Maghull Town Council drags itself to be a little concerned about the draft Local Plan for Sefton

Following 2 years of saying nothing about the problematic Local Plan for Sefton Borough finally Maghull Town Council, under its Labour rulers, says excuse me Big Brother Sefton our residents are not completely happy with it. And they all but doffed their caps in saying it!

Now the point here is why has it taken so long and why such a low key response? Well a resident attending Maghull’s Council meeting last Wednesday put his finger on it by saying that it was Bootle Labour Party telling Maghull what was good for it, or words to that effect.

So why did Maghull TC finally act? We can only assume that its Labour rulers realised that saying nothing was no longer sustainable when the draft Local Plan proposes a 25% increase in the number of houses in the Town! The fact that Labour has recently lost two by-elections in Maghull to the Lib Dems, where building on Green Belt was a big issue, had also forced their hand.

The Labour response was built upon what they referred to as a non-biased survey, yet the survey simply reproduced what Sefton’s Planning Department has been saying. There was no alternative view put. That could easily have been done by asking a local environmental campaign group such as Fragoff to have got involved. It was because of such flaws and the fact that we were presented with a survey with no real opportunity to seriously amend it that we opposition members of Maghull Council refused to endorse Labour’s survey.

Yet the results of the survey, flawed as it was, were wholly predictable as Maghull folk who were asked to take part were by a clear majority unhappy with building on the Green Belt, concreting over high grade agricultural land, increasing the size of their Town by 25% etc. etc. If residents had been presented with the environmental side of the story I bet the results would have been even more clear cut.

But when it came to actually doing something positive with the survey Labour were yet again unwilling to be community leaders. Instead of making it very clear that the Town Council of Maghull was fundamentally opposed to the draft Local Plan, as opposition Lib Dems proposed, they meekly decided to just tell Sefton Council that Maghull is a little unhappy and please don’t be upset with us for saying this!

If that’s community leadership then I am yet again a Dutchman!!!

The Aintree & Maghull Champion Headline of 9th October ‘TOWN COUNCIL ‘YES’ TO DRAFT LOCAL PLAN’ just about sums up what the Town Council has done because its decision was all but a yes with reservations instead of reflecting what its own survey had shown!

Lydiate Footpath No. 24 – Another of our occasional rambles

rsz_lydiate_lydiate_footpath_no_08_13

I took this photo (click to enlarge) when Sheila and I walked from our home in Lydiate to the Stanley Arms Pub in Aughton a few weeks back.

Lydiate Footpath No. 24 runs from Pygons Hill Lane (near Jackson’s Bridge on the Leeds Liverpool Canal) out of Merseyseyside and into the West Lancashire Parish of Aughton where it becomes Aughton Footpath No.15. I think the telegraph poles, in the photo, are on the line of Sudell Brook which forms the boundary between Aughton and Lydiate and therefore Lancashire and Merseyside. Looking at the photo Merseyside is to the right of the telegraph poles.

SAVE OUR GREEN BELT – Lydiate Parish Council fights for it

Below is the submission to Sefton Council from Lydiate Parish Council in response to the second phase of public consultation over the Local Plan for Sefton. The two ‘attached documents’ mentioned in the text are displayed after the main submission. With apologies for the length of this important document.

This is the major site for potential development in Lydate off Liverpool Road, Lambshear lane, Sandy Lane & Moss Lane. The second development site is bounded by the A59, Kenyons Lane and Liverpool Road and is often referred to as Tyson's Triangle.

This is the major site for potential development in Lydate off Liverpool Road, Lambshear lane, Sandy Lane & Moss Lane. The second development site is bounded by the A59, Kenyons Lane and Liverpool Road and is often referred to as Tyson’s Triangle.

Firstly, for context we attach the submission that we made in 2011 in response to the first round of public consultation.

We now know that two potential development sites in Lydiate Parish are the ones that Sefton Council refers to as ‘Reserved Sites’ i.e. they will come on line if there are problems delivering the Local Plan (Option 2) house building target within the sites identified for development. However, even if there are no problems with those sites our understanding is that the Lydiate sites will only remain protected from development for 5 years.

