Southport – A Crossens Canoe

Seen at the Atkinson in Southport:-

Crossens Canoe - Atkinson 12

I have never seen the councillors representing Crossens arriving at meetings via this form of transport! To read more about this historic artifact see the BBC link below:-

The photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-

Sefton Local Plan – An excellent submission from a Lydiate resident

As Lib Dem Planning Spokesperson on Sefton Council I led the opposition to Sefton Council’s Local Plan on the Planning Committee. As a consequence I have been sent many copies of objections to the Plan which is now going on to be reviewed by an independent planning inspector. This is one such objection.

For the attention of the inspector.

I wish to object to the local plan as proposed by Sefton Council. I am basing this objection on several grounds which concern sites I am familiar with.

The loss of Green Belt land on the following sites will lead to the development of urban sprawl :

MN2.27 Land at Turnbridge Road ; MN2.28 Land North of Kenyons , Lydiate ; MN8.1 Lambshear Lane

To support this claim I would refer to paragraphs 83 and 84 and 85 of the NPPF. Para 83 states that ‘once established Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances, through the preparation or review of the Local Plan. At the time, authorities should consider the Green Belt boundaries having regard to their intended permanence in the long term, so that they should be capable of enduring beyond the plan period.’ I’m sure I hardly need to point out that in the case of MN2.28 Turnbridge Road land, a drain could not be considered a durable boundary as required in paragraph 85. And if allowed development of this site would open the whole area to the North and West of the Leeds to Liverpool canal to later development. This area is currently acknowledged as being unattached to an urban area.

And it goes without saying the openness of the countryside would be adversely affected and eroded. Indeed, 2011 the amount of Green Belt for development in Sefton was 2.6%; from there it increased to 3.2% and then crawled to 3.6% before now landing on 4.4% One wonders if Paddy Power could take out a book on it reaching 5% before long.

Country Lanes are not robust boundaries and if the Turnbridge Road proposal was allowed the next robust boundary would be Southport Road, which is an A road to the north several large fields away. A similar situation arises to the east of Lydiate where lack of robust boundaries would lead to a ‘doughnut’ of housing encircling the current village of Lydiate .As the West Lancs border closely follows Lydiate in a rabbits ear shaped boundary the whole village could be developed in future up to the border.

I would also like to object to these proposed developments on the grounds of the quality of farmland in this area, which is described by an agronomist as being noted for its excellence of agricultural production. Once developed this land would be lost to farming. The Uk already has a balance of payments deficit in international food trade. And security of supply has long been claimed as a national goal by governments. The soils here are classed as amongst the Best Most Versatile in the country and hence most valuable.

Given the NPPG advice that ‘unmet housing need is unlikely to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and other harm to constitute the ‘very special circumstances ‘justifying inappropriate development on a site within the Green Belt’ I hope you will agree with me that this is the case in this instance. I make this request especially as there are brownfield sites (some very large) in urban areas demanding development and regeneration for the sake of residents living in close proximity to eyesores and dangerous derelict works and areas of contaminated sites, now fenced off, from a less caring time. Some of these sites in the local plan are not scheduled for development for a despairingly long time. And it is clear that there will be a Green Belt first situation.

I now would like to open my concerns to other aspects of the local plan.

Should development be allowed on Green Belt land first there is the distinct possibility that the brownfield sites will lay unloved in a rust belt amongst family homes. It could be argued that the housing market in this area is supply led ( Zoopla shows house price are falling now in L31) and if demand dries up the brownfields will not be enhanced. One site was given planning permission around 2004 but the developer let the permission lapse. This brownfield site consists of a number of old works, factories along the Hawthorne Road/ Canal corridor.

There is also an issue with the high number of vacant housing throughout the borough. Which is higher than the government’s aims at 5822 over 4% of housing stock. One wonders if building so many new houses will lead too more vacant housing. When I asked about refurbishment I was told it would cost £90,000 per house. I found this strange given that a year earlier the price was said to be £35,000. There now appears to be large scale demolition of 2 bed housing in the Klondyke estate.

