The War against Labour-run Sefton Council’s Green Belt busting Local Plan has been lost but there were many local battles where Labour was bloodied.

This is what a recent letter said to those who had taken part in the Sefton Council Local Plan process:-

Dear Sir or Madam

Examination of the Local Plan for Sefton – Receipt of Inspector’s Report

The Council has received the Inspector’s Report into the examination of the Local Plan for Sefton. This is has now been published by the Council and is available at the following locations:

Online at www.sefton.gov.uk/localplan
At each of Sefton’s libraries
At the Planning Offices at Magdalen House, Bootle

Following receipt of the Inspector’s Report the Council now intends to adopt the Local Plan at its meeting of full Council on Thursday 20th April 2017 [6.30pm at Southport Town Hall].

The Council will notify people when the Local Plan is adopted. Following adoption the Local Plan will be used in the determination of planning applications in the borough

Kind Regards

Local Plan Team

In many ways it says so little after so many pitched battles between environmental and community campaigners on one side and Sefton Council, Sefton Labour, property owners and developers on the other. It was a long war and the environmental campaigners lost, although they gave Sefton Labour a number of bloody noses along the way.

I was one of the environmental campaigners and yes I am still angry. Angry because much of the land that has been taken out of Green Belt protection around the Borough is amongst the 2% highest grade of agricultural land in England. To build anything on the land that grows our food is utter madness to me.

But we all remember the heady days of the start of the Local plan process when both Labour and the Lib Dems in Sefton pledged to defend the Green Belt. The Lib Dems did that but Labour, who by then had a majority on the Council, bailed out and started to vote for building on the Green Belt.

The bloody nose was that they lost 4 seats on the Council because of their say one thing, do another approach to this matter. But sadly despite such losses Labour have got their way and what was previously Green Belt land in some parts of the Borough will be designated for building on following the final vote on 20th April.

And yes I know that housing is required but no I am not at all sure that the kind of housing we need will actually get built even though we are chucking away for ever the highest grade of agricultural land. Will there be accessible homes for the elderly, will there be starter homes for young people to get on the housing ladder, will there be social housing for rent?

What do I fear? That the majority of new homes will be 3 and 4 bedroomed properties for the well off which will price out those who need housing.

Sad, yes you bet I am but you know what we have learned is that if there were any ‘green’ credentials locally within the Labour Party there certainly aren’t any more.

Plans for Sefton Council’s massive urban extension of Maghull are on the move

The Maghull East site with crops growing on it on 24th April 2016. Building on it is madness.

I hear, from what I understand to be reliable a source, that a developer is is outlining its intentions with regard to the huge urban extension site on the eastern side of Maghull and into Melling.

A recent sunrise over the presently farmed land off Poverty Lane, Maghull. I wonder how many sunrises the crops will see in the future as the land has sadly been designated to build hundreds and hundreds of houses on (plus an industrial estate) by Sefton Council despite it being some of the 2% very best agricultural land in England.

Farmed high grade land which grows our food

The site, known as Maghull East, bounded by the M58, Poverty Lane, the Liverpool – Ormskirk railway line and School Lane is truly massive and Sefton Council wants around 1,600 houses on it plus an industrial park. It is presently farmed and the vast majority of it is the very highest quality of agricultural land which grows our food!

Because of the vast nature of the site planners from Labour-run Sefton Council are working up specific documents outlining how it should be built upon. This document is yet to be finalised but a developer is already knocking at the Council’s door.

Formby – More on those tragedies that have happened where Fisherman’s Path crosses the Liverpool – Southport railway line.

I was recently able to pick up on what is going on or indeed not going on with regard to this notorious railway level crossing point where there have been a number of fatalities in recent times.

Readers of this blog site and Sefton/Merseyside based newspapers will know that the fatal accidents have received a lot of publicity but must also be wondering why little is seemingly happening to make this crossing point safer?

The ball seems to be firmly in Network Rail’s court and my understanding is that their preference is to close the Fisherman’s Path crossing point altogether. Yes they did come up with a pedestrian bridge solution a while back, which was rejected by Sefton Council on the basis that it did not adequately address the legitimate need for people to be able to cross the railway at this point on what is after all a public right of way.

There are clearly other solutions available to Network Rail such as automatic locking gates triggered by approaching trains, warning lights, a disability accessible bridge etc. However, from Sefton Council’s perspective, Network Rail have yet to put a solution on the table which addresses all issues at this crossing point.

From what I hear Sefton Council are not holding the job up but are simply saying to Network Rail, no you can’t have it closed altogether – come up with a sustainable safe solution that keeps the public right of way open. Trouble is fatal accidents keep on happening so we could do with Network Rail getting on with it without further delay.

Sadly this crossing is one that has seen suicide attempts.

Mersey Metro Mayor – Carl Cashman’s manifesto launch

I had an enjoyable trip down to Prescot this morning to see Carl Cashman, the Lib Dem candidate to become Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, launch his manifesto. The venue was packed out and I only just managed to squeeze in.

Some great green policies and a realistic approach to housing need too. First time I have heard a senior politician acknowledge that environmental, planning and housing policy needs to be joined up rather than the present daft system where they are not joined up at all.

Carl’s backing for a tidal lagoon off Southport to produce clean energy was very welcome news.

He also spoke about the mad situation in the Maghull & Lydiate part of Sefton Borough where the very highest grades of agricultural land (the land that grows our food!) are to be built upon because of Labour-led Sefton Council’s Local Plan.

Carl is big on tackling disadvantage and poverty. He majored on buses and the need to stop the decline in local bus services which he obviously sees as being a big issue for those on low incomes who can’t afford to run cars. And on low incomes he wants to bring in a Merseyside Living Wage of £8.50 per hour which Merseyside employers would be incentivised to support. Nice to see someone who really wants to tackle poverty rather than just manage it.

