West Lancs Local Plan – Pugh challenges Planning Inspectorate as Sefton is dumped on

A couple of days ago I highlighted the unfortunate consequences upon Southport of the West Lancashire Local Plan being approved by a Planning Inspector. The matter has now been taken up by the MP for Southport Dr John Pugh.

Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport

Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport

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Sir Michael Pitt,
Chief Inspector,
The Planning Inspectorate
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Temple Quay
BRISTOL BS1 6PN

Date: 16 November 2013

Dear Sir Michael,

It has been reported to me that a Planning Inspector recently gave the ‘all clear’ to West Lancashire District Council’s Draft Local Plan in particular as it related to plans to build new houses on the local Green Belt around New Cut Lane, Halsall, an area which is regarded by most of its residents as being part of Birkdale which it abuts.

While the Inspector has, quite correctly, recognised that there is travel to work and shop between Southport (Seton MBC) and West Lancashire, in determining that this new housing can be treated as meeting West Lancashire’s Housing need, rather than Sefton’s I find this argument to have significant and worrying weaknesses. Draft Local Plans need to look not just simplistically at Housing need but also at the infrastructure which is necessary to accompany and support any new housing and indeed the present housing, industry etc. There is no evidence that I have yet seen to show that West Lancashire District Council has in any way considered the extra stress on an already-overburdened and tightly-enveloped Southport which will be associated with the building of and occupation of these substantial number of new houses. Nor is there any obvious evidence of West Lancashire District Council having co-operated with Sefton MBC in terms of assessing the possibility of development in boundary areas between the two authorities in general and the New Cut Lane area in particular. There may have been some information, which might be stretched to ‘consultation’ but these processes do not amount to ‘co-operation’ which involves working together. The decision to choose this particular area to expand into would seem to be a rather cynical determination that there will be no substantial group of residents/electors who will be particularly objecting to this proposal compared to any proposal closer to one of the West Lancashire current population centres.

I should be interested to receive your response to the above points.

Yours sincerely,

Dr John Pugh MP

Lydiate Flooding – Work at Highbanks tries to resolve problem

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Residents who live in the first couple of houses in Highbanks have suffered flooding problems for a while now and I have previously posted about them.

Last week Sefton Council and their contractors started works which will, I hope, resolve the problems that led to one house being internally flooded in September 2012.

The two photo’s above show works taking place with the second shot being of the remote controlled camera robot about to be sent down the culvert to look for problems. It found them! Solidified slurry has reduced the size of the culvert by maybe 70% and the drainage engineers tell me that this is often caused by sand and cement from building works being washed into the surface water drains.

More work is to be done this week to try to clear the obstructions I understand.

West Lancs Local Plan is approved by Planning Inspector but Southport has been dumped on!

News that West Lancashire Council’s Local Plan has been approved by a Planning Inspector has been met with dismay by Sefton and Southport Lib Dems because some last minute additions to land to be released to be built on in Halsall Parish will clearly mean that the new West Lancashire Council tax payers will in fact be relying on Southport’s GP’s, Dentists and schools.

West Lancs plans to allow houses to be built on what is presently Green Belt land bang up against the boundary with Southport. The new housing will be significantly detached from other population centres and community facilities in West Lancashire meaning that the people who move into the houses will be dependent on services within Sefton such as GP’s, Dentists, schools etc.

It’s a cleaver move by West Lancs to pick sites far enough away from their own residents so there will be little protest about the loss of Green Belt land but the consequences of this last minute idea, which was endorsed by the Planning Inspector who approved the West Lancs Local Plan, will fall upon Sefton and Southport!

As part of the Local Plan process Councils are expected to work together and have a ‘duty to consult’ with each other. But when last minute changes were being made by West Lancs to their Plan via the release land bang up against the Sefton boundary the consultation process fell woefully short. What’s more by endorsing the West Lancs Local Plan the Planning Inspectorate, who we expect to referee a fair game, allowed West Lancs Council to get away with dumping housing on the boundary with Sefton that Southport’s schools, GP’s and dentists will have to pick up the consequences of.

The Planning Inspector should have seen the stunt that West Lancs was pulling and stopped it rather than allowing it stand in added on time.

Save Our Green Belt – Primary school planning

I accidentally landed on this issue via the Local Government Information Unit site but it made me think about the potential for such a problem building up in Sefton, with building being the big word here!

Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland has called Leeds City Council’s planning “appalling” claiming it has left the city facing a primary school places crisis. The accusations centre on a potential shortfall of about 4,000 places in primary schools.

