residents.

“The plan assists with the council’s aim for economic growth by identifying a number of strategic employment sites, giving opportunity to local people for job creation, training and skill development.

“It will help to deliver a wider housing mix for all our communities – with up to 30 per cent of new housing developments designated affordable housing and 20 per cent accessible and adaptable housing.

“Our commitment to bringing back suitable brownfield sites for these opportunities, now means that 59 per cent of the borough will remain protected in the green belt.

“The plan, together with our work with ECF and the Town Deal Board, will support the regeneration of our town and district centres, and will deliver on new and improved transport and travel links as well as protecting and enhancing our many beautiful parks and open spaces.

“The new Local Plan will now be put before cabinet for a decision to be taken in regard to its progression.”

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

The ‘submission draft’ version of the Local Plan, which covers development in the borough from 2020 to 2035, was approved by full council in December 2018, although it was rejected by opposition councillors.

Prior to this, the plan went through a series of setbacks.

The council first consulted with the public over its ‘preferred options’ Local Plan in December 2016, sparking a backlash after it suggested releasing 1,187 hectares of land from the green belt.

Two years later, in September 2018, the council delayed the publication of the Local Plan due to what the then leader Derek Long described as “conflicting” Government housing data.

The submission draft was subsequently published in December 2018.

An eight-week publication consultation followed in January and was extended by a further eight weeks after the council failed to write to numerous households in Bold and Clock Face who live near sites proposed to be removed from the green belt.

In August 2019, a decision was taken to approve £156,000 of additional funding to cover the costs of the final stages of the Local Plan, to be spent over a two-year period.

READ > Mobile coronavirus test centre coming to St Helens following spike in cases

The Local Plan was due to be submitted to the planning inspectorate last autumn, but this did not happen in light of the ECF partnership.

If approved by cabinet next month, all of the responses received during the public consultation in 2019 will be submitted to the planning inspectorate together with the Local Plan and supporting documents.

Anyone who submitted a response during the submission draft consultation should receive an email or letter from the council notifying them when the plan has been submitted to the planning inspectorate for examination.