What also struck me was the support that Carl clearly builds from virtually everyone who meets him particularly people who have previously felt that they did not have a voice amongst politicians.

As I have said before this young man is going places.

Lydiate – Land North of Turnbridge Road – Our response to planning application for 34 dwellings

Trees taken out at the end of Maghull’s Turnbridge Road

I thought it may help others (who may wish to make their own comments) if I published here the representations that Sheila and I have made to Sefton Council’s Planners with regard to the recent planning application for this site.

Tree felling machinery at work on the site in September 2016.

I am sure others will have additional ideas about how their representations should be framed but this is what we have said:-

*****

Planning Services
Sefton Council
Magdalen House
30 Trinity Road
Bootle
L20 3NL

Yr Ref DC/201700456

Land North of Turnbridge Road Maghull – Site within Lydiate Civil Parish

We write to make representations on the planning application as invited by your letter of 17th March.

Protection of the Green Belt

Firstly, our understanding is that the site is presently within Green Belt but that Sefton Council intends to remove it from such protection. This is clearly an unwelcome move and we oppose the reduction of the Maghull/Lydiate Green Belt.

Wooded nature of the site prior to September 2016

Secondly, this site was significantly wooded (as it had been for very many years) until a huge number of trees were felled in September 2016. Our understanding is that such works were undertaken without a licence from the Forestry Commission and that the felling has been subject of an investigation by said Forestry Commission. Our view is that the felled trees need to be replaced in significant numbers and to achieve this the number of properties to be constructed on the site should be reduced to accommodate a greater number of trees than is presently being proposed. The sight lines from the Leeds Liverpool Canal tow path and indeed on all sides of the development should replicate the wooded views prior to the felling. The fencing which presently abuts the Leeds Liverpool Canal tow path will also need careful consideration so that it is both secure but does not preclude the natural tree/shrub line from being the true screening of the site. In other words the starting point for consideration of the soft landscaping of this site should be that which was there prior to the seemingly unlicensed felling that took place last autumn, not from the state of the site as it is now i.e. following the felling. The Forestry Commission report on the site, following the felling, obviously needs to be accessed and taken into account in the assessment of this application.

Drainage issues

Thirdly, it is vital that the stream/drainage ditch that arrives on this site from underneath the canal is in no way hindered in its flow through to Maghull Brook, indeed this watercourse needs to be protected and kept clear both during and after the construction of the properties. Similar comments obviously go for Maghull Brook too of course. If this is not achieved the previous flooding issues suffered by properties in High Banks and Southport Road (documented by SMBC Drainage Engineer Sam Dimba) could well make an unwelcome return.

3 storey apartments

Fourthly, no properties adjoining this proposed development site, or indeed that are close to it, are more than 2 stories high so the roof line/height of the development needs to be pegged back to that of the surrounding Maghull & Lydiate properties. This is therefore an objection to the proposal to build a three storey block of 9 apartments on the site.

Construction traffic access

Fifthly, access to this site for construction purposes is clearly going to be problematic due to the presence of two weight limited canal swing bridges at Bells Lane and Green Lane. These bridges go out of service at times due to vehicles crossing them that are too heavy. There is obviously every opportunity for construction vehicles to make this situation worse for all concerned locally if they try to use the bridges. One alternative that may be under consideration is to take construction traffic through the Green Park Estate and thereby worryingly close to two primary schools – Green Park & St. John Bosco. However, this is clearly a concern due to the narrow nature of the estate roads and the congestion in Green Lane, Green Link, West Meade and Round Meade at schools times. The other alternative, a temporary road off Bells Lane for construction traffic, also raises issues that will need to carefully considered due to the narrow nature of Bells Lane and a weight limited canal swing bridge previously mentioned. It is also the case that roads such as Turnbridge Road and Greenbank Avenue could be hugely and detrimentally impacted on by construction traffic if access is agreed via Green Lane/The Green Park Estate. This is clearly an issue that will need to be fully addressed prior to any construction traffic accessing the site. What’s more the developer will need to be transparent in defining how construction traffic access will be properly managed/policed. This will require a clear and effective contact process for residents to be able to both report and stop any transgressions of the finally agreed access route(s).

Clearly our primary consideration is the protection of the Green Belt as defined prior to the present Sefton Local Plan being developed. However, should Sefton Council be determined to take this site out of the Green Belt and release it for the development of housing we hope that notice will be taken of the representations in this letter.

In summary the major issues are:-

* Protection of the Green Belt.
* The replacement of the many recently felled trees on the site.
* Perimeter fencing being secure but not obscuring the natural wooded view of the site. Wooded sight lines surrounding the site prior to September 2016 being replicated.
* Open drainage steams/ditches not being compromised during construction or indeed after.
* The 3 storey apartments being reduced to 2 storey.
* Access to the site during construction being very carefully managed.

Yours sincerely

Tony & Sheila Robertson

Melling/Maghull – M58 Motorway Junction 1 upgrade

‘So when is work on upgrading the M58 junction by Ashworth Hospital going to start’ is a question I have been asked a few times recently.

My information is that works on site are likely to start around March of 2018.

Those who know the area well will realise that it is one of those odd motorway junctions that you can only presently access from one side so to speak. The works are meant to change it into a full junction being able to access/leave the M58 in both directions.

The works will lead to the public right of way into Giddygate Lane (a gated restricted access road) needing to be moved to facilitate a full motorway junction. Some informal consultations have taken place with land owners and those with rights of access to Giddygate Lane and a formal consultation process will follow soon I understand.

The whole of the works and indeed Giddygate Lane are within Melling Civil Parish not Maghull as is often quoted with this Motorway junction.