I would also like to draw your attention to both Maghull and Lydiate with regard to education and the Local Plan. There is also a real concern around the potential increase in school requirements. Sefton schooling officials claim (with some uncertainty) that the total average child yield for Sefton schools would be 32 per hundred households. They don’t show where they acquired these stats. The average Child Yield for other authorities in the region would show the following numbers: Average Child Yield for primary school children equals 25 children per 100 households, 16 secondary school pupils per hundred households and 3 for upper school children. So this adds up to 526 extra school places in the primary sector alone resulting from the developments around Maghull and Lydiate. I would suggest that tacking the odd classroom to existing schools may be inadequate. And children from other authorities in Sefton Schools have rights as do their younger siblings to Sefton education services.

Another concern throughout this area of Maghull and Lydiate (Park and Sudell Wards) is the predicted increase in traffic. To suggest that 4,000 extra vehicles would spread evenly through the day is very questionable and seems to defy the times of stress (rush hours) I find the comparison between residential areas and Switch Island also questionable. Switch Island has had millions of pounds and several adjustments to get the feeder roads to the level of today.

The Peel Ports claims of local and regional employment associated with Post Panamax traffic appears at variance and seems to ignore the multipliers associated with B2 and B8 jobs.
The hi-tech container handling equipment to be used at the port (Liverpool 2) calls for highly qualified operators and control room staff. The need for low skilled workers will not be met by the addition of two large berths. The fact that the Irish Sea is outside any ECA and numbers of ship movements (which in some years pass the criteria) for monitoring for air pollution within 1 kilometre of the docks, the council seem only to agree to measure up to 250 metres.

The Access to Port of Liverpool Report dated Nov 2011 points to the large number of HGVs using Dunnings Bridge Road. The Entry to the Port report shows an average of about 350 HGVs enter or leave the port every hour. And this is predicted to rise to 800 by 2030 or 750 if investment in freight infrastructure happens. I understand that the majority of HGVs use Dunnnings Bridge Road. Given the recent criticism of diesel vehicles and pollution one can only wonder of the effects on a Ward (Linacre). with very high levels of early death rates.

Switch Island must be on course to become one of the ‘hottest’ roundabouts in the country!
One wonders at the benefits that the residents of Bootle will get from the SuperPort, so loved by certain councillors! I hope the only thing in it for residents will not be a lungful of exhaust emissions from passing HGVs as operators move their boxes to their factories.

There is also a wide variety of wildlife supported by the fields around Lydiate.
To the west fields support pink footed geese in the season and there are bats roosting near Bells Lane ( reported to Sefton ecology ) there are of course many other examples of habitats and wild life which would need to be taken into consideration.s present.

Should the opportunity arise I would like to speak at the hearing.

Thank you for your kind attention,

Yours Faithfully,

P J Greener.

‘World’s oldest railway tunnel’ awarded protected status

The BBC has the story – see the link to their web site above.

Well I am a railway nut, so probably no surprise that this item on the BBC web site, which an old friend pointed out to me, has took my interest.

Borough of Sefton – What a mixture of diverse communities that have little in common with each other

The debate about the future of Sefton Borough has recently been ignited again by Southport Councillors calling for the Borough to be split. I share their frustrations despite living in Lydiate and representing Maghull and Lydiate on Sefton Council.

This wall art is on a former railway now pedestrian tunnel behind Bootle's New Strand Shopping Centre. Sadly it has gained a little unwanted graffiti.

This wall art is on a former railway now pedestrian tunnel behind Bootle’s New Strand Shopping Centre. Sadly it has gained a little unwanted graffiti.

Sefton is an odd place geographically and my guess is that few would suggest otherwise. It is of course this odd geography that is in many ways the underlying problem. At one end we have the seaside resort of Southport and at the other the northern part of the Port of Liverpool in Bootle. Between are numerous communities many of which are agricultural by their history but which are now very much part pf Liverpool’s commuter belt.