On the basis that the ‘reserved sites’ within Lydiate Parish are all but development sites the Parish Council, for the purposes of this submission, is treating them as being under the same threat as the main local sites in neighbouring Maghull.

Our fundamental view and stance has not changed since we put together our first submission in that our great concerns are:-

• The character of our semi-rural community will be significantly and negatively affected if the two identified reserved sites are developed. Indeed, the proposals in Option 2 could see Lydiate grow by a third, changing the character of the community completely. Our understanding is that national recommendations state that significant growth of this sort should be avoided.
• The land, on both sites, is high grade agricultural land so it remains, in our view, environmental nonsense to plan to build on it because future generations will require it to grow food upon.

Since we made our first submission a housing developer has, as the Planning Dept. will know, broken cover and published some first draft proposals with regard to the largest of the two reserved sites in Lydiate Parish. This led to members of Lydiate Parish Council engaging with residents living close to the site and indeed in the wider community in the early part of 2013.

The result of this engagement is that a petition signed by hundreds of people opposing the proposed development of land bounded by Lambshear Lane, Sandy Lane, Moss Lane and Liverpool Road has been collected. The petition is attached.

It should also be noted that Lydiate Parish Council has resolved not to sell any of the land in its ownership to facilitate housing developments that may be brought forward. I attach a copy of the appropriate Parish Council minute to this end.

A further issue for the Parish Council is our concern about the robustness of the figures being used in the draft Local Plan for Sefton’s population in future years. Like many we remain sceptical of figures being put forward by consultants NLP who are working for Sefton Council. If we are to believe those figures the Borough’s population, which has been falling year on year for a long time, is about to go into reverse and start to climb again. This in turn means that the ‘need’ for housing goes up putting more and more pressure on our precious Green Belt.

We appreciate that the 510 figure for the number of houses required to be built in the Borough per year (under your preferred Option 2) is almost exactly the same as the 500 figure previously imposed on the Borough by the previous Government’s now defunct Regional Spatial Strategy. However, why does a completely new approach to assessing housing need in Sefton, using different statistics, come up with almost exactly same answer?

Population growth or otherwise, taken with the fact that we tend to live in small family units and are living longer, is clearly the key factor in assessing housing need so getting the population predictions right is vital.

At the so called ‘Stakeholders’ meeting last May in Bootle Town Hall your consultants, NLP, clearly stated that Sefton’s population was going to go into reverse and start growing, instead of declining, and they were equally clear in saying that this population increase would be down to inward migration. When questioned the consultants said that inward migration was made up of people moving into the Borough from other parts of the UK, people returning to Sefton who had previously moved away and migrants new to the UK.

We think it fair to say that the audience at that event was very far from convinced about the robustness of the information presented to them that day on population growth. Since then, despite people questioning that robustness and which set of population figures to use in the calculations, there has been no satisfactory clarification of this matter.

Lydiate Parish Council therefore remains opposed to Sefton Council’s preferred Option 2 as we are:-

• Far from being convinced that the population figures, which it is built upon. are robust.
• Opposed to development of high grade agricultural land.
• Concerned that the scale of the proposed developments will negatively impact on the semi-rural nature of our community.

August 2013

Attached documents

• Appendix 1 – Copy of LPC’s 2011 Core Strategy submission
• Appendix 2 – Copy of Lydiate residents views about Lydiate sites as expressed to Sefton Council Officers at Lydiate Village Centre 24th July 2013

APPENDIX 1

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.

Conclusion

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

APPENDIX 2

These notes were prepared by Sefton Council Planning Dept. following the event held at Lydiate Village Centre on 24th July 2013 – References to sites outside of Lydiate Parish are not included in this version.

Note of Lydiate Event

Numbers who attended: 49
Numbers who booked but didn’t attend: 9

Main issues:
• Traffic on Northway and around Maghull/Lydiate generally.
• The infrastructure is poor. Often poor connection to sewers etc.
• Many people are doubtful that development will bring forward the required infrastructure improvements.
• Concerns over surface water flooding.
• Many people questioned whether 510 homes per year are really required.
• The amount of housing is totally out of proportion to Lydiate and Maghull. The area is taking a much bigger hit than anywhere else in Sefton.
• Will have an adverse affect on the character of the village.
• Affordable housing either not appropriate or not truly affordable.
• Scepticism that development would be of a high standard.
• General concern that Lydiate has already lost some of its village feel and development of housing on this scale will turn it into just another urban settlement.

