What a carry on – The new Sefton Central Area (Farce) Committee met in Maghull last night

Well I said from day one that it would be more like a conference than what a truly local Area Committee should be and so it proved. Just look at how many people there were in that large room and they are not all on the photo!

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Formby residents had to go all the way to Maghull to raise concerns about traffic regulation orders in their own patch which previously were dealt with in Formby.

A Crosby traffic issue was dealt with in Maghull instead of in Crosby ….. I could go on but you get my drift!

The meeting started off with many public questions about very local matters in Formby and Aintree, wind farm issues in Ince Blundell and green belt concerns just about everywhere. The worrying point was that virtually no questions got answers despite them being submitted in some cases many weeks ago. One chap said he had submitted a question to the new Area Committee 8 weeks ago but still no one was able to answer his adult care provision concerns. What’s more he is a well known senior Labour Party activist! If he can’t get the Labour Council to take note of his concerns what chance the rest of us?

Prior to the meeting there was a large lobby/protest outside the meeting venue (Maghull Town Hall) by folks wanting to stop Sefton Council allowing building on the Green Belt. What interested me was that apart from us Lib Dems no one seemed to want to engage with them at all. Here is a photo of the green belt protestors.

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I posted yesterday about the Labour members who are promoting the plan to build on the Green Belt not answering detailed questions about their Council’s plan in the public question time session of the Area (Farce) Committee but later on I was taken aback at the response a chap from Crosby got from Labour. He had come out to Maghull to quite reasonably ask that the councillors from the 4 Crosby Wards dip into their ward funds to help finance his campaign group who are trying to save Collage Road Library from Labour’s axe. He got a positive from Andrew Tonkiss a Lib Dem member of Victoria Ward but he got short shrift from a Labour member for Manor ward who seemed most put out that the chap had not contacted him personally before turning up at the Area (Farce) Committee to ask for financial support. In the end Labour, who have a large majority on the Area (Farce) Committee, wanted to take it away and give it a mull over. Wow, that is really backing a community initiative! By the way it was during that discussion that Labour members made the suggestion that money from a £1m slush fund be made available to library campaign groups when they, yes they, had all voted not to make such funds available at the recent budget meeting!

Did local democracy get a boost from that farcical Area Committee meeting last night – a resounding NO! Were Labour able to prove that the merging of the 3 former Area Committees (Formby, Crosby & Sefton East Parishes) into one huge Area Committee for everywhere outside of Bootle and Southport was a step forward – a resounding NO!

Reactions to Labour run Sefton Council’s Green Belt Grab

Not surprisingly the plans recently unveiled by Labour run Sefton Council to grab more high grade agricultural land to build upon have gone down very badly.

The Champion newspaper’s East Parishes reporter Jim ‘The News Hound’ Sharpe calls the master plan ‘bonkers’.

Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport

Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport

Dr John Pugh the Lib Dem MP for Southport says the plan will create a ‘hollowed out sprawl’.

Maria Bennett of Formby Residents Action Group (Fragoff) says ‘Sefton’s plan is completely flawed’

Tonight at Maghull Town Hall a large number of concerned residents and environmental campaigners mixed in with folks who have seen through Labour’s con-trick of one part of that Party in Sefton promoting the green belt grab whilst the others condemn it, turned out to voice their concerns.

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes MP with Sudell Ward Sefton Cllr. Bruce Hubbard at the site in Maghull where Labour run Sefton Council wants to built 1,600 houses on high grade agricultural land. Bruce's Lib Dem team opposes Labour's plans

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes MP with Sudell Ward Sefton Cllr. Bruce Hubbard at the site in Maghull where Labour run Sefton Council wants to built 1,600 houses on high grade agricultural land. Bruce’s Lib Dem team opposes Labour’s plans as they did last time Sefton Council tried to earmark the site for building land

The meeting was of the first of the quite ludicrous Central Sefton Area Committee i.e. everywhere that is not Bootle or Southport in the Borough. I wondered what would happen as Labour like to hush up and crush up protestors as Aintree Library campaigners found out when they attended a meeting of the former East Parishes Area Committee trying to stop Labour from closing their library.

Like back then the protestors were out in force because they thought that their community leaders were off on a course of action which would damage their community. Well they were right over the Aintree Library (although the community may well have stopped the closure by taking it over themselves) and many, many folks think they are right now to fight Labour every inch of the way over the Green Belt grab.

This is what happened. The campaigners asked 3 questions about the detail of the proposals under Labour’s Local Plan. Did they get any answers? No. My Lib Dem colleagues and I deliberately sat and watched because we wanted to know what the Labour councillors present would do. In effect Labour said they did not know the answers to the questions and would get back to the questioners. Well at least the questioners were not shouted at but answers there were none!

Carla Lane Animals in Need, Melling – Issue of fundraising stall at Maghull Square

I was not able to attend the meeting of Maghull Town Council yesterday evening but as this highly popular local animal charity was proposing to lobby the Council at the meeting I put together the briefing note below for the rest of the Council.

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Dear Council members and Animals Need representatives,

As I will not be at the Maghull TC meeting tomorrow evening when the charity is attending to ask for the Town Council’s support in their fight to continue to hold their fund raising stall somewhere in Maghull’s shopping centre I have put this short note together because I have been trying to help the charity in their hour of need.