Sefton Council's Logo

Sefton Council’s Logo

Sefton started its tormented life as a troubled child of the infamous 1974 local government reorganisation. Frankly it has rarely been happy with itself since despite now being a middle aged 41. Many folk resented being taken out of Lancashire and that cry can still be heard pretty much across the Borough.

Two places strike me as being more out of place in Sefton than maybe others are, although this is just a personal view and other people may hold differing but just as valid views. My two are Southport and Lydiate. The Southport case has been rehearsed many, many times and it is no surprise that this large former County Borough resents being ruled by folks who live miles away as is the case at present with Sefton Council’s Cabinet all representing Bootle Constituency seats.

The Southport issue is therefore, amongst other things, about the loss of former power and control over its own destiny and being ruled by others who don’t have any affinity with the Town. Having said that one counter argument that can’t be forgotten is that Southport would not have gained European money to the extent that it did (by being in Merseyside) had it been outside of what is now called the Liverpool City Region. An issue for me now is that West Lancashire is not also an equal partner within the City Region. This means that virtually all of Southport’s hinterland is outside of Sefton and Merseyside and to all intents and purposes behind a ‘Cold War’ type invisible wall.


Lydiate is an interesting example of Borough’s bizarre geography as its only land connection to Sefton and therefore Merseyside is via a short boundary with Maghull. Its far larger boundary, in effect the other 3 sides of the community is with West Lancashire. Out on a limb is one way of putting it.

The challenges that Southport and Lydiate share are mainly caused by the invisible local government wall which is their boundary with Lancashire. Over the years Sefton Council has become increasingly Merseyside-centric and the much needed closer working with Lancashire/West Lancashire has become little more than throwing notes tied to stones over that invisible barrier. This ‘we don’t do business with Lancashire’ approach is now firmly rooted in Sefton’s local government officers so it is not just a politicians issue. Despite Lydiate Parish Council striving to keep up links with its West Lancs Parish neighbours and Southport councillors wanting to re-establish working relationships with Lancashire County & West Lancs Borough Councils (that are at least as comprehensive as those which Sefton Council has with Knowsley and Liverpool Councils) the pull of what Merseyside wants always wins.

At one point it was possible that the Local Government Boundary Commission may have recommended that our Borough be split but it backed away from that in favour of telling Sefton to decentralise itself and empower its diverse communities. It was supposed to be the end of ‘one size fits all’ Sefton Borough and for a while it was with Area Committees being set up and Parish Councils (10 of them now and all in the middle of the Borough) being brought into the Sefton family rather than being seen as troublesome beggars who rarely got more than a pat on the head!

St. Helen's Church, Sefton Village, where the Borough gets its name from.

St. Helen’s Church, Sefton Village, where the Borough gets its name from.

I think if fair to say that Labour went along with decentralisation because they felt they had to rather than being of the view that it was a good thing in itself. Of course centralising power is the Labour way so it was no surprise they were at best highly suspicious of giving it away. The Tories too were hardly keen but with the Lib Dems being decentralisers by nature the Council, which was in balanced for many years, found a way forward.

When Labour took control of the Council though you could almost feel the process of decentralisation being reigned in the following day. This was no surprise to those of us close to the action. Labour’s power base was and is in the Old Labour heartland of Bootle where Tony Blair’s New Labour was seemingly hated as much as Margaret Thatcher. So much so that I recall Labour members of Sefton Council joyfully shouting that they were ‘Old Labour’ at Council meetings during Blair’s rule. The point being that Old Labour wanted power and they wanted it as few of their own hands as possible – Decentralisation was definitely off the agenda once Labour took control.

So a few years on is there any wonder that folks from places like Southport are unhappy? They have every reason to be unhappy, in my view, as the process they tried to make work after the Boundary Commission’s fudge has not only ground to a halt but has been slammed into reverse!