Site issues

Lydiate

Site off Lambshear Lane
• Flooding/drainage running off the site onto the roads and into neighbouring properties.
• The land is high quality agricultural land, farmed every year and shouldn’t be lost. This point was often linked to local food production and to national food security.
• Moss Lane is not suitable for a large amount of traffic and has limited footways. More development will be dangerous for both traffic and pedestrians due to increased vehicle movements.
• Real pressure on the local schools for places as they are already full.
• Questions on how the site will be accessed. Whichever combination of solutions are made, there will be congestion and a danger to residents and particularly children at peak times.
• Far too many homes.
• Fewer homes and perhaps ones suitable for elderly people or self –build.
• Scepticism that homes will be of a high quality.
• Existing lack of public transport will push people onto using cars.
• The scale of development will be harmful to the character of the village.

Tyson’s triangle
• Not suited to large scale housing development. Concerns that development of this site will start to merge with Aughton.
• Impact on traffic on Northway. Already clogged at peak times.
• Concern about how access will be made and the impact upon the safety of residents and children.
• The land is farmed and is high quality agricultural land.

General
• Far too much development for Lydiate. Will result in an adverse impact upon the character of the area and the infrastructure.
• Lots of questions about what a “reserve site” means and whether they are likely to be developed.

Other
• Many residents would support a redevelopment of Maghull town centre.
• General opposition to developing on the Green Belt as a principle.

The Consultation
• A number of people commented that the format of the sessions was very helpful in gaining an understanding of the process.
• Others felt that they would have preferred a drop-in type session.
• Comments that the wraparound on the Champion Newspaper was very helpful and informative.
• Some confusion from an article in a local paper that didn’t mention the event.
• A number of people commented that neighbours/friends didn’t want to attend because they felt that the development was likely to go ahead anyway or they already knew about the process.
• Some people felt that the sessions weren’t well publicised.
• A suggestion that the Local Planning Team might want to go out on site and talk through any proposals with residents.

www.lydiateparishcouncil.gov.uk/

Southport MP raises big concerns about Sefton Council’s Local Plan

As voices of concern about the quality of Sefton Council’s darft Local Plan are raised across the Borough I publish below the opinion of one of the Borough’s MP’s, John Pugh (Southport). John clearly shares such concerns.

Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport

Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport

*****

RESPONSE TO LOCAL PLAN – John Pugh MP

The Local Plan or Core strategy is an attempt by Sefton following the abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies to identify housing demand and land supply.

The figures for new housebuilding (500+ units a year) are based on speculative 15 year projections and involve significant encroachments on the green belt with more than half the stock being placed in the greenbelt.

This represents an appetising prospect for builders but does not seem appropriately geared to the community’s needs given that Sefton is currently depopulating by about 500 each year.

There is every reason to question the robustness of Sefton’s conclusions and the need to encroach significantly on the green belt.

1- Sefton choose in their analysis to rely not upon projections and data from Department of Communities and Local Government but upon projections made by their own consultants Nathaniel Litchfield who happen to have amongst their clients most of the major builders (see http://nlpplanning.com/uploads/ffiles/2013/08/185098.pdf)

2- Sefton has a very poor record of getting population projections right particularly in the north of the borough where school place projections have consistently proved wide of the mark

3- It is not obvious that Sefton to comply with the legislation needs to be as specific and detailed as the plan suggests over a full 15 years with all the attendant risks of inaccuracy.

4- Even on the report from its own consultants scenarios of population growth speculatively assume changes in the economic behaviour and activity of residents for which no rationale is given. Projected housing numbers actually confuse outcomes we might like to see rather than outcomes we can reasonably expect. This is a serious methodological flaw.

5- There is a wholly unambitious target for empty homes essentially maintaining our
current vacancy rate at around the 4% despite acknowledging the best target for home
vacancies would be 3%.

6-There are also parts of the plan which seem to be overly cautious. The plan contains a 5% contingency which is not unreasonable. However it later goes on to add in an extra 350 developments on top of the proposed 5% contingency rather than including them within it.

