A DRAFT document which will determine the future development of Runcorn and Widnes was due to be discussed and rubber stamped by councillors last night.
Halton Borough Council became a unitary authority three years ago and the publication of its first Unitary Development Plan (UDP) will lay out the rules for development up to and beyond 2016.
One of the main strategies outlined in the UDP is the importance of reversing Halton's falling levels of population.
In 1997, the borough's population was estimated at 122,300, but less than three years later, the figure had dropped to 120,800.
The report states: 'Halton's population is declining - 10% over the next 20 years on current trends. Most significantly it appears to be the younger, more employable/mobile people of working age (16-44) who are leaving.
'The proportion of older people is increasing - over 75s up 12.2% by 2011 and the 11-15 age group is expected to fall by 17.8% during the same period.'
The council aims to attract more development to the area to prevent vast numbers of people of working age from leaving the borough to search for work.
Extra development would also help to ease the terrible rates of social and economic deprivation experienced in the borough.
The State of the Borough report last year revealed that Halton rates as the 18th most deprived local authority in England and Wales.
The report also revealed that the borough experiences massive health problems with rates of child death and cancer soaring.
However, last month the council joined with the health authority and other health care professionals to draw-up plans to improve Halton's health.
The report also notes that improving environmental pollution has been named as the second highest priority for the council in the coming decade after health.
However, Halton's history has left an exceptional legacy of dereliction and contaminated land that is beyond the means of the council alone to resolve.
The UDP concludes that the potential for new development in Halton is good, as a result of its good transport links with the rest of the UK.
The report says: 'Part of the role of the UDP will be to help realise development potential but, unlike the early chemical industry of the last century, without cost to future generations.'
Much of the land comprises chemical fills and dumps and contains potentially dangerous and hazardous substances which can cost up to a £1m per hectare to reclaim.