A GREEN Party councillor has accused St Helens Council of spreading “misleading and inaccurate” information about the Local Plan.

Cllr David O’Keefe, who represents Bold ward, made the accusations during a virtual meeting of the overview and scrutiny commission this week.

In the council’s latest performance report, it states the authority undertook “significant work” to communicate the revised Local Plan.

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Part of this was the publication of an executive summary brochure and a short, five-minute video giving an overview of the plan and its objectives.

The video was shared with the public after the council’s cabinet agreed to submit the plan to the Secretary of State at its September meeting.

Addressing the commission on Monday, Cllr O’Keefe, claimed the video conflated the issues of brownfield land and contaminated land.

The video does not state how many contaminated sites there are in the borough, but highlights it as an issue due to the area’s industrial heritage.

“I just gave up with the number of inaccuracies and things that were just simply plain wrong here, in that video,” said Cllr O’Keefe, who added that he stopped watching after three minutes and nine seconds.

“I’m very disappointed that the council didn’t even conduct a basic fact check.

“So, I gave up on a point about brownfield sites, and there’s conflation with contaminated land.

“Because we have 112 sites and there’s only three contaminated sites, so I found that short video misleading and inaccurate.”

In response, Labour councillor Seve Gomez-Aspron said it is”fundamentally untrue” that there is only three contaminated sites in the borough.

The exchange became heated as Cllr O’Keefe interjected, telling his Labour rival to “get your facts right”.

Cllr Gomez-Aspron, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for reset and recovery, said any issues should be raised by the relevant portfolio holder, before taking a final swipe at the Green councillor.

Cllr O’Keefe replied: “Perhaps he (Cllr Gomez-Aspron) should not be as rude to people when I raise a relevant point.”

The Green councillor was then warned by the chairman of the commission to keep order.

Following the meeting, a council spokesman responded to the accusations made by Cllr O’Keefe.

“The council is happy that information shared with residents regarding the Local Plan is correct and factual,” the council spokesman said.

“The Local Plan video makes no reference to the number of contaminated sites, merely that they exist across the borough.”

The council spokesman did confirm, however, that there are currently only three sites listed on its Contaminated Land Register, although this does not include brownfield sites where a risk assessment has not taken place.

Subsequently, the spokesman said there will, “without a doubt”, be many other contaminated sites in the borough .

St Helens Star: Cllr David O'Keefe, Green Party councillor for St Helens Borough Council Cllr David O'Keefe, Green Party councillor for St Helens Borough Council

A council spokesman said:  “Under Part 2a of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 there are three sites that are listed on the Council’s Contaminated Land Register however, the 2A definition of contaminated land only includes land where unacceptable risks are clearly identified after a risk assessment has been undertaken.

“Without doubt there will be many other contaminated sites in the borough given our industrial heritage, including many in the proposed Local Plan housing land supply that are contaminated but have not yet been subject to any detailed site investigation work to establish the extent of contamination. In addition, land might not pose a risk in the context of its current use but that may change if a new land use is proposed.

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“The potential for contamination, and the need for remediation, would therefore need to be investigated as part of any planning application to change its use.

“The council is continuing to work hard to identify funding sources to address problems of land contamination across the borough and we are eager to help landowners develop brownfield sites.”

To view the council’s contaminated land webpage, which provides further information on contaminated land in St Helens, click here.