7-The council also claims that a backlog of 1,113 homes need to be built to make up for a shortfall in development over recent years. There is some scepticism over the need to back date the local plan to address previous under-build given that that time period is not covered by the plan.

8- Housing density figures largely ignore the massive need in Sefton for one bedroom accommodation for single people and unmarried couples -a need evident to all local RSLs especially following the introduction of housing benefit changes (as well as the fact voiced for by house builders that household size nationally is now rising not falling).

The most blatant error though is an inability of the council to see the potential of the town centre(s) in providing dwelling both above shops and in areas where following changes in planning guidelines unused retails units become once more residential.

The potential for this to happen is ludicrously under-estimated by the council and betrays not only a complete misunderstanding of the changing face of retail but the total absence of a retail or town centre strategy. Currently over 13% of retail floorspace is vacant.

Town-centre occupancy like city-centre occupancy adds to the sustainability and vibrancy of the centre itself. There is huge potential in Southport in particular and further potential for purpose built quality apartments in town-which of course can be multi-storey.

It is difficult to resist the conclusion that Sefton in their strategy have simply followed the line of least resistance, employed data in an overly creative fashion and provided a menu that suits the taste of builders for fresh turf rather than faces up to genuine but tough challenges.

To allow further sprawl into the green belt and ignore the hollowing out of the town centre is precisely what previous planning guidance was meant to prevent.

Under that regime there was support for development on land previously allocated for building and consent was given. Sefton was if anything hampered then more by market conditions and overly prescriptive planning limits.

What is now happening though represents an unthinking volte face based on unfounded assumptions .

The plans take little if any account of community, infrastructure needs, sacrifice agricultural land, side step any assessment of flood risk but worse of all appear to subordinate the demands of the community to the demands of the building industry

The fact that Local Plan links to and relies on a skeletal town centre strategy which any retail expert would find laughable should be ample reason for suspicion.

Closer inspection only generates further concerns.

John Pugh

Lib Dem response to Labour’s Green Belt grab for Sefton – Sefton Local Plan draft should be rejected

With apologies for the length of this detailed document – read it when you have some time to spare.

*****

Sefton Council Lib Dem Opposition Group
Leader Cllr. Iain Brodie Browne

26th September 2013

Labour’s draft Local Plan for Sefton is inadequate, fails to protect high grade agricultural land and lacks ambition

The Liberal Democrat Group on Sefton Council have major concerns about the draft Local Plan and the preferred ‘Option 2’ put forward by the Labour administration on Sefton Council.

Executive Summary

Our fundamental concerns are:-

• The draft plan lacks robustness in terms of population predictions and therefore the housing requirements flowing from the data used can’t be anything more than vaguely informed guestimates.
• The effect of taking the plan forward based on potentially flawed data means that high grade agricultural land, within Green Belt, will be designated for house building when this may well not be necessary.
• The seeming lack of detailed working with West Lancashire Borough Council is worrying as they are the local authority that Sefton has by far the largest boundary and most significant community of interest with.
• The leading references in the draft plan to Merseyside Councils are misleading and unhelpful because the centre and north of the Borough (the majority of the Sefton) rightly expects the Council to be heavily engaged with West Lancashire as a priority with the southern Merseyside Councils being of less significance for two thirds of the Borough’s population.
• The flawed method of public consultation used by the Council may well have reduced the number of residents who felt able and comfortable to participate in the process.
• The plan is all but silent on some major issues across the Borough that need to be planned for.

GENERAL & BOROUGHWIDE COMMENTS ABOUT THE DRAFT PLAN

Why is 500 the answer again?
The plan’s preferred Option 2 will mean that each year 510 houses will be built in the Borough – this is a remarkably similar figure to the target of 500 houses per year which was previously imposed on the Borough via the last Labour Government’s Regional Spatial Strategy.

Bearing in mind that after the RSS figure was imposed the UK entered into and is still suffering from the effects of a massive economic recession and that the draft plan is allegedly built upon new economic and population data etc. the similarity of the proposed house building figures is at best questionable.

