Which way is Labour facing over Sefton’s Green Belt? – Both ways!

I am having trouble knowing which way Labour is facing over Sefton’s Green Belt.

First we have the Labour run Council proposing to allow building on Green Belt land (which is subsequently endorsed by Labour Sefton Councillors on an Overview & Scrutiny Committee – 28th May) but we are also treated to those Labour policies seemingly being publicly rejected within days by Labour Party members led by an Andy Wilson.

Forgive me but I sense a stunt in progress here similar to one pulled by Labour over the hugely controversial Damfield Lane site in Maghull. There, only last year, Labour councillors said they were fighting to stop the proposed development only for Labour councillors to vote the development through!

We could all do without another carry on like that; it is not community leadership but raising false hopes and band wagon jumping of the very worst kind. It’s a Labour run Council that is proposing to build on the sites that it has identified within the Green Belt; no one else picked those sites.

Sefton Planning Committee approves Local Plan for consultation

The Labour dominated Planning Committee of Sefton Council last night voted to approve what I believe to be a flawed draft Local Plan.

The 8 Labour members of the Planning Committee all voted in favour of the Local Plan with its proposal for substantial building in the Green Belt. 4 Lib Dems and 1 Conservative voted against.

From my perspective the flaws are:-

• Too easily giving in to pressure to release high grade agricultural land for development.
• That in 15 years time the Council will most likely revisit the process and yet more ‘best and most versatile’ agricultural land will be lost.
• Dubious population growth statistics in a Borough where the number of residents has been dropping for years.
• That the population growth projections seem to be built on inward migration into the Borough when there is no evidence of this actually happening.
• A lack of detailed coordination with the West Lancashire Local Plan.
• Too much concentration on the Merseyside perspective when the majority of Sefton’s boundary is with Lancashire.
• Selecting sites for development in the Green Belt where concreting over the high grade agricultural land will forever stop the land being used for food production.
• The plan is simply not ‘green’ enough. The balance between economic development and sustainable environmental planning has not been struck.

Sefton Council’s Local Plan – A guest posting from the Lib Dem Opposition Leader on the Council – Cllr. Iain Brodie-Browne

Iain Brodie-Brown

We Lib Dems feel that the views of local residents are hugely important. We understand why Labour run Sefton Council’s proposals to allow building on Green Belt are extremely unpopular.

We do not oppose all house building, indeed we encourage it on the Borough’s brown-field sites, as there is a need for more housing -in particular low cost homes.* However, building on high grade agricultural land, which is how virtually all of Sefton’s Green Belt is categorised, is environmentally unsustainable.

There is a balance to be struck between the need for more low cost housing, especially in Southport, and environmental sustainability. We believe that the balance has not been struck by Sefton Council’s present proposals and will be seeking to take the pressure off the Green Belt as the Local Plan goes through the Council’s processes over the coming months.

We will be arguing for the Local Plan to become the ‘greenest’ plan in England; that is one that champions the continued farming of some of the best and most versatile agricultural land in the whole country. We will challenge some of the questionable population predictions for the Borough to ensure they are both robust and realistic.

Lib Dems have consistently fought to retain Sefton’s Green Belt. Indeed during the last round of potential ‘Green Belt grabbing’ in 1998, when the present Unitary Development Plan was being put together, we successfully fought off planners and developers who were trying to release a huge parcel of land to the east of Maghull. That very same piece of prime agricultural land is a developers target this time around. Our campaigners will be fighting for it yet again.

We believe in localism, indeed we have championed it for generations when other parties were not interested in it. Local people have to comfortable with Sefton’s Local Plan or it will simply be the Council’s plan that is imposed upon its residents.

* For example we approved the development of land at Kew in Southport.

LOCAL PLANNING AND ONSHORE WIND – ERIC PICKLES LETTER TO COUNCILS

Below is the text of a letter that has been written to Councils by Eric Pickles. This is a big issue in the middle part of Sefton and the part of West Lancashire that wraps around Sefton Borough because of the proposal to build a large number of turbines of a similar height to Blackpool Tower! I have posted on this subject before and met campaigners opposing the Lower Alt Wind Farm proposal last Thursday at the Central Sefton Area Committee. I thought It would be useful to reproduce the whole of the letter on this site.

*************

I am writing to draw your attention to the written ministerial statement I made on 6 June
2013 on local planning and onshore wind. A copy of the statement is attached. This sets
out my intentions for planning practice guidance on onshore wind and compulsory preapplication
consultation for the more significant onshore wind applications.

As you know, wind farm proposals can be unwelcome to local communities and many are
being hard fought through the planning system. I appreciate the challenge for local
councils in reaching decisions which turn on whether a wind farm’s impact is acceptable in
planning terms when the local community is quite clear that it is not. We need to ensure
decisions do get the environmental balance right in line with the Framework and, as
expected by the Framework, any adverse impact from a wind farm development is
addressed satisfactorily. To address this concern, we intend to issue new planning
practice guidance as part of the work we have underway to take forward the Taylor review.

