Council cites 'increased workload' as local plan timetable slips

A Merseyside council has put back the timetable for submission of its emerging local plan to next summer, with a leading councillor blaming government requirements for 'slowing us down'.

St Helens (pic: Cathie Garner via Flickr)
St Helens (pic: Cathie Garner via Flickr)

St Helens Borough Council announced this week that council approval for the submission version of its local plan is now expected in the early summer of 2018. The plan had previously been expected to be approved within the next few weeks.

Commenting on the revised timetable, John Fulham, the council’s cabinet member for growth, said the authority needs to consider the implications of the Department for Communities and Local Government’s proposed standard methodology for assessing housing need, published last month.

"Looking at the government’s review, we are confident that our planning for growth will meet the government’s proposed new standardised method for calculating housing need and we’re confident that St Helens will achieve growth," said Fulham.

But he added: "Government has asked local authorities to adopt new local plans as soon as possible and then has increased the workload, slowing us down."

Fulham also complained that the government-imposed requirement for all councils to compile a brownfield sites register by the end of this year "has involved council staff in conducting lengthy technical assessments, whereas in the past developers have done it at their own expense".

"Assuming central government doesn’t make more changes that further slow us down, we hope to progress to the next stage by summer 2018, giving us plenty of time to consider all of the considerable evidence that has been submitted, prepare a transport and infrastructure plan and allow feedback on the second draft."

Local plans submitted to the government for examination after 31 March 2018 will be expected to use the new approach to calculating objectively assessed needs, meaning that the St Helens Local Plan must take this into account.

Public consultation on the council’s preferred options local plan was held over an eight-week period last winter.

While regeneration of brownfield land was a key priority in the preferred options document, it also proposed to release 1,187 hectares of land from the green belt to meet the need for new homes and employment up to and beyond 2033.

Depending on the result of a public examination of the finalised plan, the council hopes to adopt the local plan in 2019.

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