For local governance to work it needs to be representative of all the communities is serves – Sefton Council is not representative and it certainly is not working for its diverse communities from my perspective.

Sefton – Lib Dem Opposition Leader slams Sefton Local Plan

Sefton Council Lib Dem Opposition Group
Leader Cllr. Iain Brodie Browne
24th March 2015

Cllr. Iain Brodie Browne

Liberal Democrat Group response to Sefton Council’s Local Plan

For context and background information we attach our previous submission because much of what we said in it still applies.

MP’s raise concerns about Local Plan

Firstly, two of the Borough’s 3 MP’s have very clearly and publicly expressed great concerns about the Sefton Local Plan. John Pugh MP (Southport) has questioned the reliance of the Borough Council on consultants who have a foot in both camps i.e. developers/land owners and the Council. Bill Esterson MP (Sefton Central) has said the plan should go back to the drawing board because it has not been drawn up in a way that has engaged Sefton’s communities.

Lack of Sustainable Development

Since our previous submission there have been changes to the plan which in our view put the principle of sustainable development at huge risk. We say this as the Borough Council is now proposing to build more houses and in doing so use more Green Belt and high grade agricultural land to achieve this objective. We are far from convinced that a clear case has been made by the Borough Council to concrete over vast swathes of high grade agricultural land which is presently being used to grow our food on.

Threat to high grade agricultural land

Sefton is blessed with having a significant amount of some of the highest grade agricultural land in England yet this Local Plan is aiming to build on it. This is not environmentally sustainable development in our view.

Shaky and ever changing population projections

We continue to have grave doubts over the population projections that the Borough Council is using especially as Sefton’s population has been on a downward trend ever since the Borough was set up in 1974. What’s more the figures have changed with every iteration of the plan and the advice from consultants has changed with it.

Local Plan should have been a joint Plan with West Lancs Borough

We remain concerned at the lack of effective cross-boundary working with West Lancashire Borough Council. This is a matter that we have raised previously and the denials of Planning Officers have not reassured us. We have concluded that the Sefton Local Plan should have been pursued as joint plan with West Lancashire Borough Council as, we understand, has happened in other parts of England. Sefton has a massive boundary with West Lancashire Borough, very significantly greater than its boundaries with Liverpool or Knowsley. The Southport and Lydiate communities, for example, are surrounded by West Lancashire with only their southern boundaries being connected to the rest of the Borough of Sefton. The economic, housing, education, health and social needs of these communities are as much if not more connected to those of their neighbouring communities in West Lancashire as they are to those in Sefton/Merseyside. It is our contention that Sefton Council has failed to work in a progressive way with West Lancashire Borough Council and that it continues to adopt an inward looking Merseyside-centric approach which is to the disadvantage of its diverse communities.

No planning for Southport’s clear transportation needs to east and north of Town

Another concern that we have is so basic in terms of planning for the future of transportation to and from Southport as to beggar belief that it has not been picked up on. We refer to the significant rail and road problems that the Southport community faces to the east and north of the Town. Only recently Sefton Council was successful in pushing Merseytravel to include the Southport-Wigan-Manchester railway line in its Long Term Rail Strategy yet this Local Plan completely fails to address the implications of that positive move. Implications such as the requirement to build a new park and ride station on the outskirts of Southport so to make the line more attractive to Southport residents who work in Manchester. This is a very significant failure in the Plan and fuels our concerns that the development of the Plan has not been community based but imposed on the diverse communities of the Borough by a Bootle and Merseyside-centric Council.

But the concerns we express are larger than just rail related as Southport’s economy is significantly being held back by its access problems to the east and north of the Town. Road issues also need to be addressed and whilst the solutions are in West Lancashire Borough it is clearly the case that the Local Plan is just the place for Sefton to lay out its ambitions for solving these matters. Of course it also shows why the Local Plan should have been a joint one with West Lancs Borough.

