AN APPEAL over the refusal of controversial proposals for houses and apartments near to the former Pilkington headquarters has been decided on by the Planning Inspectorate.

What were the plans?

Applicants The Sovini Group drew up plans in 2022 for the homes after a previous application had been refused.

The application had sought permission for 64 homes, including a mix of semi-detached houses and two apartment blocks for the location on land to the south of the former Pilkington head office off Prescot Road.

Plans said the proposed development would consist of 36 houses, including eight one-bedroom walk-ups; 16 two-bedroom houses and 12 three-bedroom houses.

It would also feature 28 apartments across two blocks, with 16 one-bedroom apartments and 12 two-bedroom apartments.

Proposals added the “scheme is to provide 100 per cent affordable housing, with all house properties being available for Rent to Buy tenure, whilst the apartments will be available for Reduced Rent tenure”.

READ > Aldi announced reopening date of superstore after refurbishment

Plans state that “all semi-detached dwellings are proposed to be two-storeys in height, with the apartment blocks being taller at 3.5 storeys.”

They said that “the dwellings will have large rear gardens, of varying sizes but consistent with the predominant built pattern of the surrounding area”.

The planning statement argued: “The release of greenfield land, close to the town centre has been justified through the significant social, economic and environmental benefits delivered through the provision of 64 dwellings, all of which will be occupied as affordable dwellings."

St Helens Star: The plans were for near to the former Pilks HQ The plans were for near to the former Pilks HQ (Image: Condy Lofthouse Architects (St Helens Council Planning Portal))

Council refused plans over 'harm to heritage assets'

Numerous objections were sent in against the plans with concerns including over traffic congestion, loss of habitat and infringements on privacy.

St Helens Council planning officers refused permission for the development.

Planning officer Daley Parsonage said in a report: "It is considered the benefit of housing on the site does not outweigh the less than substantial harm to the heritage assets."

The appeal by The Sovini Group to the Planning Inspectorate was lodged in February this year.

What the Planning Inspector said

The Planning Inspectorate noted the main reason for refusal by the council was “the effect of the proposal upon the setting and thereby the significance of the Grade II listed building known as Former Pilkingtons Headquarters complex” and “upon the significance of the Grade II listed Registered Park and Garden known as ‘Former Pilkingtons Headquarters landscape (RPG)”.

Planning inspector Andrew Smith said noted the planned 64 residential units was a reduction on a previous application for 76 that was withdrawn in 2022 but said “it remains that a considerable quantum of new development, varying between two and three and a half storeys in height, is proposed that would cover a high proportion of the grassland”.

St Helens Star: A CGI in the rejected plansA CGI in the rejected plans (Image: Condy Lofthouse Architects (St Helens Council Planning Portal))

He also said: “It is my judgement that the potential visibility of the apartment blocks has been somewhat underplayed in the appellant’s evidence”.

Mr Smith added: “The scheme would cause harm to the heritage significance of the complex by virtue of development within its setting and cause harm to the heritage significance of the RPG through failing to fully harmonise with the RPG’s planned landscape and by virtue of development within its setting”.

The inspector did note “public benefits associated with the scheme remain considerable” but added “in the circumstances of this case, the scheme’s public benefits would not, in my judgement, outweigh the less than substantial harm that I have identified would be caused to the heritage significance of either the complex or the RPG.”

Mr Smith dismissed the appeal, stating the proposals conflict with planning policies.