It is also the case that the draft plan seems to indicate a much higher figure (above 660) of houses ‘need’ be built per year. In another context the Council’s public statements say that 5,000 houses need to be built in the existing urban areas. These figures are at best confusing.

Concerns about the quality and accuracy of data
We have great concern about the quality and accuracy of the data used in the production of the options within the plan. This point is made in the context of the Council’s lead consultants, NLP, openly saying at a Local Plan Stakeholder meeting in May of 2013, at Bootle Town Hall that the Borough’s year on year declining population is suddenly going to go into reverse and significantly rise again. What’s more they said to this forum that the rise would be caused by inward migration. When questioned to explain this statement they said that the migrants would be made up of people moving into Sefton from other parts of the UK, people returning to Sefton who had moved away and migrants from outside the UK. To date we have not seen what we accept as credible data to robustly back up these assertions.

Loss of ‘best and most versatile’ agricultural land
The Green Belt surrounding Sefton’s diverse communities is almost totally comprised of high grade agricultural land often referred to as ‘best and most versatile’. However, Option 2 clearly indicates that a significant part of this land, which is presently used for the growing of food, will be lost to housing developments if the Council presses ahead and confirms the preferred option of the Labour administration.

Our clear view is that compromising high grade agricultural land is a hugely negative step backwards and that it is environmentally unsustainable.

Urban Extensions
The potential size increases of some communities, e.g. Maghull to increase by nearly 25% and Lydiate by 35% will fundamentally change the character of these parishes. The Local Plan process was supposed to prevent such significant increases and we feel that the scale of the proposals is therefore unacceptable.

Some small Green Belt compromises are possible
We do realise that some land that technically falls within Green Belt can sensibly be developed because it is often not high quality agricultural land.

The Power House in Formby, land east of Southport at Kew, the Pontins site in Ainsdale and the presently vacant Ashworth South site in Maghull are examples of sites where a reasonable compromise can be made. The Power House, Pontins and Ashworth South are clear examples of sites which have previously been built upon to some extent and therefore lend themselves to being developed.

This approach can take the pressure off building on high grade agricultural land. However, such reasonably developable sites within the Green Belt are few.

Lack of detailed working with West Lancs
We understand that West Lancs Borough Council has some concerns about Option 2 particularly with regard to the reserved sites in Lydiate which if developed will leave too narrow a Green Belt with Aughton. We share this concern.

In general we have concerns about the seemingly lack of detailed joint Local Plan development with West Lancs Borough Council. This is evidenced by West Lancs’ comments about the Lydiate reserve sites and the lack of detail in either the Sefton or indeed West Lancs plans to address transportation issues (both rail and road) to the east of Southport.

The fact that the Local Plan process seems not be developing a common detailed agenda to address traffic congestion between Southport and Ormskirk and the improvement of rail services to and from Southport along the Wigan Southport railway line is regrettable. The reconnection of the Wigan – Southport and Ormskirk – Preston railway lines at Burscough (via the Burscough Curves) is also surprising by its omission from the draft.

Negative impact developments in retail units
Prevention of retail ghettoisation – The Local Plan should aim to restrict the spread of betting shops (particularly given the prevalence of fixed odds betting terminals) and pay day loan shops.

Environmental considerations
Whilst raising issues such as global warming, climate change and sustainable development the plan is far from being ambitious in this crucial area of environmental sustainability. Sefton’s Local Plan and indeed those of our neighbouring Councils need to major on energy conservation and the highest possible energy-saving/low carbon targets for all new developments. District heating is being embraced in one area of Kew in Southport but this can only be the start. Biomass boilers on a communal basis are another way forward that must be grasped.

Whilst doing this the Council should be seeking effective ways to improve, as far as possible, the Borough’s current stock of commercial and domestic buildings with regard to energy usage.

Should we not also be considering the aims of Merseyside Fire & Rescue Authority by pushing hard the policy of encouraging the installation of sprinkler systems in all new commercial property builds in the Borough and retrofitting into older properties?

Shale Gas extraction has to be a major issue for Sefton as exploration work is already happening in neighbouring West Lancashire and the license under which that is taking place also covers parts of our Borough. It is almost certain that the UK will need to exploit this source of fuel within the next few years yet the Local Plan is all but silent on the matter. As the plan is meant to cover the next 15 to 20 years for it to virtually ignore this issue is far from being a sound planning process.