Whilst Sefton is not yet is such a crisis there is sadly a real chance that it will encounter similar problems because of the Labour-run Council’s rush to build house in the Borough.

We all realise that Labour will most likely now authorise building on Green Belt and high grade agricultural land, having just completed a public consultation exercise which was very much based on such a scenario. Along with Labour taking all kinds of flak for proposing this they have also been criticised for the lack of any infrastructure planning to sit alongside the houses they are planning to build.

One of the significant infrastructure issues will be schools and school places but apart from vague promises along the lines of of ‘this will be sorted out as the planning applications are progressed’ it is not at all clear that anyone in the Council has really thought through the implications of a house building programme in terms of schools, GP’s, dentists etc. etc.

It’s bad enough to tell us that Sefton is determined to build on Green Belt and high grade agricultural land but then not to have any clear answers about the consequences of such a policy is making some folks wonder what on earth is going on. It seems Leeds is further down this most worrying track.

Save our Libraries – Aintree rumbles on as Sefton grumbles on.

I have posted many times before about the determination of Aintree Village Parish Council to save its community library from closure. So determined are they that around £20,000 has been pledged, per year, by the Parish Council to support the new volunteer led venture.

But things look like they may be stalling with Sefton Borough Council potentially getting cold feet? The sticking point looks likely to be the one-off investment in the property by Sefton to bring it up to a reasonable standard of maintenance before the hand over is agreed.

Lib Dem campaigners fighting Labour's library axe

Lib Dem campaigners fighting Labour’s library axe

I am informed that the Borough has been and maybe still is seeking some form of binding/legal agreement with the Parish Council/volunteer group along the lines that they will guarantee the funding and running of the library under its new guise for 25 years. Personally I think that is unreasonable and in bad faith.

The Borough will still own the building and the site it sits on even if the new venture fails (which we all clearly hope it will not) at a future date so where’s the risk? The site is quite large so realising its value should not be an issue if the worst happens.

And what of the Parish Charter with Sefton Council and its 10 Parishes which says how they will try to work together etc.? It seems that going forward as a partnership based on mutual trust and what is best for the Aintree Village community is not the highest of Sefton’s priorities, more that it is looking suspiciously upon a Parish Council and volunteers who have frankly embarrassed it by their determination to try to save their library.

I hope this saga has a good outcome but time is ticking with the Borough wanting to close the Library in December. They just need to trust the Parish Council and volunteers to try to make the venture work and encourage them in the process rather than being grumpy and difficult.

And this is what a Labour-run Borough Council does. How very sad. I do hope that the Labour great and good don’t stand outside the Library for a photo opportunity, if they finally decided to let it live, claiming they saved it! You know the cheeky beggars would.

Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthert, Dibble or Grubb?

Sefton Council – Sefton Central Area (Farce) Committee – Parishes despair of it too!

I attended a meeting of what we call the 10 Parishes last night. It’s an umbrella grouping made up of representatives of all of the 10 Parish Councils within Sefton Borough and interestingly they all within the geographic area of the Sefton Central Area (Farce) Committee.

My previous postings of 7/6/13, 6/9/13 & 15/9/13.

We were informed that representatives of the 10 Parishes had met with a couple of Labour Cabinet members in an attempt to try to persuade them of the useless nature of the now huge Area Committee where the voice of the Parishes is lost or drowned out by the 27 Borough Councillors that are present. It seems that the first words from Labour were ‘we are not changing it!’ So no negotiation there then.

My own views on the Central Sefton (Farce) Committee are hardly repeatable in polite company but in the interests of trying to help this ridiculous Labour-created mess become a little more useful I suggested that:-

• The Sefton Council Officer who looks after the Committee should, as each item comes forward for inclusion on the next Area Committee agenda contact the relevant Parish Council to let them know.
• That the Officer should ask the Parish Council if it was a matter they wanted to make representations about either in writing prior to the meeting or in person via a representative of the Parish Council at the meeting.
• This would lead to the Chair of the Area Committee ensuring that when particular matters came up they ensured that everyone knew of either the written Parish Council submission or called on the Parish representative to make their verbal contribution.

It will be interesting to see if Labour will allow such a system to operate.

One very strange part of 10 Parishes discussion was that no one at the meeting seemed at all sure which of six Labour Cabinet members (this excludes the Leader) holds responsibility for Parish Council matters in the Borough. So is it Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble or Grubb?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6YE4PCRNwc