If Sefton Council can see that road and rail improvements are required in Maghull (new station and improved M58 Motorway junction) why can’t it see and indeed make the case for such improvements to the road and rail connection to the east and north of Southport?

Maghull (New Town) – It’s far more than an urban extension!

Maghull and Lydiate are to see a huge amount of development via this Plan which is totally out with the housing needs of these two communities. Sites MN2.46/MN3.38 are to add a vast (New Town type) extension to the east of Maghull and this on some of the 2% highest grade agricultural land in England! We continue to argue that this is not environmentally sustainable development and that it is totally out of scale with the housing needs of this part of the Borough.

Lydiate too is to see significant development, again on high grade agricultural land and the semi-rural nature of this community is clearly being put at risk. There is every danger here that the scale of development will see the erosion of the Green Belt between Lydiate and Aughton Civil Parishes.

Housing need

We remain highly sceptical of the Councils view that large numbers of new houses are required and feel they have not produced robust evidence of such need. However, where Sefton does have a housing need is within the affordable/social housing sector and the plan does not indicate a sustainable way of providing such housing. Indeed, through drafts of the plan Sefton has backed away from targets for affordable housing.

Scrutiny Process

Sefton’s scrutiny process associated with the Local Plan was poor and the work that was done, especially that of Council’s Infrastructure Working Group, seems to have been all but ignored. This working Group raised many questions and concerns but as the Plan went through its final processes within the Council these significant issues were not addressed in a robust way and this leads us to conclude that the scrutiny of the Local Plan was unsound.

Our conclusion – Sefton’s Local Plan, not sound, not effective.

Sefton Council has done what it has been made to do to put a Local Plan together, but it has not done what it needed to do to put together a Local Plan that passes the test of soundness or that addresses the needs of its diverse communities. The Plan is remote and disconnected from the communities it seeks to plan the future of. The failure to work collaboratively with West Lancs Borough Council has been a huge opportunity missed and it means the Plan is not effective.

The Plan is imposed, has little no community support, it is unlikely to deliver the affordable housing that is required. Putting it bluntly it lacks ambition for the Borough and will not help it move forward economically, environmentally or socially.

Councillor Iain Brodie Browne

Time for Bill Esterson to condemn his councillors for voting to build on Sefton’s Green Belt?

Environmental campaigners across the Sefton Central Constituency and indeed even I as a political opponent of the incumbent Labour MP Bill Esterson have praised his brave move prior to Christmas in attacking the poor Local Plan that Labour-led Sefton Council has been forcing through.

That the plan is poor is a massive understatement, that it is an environmental disaster is nearer to the point. What with some of the 2% highest grade agricultural land in England going to be built upon in Sefton Central no wonder environmental campaigners, the Lib Dems and indeed our Labour MP have been up in arms.

So Bill was right to attack the plan as indeed was the Lib Dem MP for Southport – John Pugh. But, unlike the Lib Dems who have been wholly consistent in their approach to the Local Plan, Labour has been all over the place. Yes, Bill Esterson has been consistent in saying that Green Belt should be protected from development, but his Labour Sefton Council colleagues have not been. They started off by seemingly agreeing with him that the Green Belt should be protected only to U turn later in the process and vote for building on it. Bill must have felt very let down, as indeed we all were.

But now we face elections both local and national on 7th May and it seems to be an appropriate time for Bill to stand aside from his councillors who backed away from following his principled lead. For both the MP and his councillors to be campaigning together is at best incongruous and at worst ridiculous in my view. Time for Bill not only to show his anger at his Labour colleagues behind doors (which surely he must have done?) but to come out and do so in public.

Will Bill appear on the same leaflets as those Labour councillors who ignored his concerns? Well yes it seems he will as there is one doing the rounds in Sudell ward, Maghull right now. Don’t you think this is how politics gets a bad name? Bill you disappoint me.