Flooding – the two large greenbelt sites proposed for building in the north of Southport and one of the ‘reserved’ sites in Lydiate are prone to flooding and they add to concerns that the draft plan does not give enough emphasis to flood prevention.

Schools
We fear that planning for future school requirements is not a robust part of the Local Plan and that this needs to be addressed especially if the Council presses ahead with major housing developments. A sit and wait to see what develops approach will be irresponsible where significant developments are to take place especially when half of the Borough is already very close to experiencing stresses with regard to primary school places.

It also has to be held in mind that schools in Sefton are popular for parents from West Lancs, Knowsley and Liverpool to send their children to, so housing developments in those neighbouring council areas will have an impact on the demand for places within the Borough.

NHS Pressure
We have concerns about the impact of major housing developments in the Borough (and indeed in surrounding council areas) as they will have an impact on the capacity of our local NHS facilities and hospitals. The Local Plan needs to addresses the problems that will occur with extra pressure on hospitals, GP surgeries and NHS dentists. These health aspects have to be a major part of all future major planning applications as accessibility to and the capacity of NHS facilities to cope are big issues

The challenges of Liverpool’s greatly declined population
Demand for housing in Sefton and indeed in other Boroughs surrounding Liverpool has been ratcheted up by the city’s ever declining population over many generations since the Second World War. Whilst Liverpool has stemmed that loss it needs to rebuild its lost population and use up brownfield sites across the city for housing. The longer it takes to address this issue the greater the pressure will be on Sefton to sanction the building of houses on its high grade agricultural land. This is a sub-regional matter that urgently needs to be addressed.

Questionable public consultation process
Before the 12 weeks public consultation was embarked upon (July to September 2013) we and indeed independent environmental campaigners from across the Borough raised such concerns but they were not taken on board. We suggested that the planned method of public consultation was inappropriate and would not engage people fully. What concerned us was the need for members of the public to book an appointment to enable them to express their views on the draft Local Plan face to face. We said this was an unreasonable barrier to the consultation process and that it would effectively hold residents at arms length instead of welcoming them into it. We still hold to that view and are concerned that a true picture of the concerns of residents across the Borough may well not have been obtained.

SPECIFIC ISSUES NOT ADEQUATELY COVERED BY THE DRAFT PLAN

Need for social housing not effectively addressed
Social housing is in great need in some parts of the Borough with Southport being an obvious example where there is significant need. We do not believe that the draft plan is suitably robust in making the case for a greater proportion of new-build housing being designated for social housing than is the case via the Councils present UDP plan and policies. There is evidence of councils across the UK making social housing a higher priority (in some cases 40% of developments) and we would point to Cambridge as good example.

Opportunity for vacant retail property not exploited
We are concerned that vacant retail property across the Borough is not being identified for conversion into dwellings wherever this is possible and desirable. Our view is that this aspect of local planning policy requires greater innovation and imaginative thinking from the Council so to actively encourage property owners to convert vacant retail property which is unlikely to have a secure future in retail use going forward.

COMMUNITY SPEFIFIC COMMENTS

Maghull’s urban extension & Lydiate’s ‘reserved sites’
The proposal to allow a huge swath of land to the east of Maghull to become an ‘urban extension’ will increase the number of houses in Maghull by nearly 25%. We do not believe such a move is in any way commensurate with Maghull’s housing need. To build on this vast area of presently farmed and food growing high grade agricultural land is simply wrong.

Likewise the two ‘reserved sites’ in neighbouring Lydiate are also presently used for food growing and the semi-rural nature of the Lydiate community will clearly be compromised if they are developed. What’s more there will an unacceptable narrowing of the remaining Green belt with Aughton which we referred to earlier in this submission.

Maghull desperately needs its second railway station to be promoted and built at Ashworth South as soon as possible. The plan lacks ambition to ensure this is achieved.

Southport issues
Our divided Borough which resembles a finger and a thumb pointing northwards to Southport along the coast and Maghull inland could be united via the completion of the rail loop (electrified) from Ormskirk through to Southport. This would be good for the Southport tourist and retail economy. The Pier Tram needs to be extended through the shopping area to Southport Station and on to Central 12 Retail Park.

