Lydiate Parish Council’s submission to Sefton Council’s Core Strategy consultation – July 2011
Lydiate Parish Council had the pleasure of hosting one of the Borough Council’s public consultation events regarding the Core Strategy on 13th June at its new Village Centre and around 300 local residents attended the event to speak with Planning Officers, Parish Councillors and Park Ward Borough Councillors.
The message that we picked up very clearly at this event and also via other discussions with Lydiate residents has been one of ‘please don’t take forward proposals to develop our Green Belt’. Running alongside this message was a similar point but related to the fact that virtually all of the Green Belt surrounding Lydiate Parish is designated as either Grade 1 Agricultural Land. Lydiate residents have clearly told us that they want this high grade agricultural land to remain in that use especially as environmental considerations in the coming years will mean that more food will need to grown locally. This point is made in the context of there being so little Grade 1 and 2 Agricultural Land available across England therefore building on what is presently undeveloped land in those two categories is felt to be an environmentally unsustainable way forward.
Once it is developed it is gone for good
The Parish Council accepts that not all the local green belt land is presently used for the growing of food but it considers that the land should be preserved for that very purpose for future generations as once it is developed it is, in effect, gone for good.
In recent times there has been a proposal to build a canal marina in Lydiate (off Bells Lane) and the Parish Council opposed the planning application very much because of the perceived negative effect on the Green Belt and available agricultural land. Whilst the Parish Council is supportive of the principle of a canal marina locally in the East Parishes part of the Borough the overriding imperative of protecting the Green Belt and agricultural land that could be brought back into use in the future meant that the Parish Council had to recommend refusal of the application to Sefton’s Planning Committee, who came to the same conclusion. We appreciate that at the time of writing this submission the applicant was in the process of appealing against the refusal of planning permission with the hearing in late July.
Consultation process concerns
Turning to the consultation process itself, it is fair to say that the Parish Council was concerned prior to the Lydiate consultation event that the importance of what the event was about had not been satisfactorily communicated to Lydiate residents, especially those living close to sites that may be under potential threat of future development for housing in the Parish. We asked Park Ward Borough Councillor Tony Robertson to take this concern up with Sefton Planning Dept. and were pleased to note that the Borough Council did try to deliver a letter to houses close to potential development sites prior to the event, although we did hear of concerns that the coverage was not complete. However, the fact that around 300 residents came to the event on 13th June meant that the profile of the consultation process had been raised to some degree with local people. We remain concerned however that the Borough Council did not engage with local residents well throughout this process and therefore the planned events and general awareness amongst residents was not sufficient for such a far reaching and significant consultation.
Retaining the ‘Village’ feel of Lydiate
Fundamentally, Lydiate residents want the nature of Lydiate Parish, with its ‘village’ atmosphere to remain very much as it is and they fear that allowing any encroachment into Green Belt land will be the thin end of the wedge.
Agricultural land not treated with sufficient importance
We are also concerned that the Core Strategy processes have not put enough emphasis on the need for sustainable development, ‘green’ issues and the vital nature of local food production. Whilst we appreciate that towards the end of this round of consultation the importance of Grade 1 and 2 Agricultural Land was being highlighted we feel that this was a matter almost forced onto the agenda by campaigners rather than it being seen as a fundamental issue by the Borough Council Planning Dept. at the start of the process. We accept that this may well be a failing of national planning guidance given to Councils by Government in recent years but none the less we are disappointed that environmental considerations as important as the land on which we grown our food were not seen as hugely important by Sefton Planning Dept. from the start of the Core Strategy process. When the fact that such a small % of land in England is listed as either Grade 1 or 2 Agricultural Land is considered and that virtually all the undeveloped land surrounding Lydiate is deemed to be Grade 1 then this is a very significant issue not an afterthought.
Residents and Parish Council unconvinced about the housing need locally
We remain unconvinced by the arguments put forward that Lydiate (and the East Parishes part of the Borough) needs more housing especially as we are presently suffering the consequences of a deep recession from which we will emerge with differing priorities to when we entered it. On that basis we think it is premature to be making plans to provide extra housing locally when the need for it is, in our view, unproved and highly speculative. Not only that, demand for housing will follow economic growth and where available jobs are created. Sacrificing high grade agricultural land in any circumstances seems to be an extremely negative thing to do but to even consider it when the need to do so is in no way proved is poor planning indeed in the view of the Parish Council.
Should there be a need for additional housing in the East Parishes, which as we say we are yet to be unconvinced about, then we are aware that Ashworth Hospital is marketing its land that straddles the border between the Civil Parishes of Maghull and Melling. We are also aware that the land previously designated for a prison (Ashworth South), which is adjacent to aforementioned site, could also be made available for housing. Should either or both of these sites become housing then the need for the development of previously undeveloped land elsewhere across the East Parishes communities seems to us to be even less of a requirement in forthcoming years.
Finally we are aware that Lydiate Parish residents have been campaigning to oppose development locally and that petitions have been submitted to the Parish Council and Sefton Council making the views of Lydiate residents very clear. We are happy to endorse those petitions.
On the evidence we have seen and heard the position of Lydiate Parish Council is that we have not been provided with any convincing evidence that encroachment into the Green Belt and consequently onto Grade 1 and 2 Agricultural Land is warranted or indeed desirable and on that basis our clear view is one of rejecting proposals that place any threat to the Green Belt land surrounding the Lydiate community.
This response to Sefton Council’s Core Strategy was agreed by Lydiate Parish Council at its meeting held on Tuesday 26th July 2011