We have set out clearly in the National Planning Policy Framework the importance of early
and meaningful engagement with local communities. We will also amend secondary
legislation to make pre-application consultation with local communities compulsory for the
more significant onshore wind applications. This will ensure that community engagement
takes place at an earlier stage in more cases and may assist in improving the quality of
proposed onshore wind development. This will also complement the community benefits
proposals announced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change today.

I hope these reforms will give a greater say for local people and strengthen the role of
councils in shaping where development should and shouldn’t go.

I have also written to Sir Michael Pitt Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate asking
him to make planning inspectors aware of the statement.

RT HON ERIC PICKLES MP
The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Department for Communities and Local Government
Eland House
Bressenden Place
London SW1E 5DU
7 June 2013

WRITTEN MINISTERIAL STATEMENT: LOCAL PLANNING AND ONSHORE WIND

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. Eric Pickles)
The Coalition Agreement pledged to decentralise power to local people and give local
people far more ability to shape the places in which they live.

Through a series of reforms, this Coalition Government is making the planning process
more accessible to local communities, because planning works best when communities
themselves have the opportunity to influence the decisions that affect their lives.
However, current planning decisions on onshore wind are not always reflecting a locallyled
planning system. Much of this stems from planning changes made by the last
Administration, which is why we introduced the National Planning Policy Framework and
abolished the last Government’s top-down Regional Strategies through the Localism Act.

Following a wide range of representations, including the letter of January 2012 to the
Prime Minister from one hundred Hon Members, and in light of the Department of Energy
and Climate Change’s Call for Evidence, it has become clear that action is needed to
deliver the balance expected by the National Planning Policy Framework on onshore wind.
We need to ensure that protecting the local environment is properly considered alongside
the broader issues of protecting the global environment.

Greater community consultation
We have set out clearly in the National Planning Policy Framework the importance of early
and meaningful engagement with local communities. The submissions to the Call for
Evidence have highlighted the benefits of good quality pre-application discussion for
onshore wind development and the improved outcomes it can have for local communities.
We will amend secondary legislation to make pre-application consultation with local
communities compulsory for the more significant onshore wind applications. This will
ensure that community engagement takes place at an earlier stage in more cases and
may assist in improving the quality of proposed onshore wind development.
This will also complement the community benefits proposals announced by the
Department of Energy and Climate Change today.

New planning practice guidance
The National Planning Policy Framework includes strong protections for the natural and
historic environment. Yet, some local communities have genuine concerns that when it
comes to wind farms insufficient weight is being given to environmental considerations like
landscape, heritage and local amenity. We need to ensure decisions do get the
environmental balance right in line with the Framework and, as expected by the
Framework, any adverse impact from a wind farm development is addressed satisfactorily.
We have been equally clear that this means facilitating sustainable development in
suitable locations. Meeting our energy goals should not be used to justify the wrong
development in the wrong location.

We are looking to local councils to include in their Local Plans policies which ensure that
adverse impacts from wind farms developments, including cumulative landscape and
visual impact, are addressed satisfactorily. Where councils have identified areas suitable
for onshore wind, they should not feel they have to give permission for speculative
applications outside those areas when they judge the impact to be unacceptable.
To help ensure planning decisions reflect the balance in the Framework, my Department
will issue new planning practice guidance shortly to assist local councils, and planning
inspectors in their consideration of local plans and individual planning applications. This
will set out clearly that:

the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental
protections and the planning concerns of local communities;

decisions should take into account the cumulative impact of wind turbines and
properly reflect the increasing impact on (a) the landscape and (b) local amenity as
the number of turbines in the area increases;

local topography should be a factor in assessing whether wind turbines have a
damaging impact on the landscape (i.e. recognise that the impact on predominantly
flat landscapes can be as great or greater than as on hilly or mountainous ones);
and

great care should be taken to ensure heritage assets are conserved in a manner
appropriate to their significance, including the impact of proposals on views
important to their setting.

I am writing to Sir Michael Pitt, Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate to ask him to
draw this statement to the attention of planning inspectors in their current and future
appeals. I will inform colleagues in local government to assist them in their forthcoming
decision-making.

Sefton Council – What’s happened to our grass verges? They are knee deep yet again?

For as long as anyone can remember Sefton Council and its contractors have never really got to grips with cutting the Borough’s grass verges. Each growing season councillors have to complain about the lack of cutting but this year we were wrong footed and given a false sense of hope as the first couple of cuts actually happened!

But sadly things have gone downhill since then and some verges are about as bad as they can get or ever have been at present. What’s more the Highways Agency seem to be in competition with Sefton Contractors as to who can grow the longest grass as the A5036 Dunningsbridge Road is showing grass above knee high.

Grass verge at Dunningsbridge Road, Netherton

Grass verge at Dunningsbridge Road, Netherton

Below is Lydiate Parish Councillor Robbie Fenton measuring the height of the grass at the junction of Liverpool Road and Kenyons Lane Lydiate during a previous Council-run ‘competition’ to see where the longest grass could be grown in the Borough!

rsz_robbie_with_long_grass

No wonder residents are calling for the Council to get its act together!