The Town Centre requires significant redevelopment in the area between London Street and Eastbank Street via an iconic development which includes high–quality energy-efficient homes to fit a variety of income groups. Such a development would take pressure off the Green Belt via a mix of retail, leisure and housing in the Town Centre.

A zone within Southport Town Centre for independent shops, possibly around the Market Street area needs to be pursued. The Town Centre needs both small independent shops offering a unique retail experience and sufficient modern retail floor space of the size that many national retail companies require. Both need to be facilitated via the Local Plan for Southport to continue to flourish as a shopping destination of choice and quality.

The brownfield sites such as the former Phillips site off Rufford Road in Meols Ward would easily take several hundred houses and this is an example of where pursuing brownfield development will take pressure off the Green belt.

Formby Matters
The fact that Formby Town Council and Little Altcar Parish Council feel the joint need to pursue a far from cheap Neighbourhood Plan indicates to us that the draft Sefton Local Plan is not addressing community development concerns and issues there either in enough detail or indeed at all. Melling Parish Council seems to hold similar concerns as it is also considering producing a Neighbourhood Plan. Bearing in mind that these plans can cost in the region of £80,000 to complete (according to Government estimates) the fact that they are being worked upon or seriously contemplated shines a poor light upon the draft Local Plan.

Green Belt loss is clearly a big issue in Formby with one of the most effective independent environmental campaign groups in England (Fragoff) rising to the challenge of fighting against what Formby residents see as inappropriate development.

Crosby Issues
The future of the sadly rather messed up Crosby Town Centre needs to be properly planned because the interventions by small and large developers in recent years have hollowed out a formerly thriving Town Centre. Without a clear direction which has community support via the Local Plan processes this issue will not be successfully resolved and Crosby will continue to suffer further retail stresses instead of developing a sustainable economic future.

Bootle Issues
Bearing in mind the preponderance of gun crime in the communities that make up Bootle Constituency we are surprised not to see a greater emphasis on designing new developments to alleviate serious crime issues.

Developing the presently all but mothballed rail link to the docks has to be a high priority especially as the Seaforth Container Terminal is to undergo significant expansion. The environmental benefits of rail over increased road traffic (and potentially a major new road) for the movement of containers must make the rail connection and its full use a very clear objective for the Council.

Conclusion
Our overwhelming view is that the draft plan and the administration’s preferred ‘Option 2’are not robust, the quality of the data is not satisfactorily evidenced, some of England’s best and most versatile agricultural land is unnecessarily threatened with development and insufficient weight has been given to protecting the Green Belt. The plan is not ambitious nor does it meet the aspirations of Sefton’s diverse communities.

The Local Plan process should provide the opportunity for the Council to show its vision for the future of the Borough over the next 15 to 20 years but we fear that a great opportunity will be missed without substantial changes to the administrations present draft.

The plan is not suitable to be taken forward in its present form.

Cllr. Tony Robertson
Lib Dem Deputy Leader and Planning Spokesperson

Maghull Town Council – Oops an illegal meeting has to be cancelled.

I have posted many times before about the strange goings on at Labour-run Maghull Council but they just keep on coming.

This time it’s a meeting that was called without regard to the due legal notice period that all Councils have to observe and it’s a problem this Labour council has fallen over before. On this occasion the notice was issued on a Monday for a meeting to be held on a Thursday when the earliest a meeting that is called on a Monday can be held is the following Friday. There has to be 3 clear days between the date the agenda is issued and the date the meeting is held. Fortunately, the mistake was spotted and the Thursday meeting cancelled, although strangely no official cancellation notice was actually issued to members of the Council.

And what was the Special Meeting all about? It was to do with Sefton Council’s highly controversial Local Plan which is now in its second period of public consultation. The first period being back in 2011 when Maghull Council said er nothing! In fact the second 3 month period of consultation finished today Friday 27th September.

I am told that in the absence of a properly called Council meeting the Town Council has sent in a provisional position statement that will be open to be amended when the Council next meets on Wednesday 2nd October. What the provisional statement says your guess is as good as mine, as I post this item, but hey I am but a humble opposition member of the Council.