When I became aware that the owners (Maghull Group) of the northern side of Maghull’s shopping centre had in effect given the charity notice to quit I lobbied the company to see if I could get them to reconsider. They made it clear that their mind was made up and they would not be allowing the charity to pitch their stall on Maghull Group land in future.

I then spoke a number of times to Margaret Brady of the charity, Jerry McConkey (a Highways Officer at Sefton Council), Alex Scott (a Neighbourhoods Officer at Sefton Council) and passed on the contact details to Margaret Brady of the owners of the southern side of the shopping centre (London and Cambridge Properties).

My hope was that either Sefton would allow the charity to pitch their stall on Sefton Council owned land or that London and Cambridge Properties would.

Sefton were not unsympathetic but then it became clear that any application to pitch a stall on public land on the northern side of the shopping centre (i.e. northern side of Westway) would be objected to by Mason Owen the agents for the Maghull Group. On that basis Sefton via Jerry told me and the charity that if they applied for permission it would in all likelihood be refused due to the anticipated objections from Mason Owen.

After a lot of discussions it became clear to me that the only way forward would be for the charity to make the formal application and then try to appeal against the expected refusal. I think any appeal would need to go via the appropriate Sefton Cabinet member i.e. Cllr. John Fairclough and I have sent a note to John recently telling him to expect the charity to make contact with him. I have not heard back from him as yet.

The last I heard London and Cambridge Properties had not responded to the charity in terms of whether they would allow it to pitch a stall on their land but if there has been any movement here I am sure the charity will update the Council.

I think we all know how well supported this animal charity is and how devastated their supporters are by the recent turn of events. My hope is that the Council will back the charity and try to put pressure on the Maghull Group, Sefton Council and London and Cambridge Properties in an attempt to try to find them a suitable fund raising pitch for their stall.

Best wishes
Cllr. Tony Robertson – 28th May 2013

NEW CHAIRMAN FOR AINTREE VILLAGE PARISH COUNCIL & SOME LIBRARY NEWS

At it’s A.G.M. Aintree Village Parish Council selected a new Chairman, Cllr Peter Gill was elected unanimously. Peter said “I am delighted and honoured to be asked to serve the community of Aintree Village once again. I look forward to the coming year, it will be testing with all the cuts culminating in our campaign to keep Aintree Library open, we are making great strides and are hopeful that we can transfer it to a community run library. I would like to pay tribute to the retiring Chairman Cllr Terry Baldwin, he has been Chairman for eighteen months and has found it quite stressful at times. He, along with other library campaign leaders fought an excellent campaign which is online to keep Aintree Library open. Terry has always been community led, proof being his membership of St John Ambulance, serving for over 50 years.”

Retiring Chairman Cllr Baldwin said “It has been a long 18 months but most of that time I have thoroughly enjoyed serving the residents of Aintree Village. I will be leaving the area in the near future and will take with me some wonderful memories having lived here for over 40 years. I wish the new Chairman Cllr Peter Gill well for the coming 12 months and thank everybody for their support over the last 18 months.”

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No one should underestimate the contribution that Terry Baldwin has made to Aintree Village and the wider community. I count Terry (and indeed Peter Gill) as personal friends. I first came across Terry via his work with St John Ambulance and of course he was given Maghull’s Civic Award some years ago for that work. Whilst Terry has been feeling his age he put everything into trying to stop Sefton Council from closing Aintree Library and if it does become a community run library the credit will be down to him and other parish councillors like Peter Gill. I really do hope that the comrades who decided to close the library do not have the cheek to try to claim that they saved it when the real work was done by Terry and Peter and a small band of determined Aintree Village parish councillors and residents.

DEVELOPMENT PROPOSALS ON GREEN BELT IN SOUTHPORT

Lib Dem Cllr. Marianne Welsh reports that at a recent briefing at Bootle Town Hall councillors in Southport heard that proposals are going forward for building a large scale housing development on green belt land in an area where there has already been strong public outrage to this. The area earmarked is off of Moss Lane in Norwood Ward, near to Souhtport Old Links Golf Course.

Says Marianne, one of the councillors for this ward ‘This development is totally unacceptable and should not be progressed. As well as building on the green belt the immediate area is already heavily populated and would put a heavy strain on this community’s amenities. Also Sefton Council’s assessment of this parcel of land said it was within 600m of a primary school and a GP/Health Centre, although true this will put an extra burden on both of these which it appears no one has thought about. It is also not near any rail networks, has no leisure centre nor does it have a cycle route. We will oppose this proposal.’

For added information at the Bootle briefing councillors although shown the plans for the various developments proposed in Sefton were told by officers they could not have copies to take away. This was a common concern expressed by Lib Dem councillors – Why were the proposals only to be looked at then taken away?

I will be publishing more on the Southport land development proposals from Sefton Council soon.

Maghull – Green Lane tree down

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This huge tree came down around 4.15pm last Thursday afternoon, so I am told and it seems from chatting to a resident living nearby that rotted roots may have been the cause.

It was one of those trees that looked fine, indeed I must have walked under it hundreds of times over the years right back to when I took my daughter to Green Park School. The tree was much older than anyone reading this posting and it is rather sad to see it down.

Fortunately no one was hurt although a property in Green Link seems to have suffered some damage.