This recent question asked by our Sefton Central MP had me wondering why on earth he asked it. Read on:-
Bill Esterson (Sefton Central, Labour)
A developer in Lydiate in my constituency has made clear his plans to build in the green belt, despite the existing urban development plan making it clear that it is against the policies. Is not the best way to protect the green belt and valuable urban green space to go back to a system with a more regional approach so that there is not this push for development in the green belt?
What Bill is seemingly asking for here is a return to the way Labour approached land use policy when they were in government. Then we had a Regional Strategy which clearly said that Sefton Borough had to build 500 houses per year. In turn this meant that Sefton would have to start to allow building in the Green Belt!
My advice to Bill is be careful what you wish for!
The Leader of Sefton Council put down what looked to me very much like a clear marker at the Maghull Town Council meeting last week and it was a marker that will not go down well with Green Belt campaigners.
Labour Councillor Peter Dowd, who I have known for many years and on a personal level get along with, told the Town Council (which he isalso a member of) that in relation to future house building he was very much of the view that some of it would be built on land that is Green Belt.
He was clearly trying to put a message across and I must admit that I wondered who Peter was really speaking to. He did not make his remarks in a party political way what so ever, indeed he seemed keen to ensure that no one thought he was doing so. But the more I have pondered on what he said the more I have wondered if the message was meant for his own followers and indeed the Sefton Central Labour MP. I say this in the context of Labour doing some pretty outlandish things in relation to the Green Belt in recent times. My posting of the 11th of February refers.
I have known Peter long enough to realise that what he said was said with a purpose.
Like many parts of the UK Sefton needs more land for housing or so we are told. Here in Sefton Council Officers have been doing the rounds looking for sites to build on. They tell us that very soon the Borough will run out of ‘Brown Field’ land (land previously developed) and that within a few years there will be pressure to release land from the ‘Green Belt’ (mainly agricultural land).
As a long time campaigner for Green Belt this is a big challenge to me but I also have worries of a ‘green’ nature. If we accept, and I do, that we must start to grow more food closer to where we consume it then building on Grade 1 and 2 agricultural land is not the brightest of ideas. Indeed, it looks like a very bad idea! It was for this reason that I raised the dilemma at a recent Sefton Council Cabinet meeting.
This is the official map of agricultural land qualities in Sefton's East Parishes - It is all Grade 1 and Grade 2 i.e. the best growing land
My fear is that ‘green’ issues are not prominent enough in the present study of land availability so I intend to make it prominent. It is no use consulting the public over whether Green Belt land should be become unprotected or not when probably the biggest future consideration has to be where will we grow our food? We can’t just develop Grade 1 and 2 agricultural land and then say we wish we had not done so when we find there is no where left to grow food!
The photo above is of what is presently agricultural land to the east of Maghull but for how long will it be our local food basket?
Housing is important but so must we also consider the environmental sustainability of our communities. We all know that importing food from across the world, that we could grow in the UK, is simply not sustainable.