Maghull – Where once there was farmland – Green Lane/South Meade

People who know me will realise how hard I have fought over the years to try to protect the character of the community around Maghull & Lydiate and indeed across wider Sefton Borough from what I see as inappropriate development.

Building on high grade agricultural land has long been an issue with me and it’s why I have opposed much of the land development that has recently been given the green light by Sefton Council.

The other day I drove past the building site off Green Lane/South Meade in Maghull where houses are presently being constructed. When I was a Sefton Councillor I voted against this site being developed. Sadly, I and my then fellow Maghull Councillor Andrew Blackburn were in a minority and permission was granted.

The land had until reasonably recent times been in agricultural use but that was not the only reason I was unhappy to see this particular site being concreted over. What Maghull has been losing over quite a number of years now has been the unique parkland landscape of the former Maghull Homes, now the Parkhaven Trust. This landscape once covered many, many acres over the two sites of the Maghull Homes off Deyes Lane/Damfield Lane and Sefton Lane/Green. I think it’s really sad that so little of it is left and for how much longer will what is left be there?

Yes I know that the Parkhaven Trust does all kinds of essential work (I worked for them myself in the 1980’s and early 1990’s) looking after the elderly and people with disabilities and I also realise that they have been selling off the land to develop that work, but the parkland type landscape has still been lost and two marvelous green lungs in the Maghull community are now much reduced.

Here’s how the Damfield Lane site is now looking as development takes place:-

Maybe it’s called progress but at what cost to the wider environment?

Stop Press – The recent announcement (In the Champion Newspaper) that building on site off Green Lane and adjacent to South Meade is to be extended further is a concern obviously, even though it is said to be for ‘affordable housing’. Of the many definitions of ‘affordable housing’ I wonder which it will be and how ‘affordable’ the houses will be?

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Sefton Housing Plans Fail New Government Test – Pugh turns screw on Council’s building plans

The vast Maghull East site seen from Poverty Lane presently used for growing crops but under Sefton Council’s Local Plan it will be concreted over.

The Liberal Democrat leader on Sefton Council, Cllr. John Pugh is calling on Sefton to review its housing plans following a new government statement toughening up environmental requirements.

In launching the new environmental policy last week, the Prime Minister and the government called for the principle of environmental net gain to be embedded in the planning system.

What this means according to Cllr. Pugh is that any development must enhance and improve the environment. “It is clear that Sefton’s current plans do not meet this test. The government policy document specifically mentions “flooding” and there is no doubt that many of Sefton’s housing projects increase rather than decrease pressure on our ancient drainage system.

A flooded Bridges Lane between Dovers Brook and the River Alt – when it all got too much in December 2015

This new policy raises the threshold for what we expect of new development in order to give more sustainable outcomes.

The Council repeatedly state that they must observe government policy and here is an opportunity to run a new slide rule over proposed developments in Southport, Maghull and all parts of Sefton.

My instinct is that many proposed current developments would fail the new test. That’s scarcely surprising when the council previous policy relied on consultants who also work for the big house building firms. Opposition councillors will be seeking an early opportunity to force a council re-think in the light of the new policy.”


Quote from “Our Green Future” HM Government

We will ensure that we support development and the environment by embedding the principle that new development should result in net environmental gain

P33 We will seek to embed a ‘net environmental gain’ principle for development to deliver environmental improvements locally and nationally. …………. We want to establish strategic, flexible and locally tailored approaches that recognise the relationship between the quality of the environment and development. That will enable us to achieve measurable improvements for the environment – ‘environmental net gains’ – while ensuring economic growth and reducing costs, complexity and delays for developers.

NB Current policy is simply permissive that planners should provide environmental gains where possible.

Financial Times 11th January

‘Developers will have to deliver a “net environmental gain” when they build new housing estates and infrastructure projects under Theresa May’s new 25-year environment plan.’

Wrong Houses being being built in the wrong places? CPRE has hit a very important nail on the head here

The Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) has the story on its web site – see link above

I have long thought that here in Sefton Borough we are not addressing local housing needs despite Sefton Council allocating acre after acre of the highest grades of agricultural land for more new housing.

My focus has not only been on protecting high grade agricultural land from development (because it grows the food that we eat!) but also, where we do build houses, they really do need to meet local need. Like many folk I see building more 3 and 4 bedroom houses as being a part of the problem not a solution to the UK housing shortage.

No the real housing need is affordable housing, social housing for rent and housing suitable for our aging population i.e. more single level accessible housing.

The CPRE stance in many way mirrors my own concerns although they seem to have missed out housing for the elderly, which must be a national housing matter not just one related to Sefton Borough. Build housing that the elderly want to move into and it will free up family housing; it’s not rocket science!

I’ve had my issues with CPRE in the past in that I thought they were too laid back with regard to house building on prime agricultural land and Green Belt in Sefton. I also questioned their political leanings when they attended a meeting in Crosby that was not properly party politically balanced. But I think they are on the right track here with regard to their Wrong homes, Wrong Place campaign.

Trouble is governments of all colours have been making a mess of housing policy for generations now.

And only very recently a Conservative Social Care minister jumped back into the so called ‘dementia tax’ solution so favoured by the Tories at the last election and which all but sunk them in June 2017.

It seems the Tories are still arguing that homes are not assets for parents to pass on to their children. That’ll go down well with the voters – NOT!

My point here is that the Tories are still on the wrong path as they remain blind to the need for single level housing that is truly accessible. They don’t seem to understand that older people would move house if there was somewhere they could move to as they get older, at a reasonable cost. As there is not enough such housing many don’t or can’t move out of 3 and 4 bedroom houses because they can’t afford to.

Thanks to Roy Connell for his contribution to this posting

Maghull – Council still worrying over problems they did not fight when they had the chance to

My letter to the Maghull Champion newspaper in response to Maghull councillors crying crocodile tears over the massive Maghull East development site:-

Dear Sir,

I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read in the Champion that Maghull Town Council leaders are still worrying over the huge urban extension housing development to the east of Maghull which will go a long way towards making the Town 25% larger.

If Maghull Council had got up and fought for the Town when Sefton Council was developing its Local Plan, which dumps 1600+ houses plus some industrial units on some of the highest grade agricultural land in England, then we may not be in the situation we are now.

I was a member of Maghull Town Council for 30 years and led it to oppose development of the very same land in 1998. We won that fight. Yes, it may not have been won this time around but no serious battle was even fought by Maghull Council, end of.

Yours sincerely

Cllr. Tony Robertson
Member of Lydiate Parish Council

Lydiate – Looking at its emerging Neighbourhood Plan

Well the first thing to say is that it will most certainly not set all Lydiate resident’s hearts a flutter. A worthy if unexciting plan is about the best I can say based on the drafts I have seen to date.

And that’s not to belittle the work of Lydiate Parish Council and those who have helped pull the emerging plan together (including myself I might add), it’s just that the world will continue to turn pretty much the way it has done with or without Lydiate’s Neighbourhood Plan.

As I have said many times a neighbourhood plan can’t lead to less Green Belt being grabbed or less high grade agricultural land being built upon. This is because Sefton Council’s Local Plan has already set such in stone and neighbourhood plans can’t change that unless they are proposing a greater loss of Green Belt, more housing etc. Once Sefton Council decided to allow building on what is presently farmed land, Green Belt etc. the dye was cast.

Yes I know some folks said and some even believed that if community ‘X’ had a neighbourhood plan that the amount of housing to be built could be reduced and that some if not all of the threatened Green Belt could be saved. Sadly, this was at best either highly unrealistic expectations or deliberate misinformation.

But there is one small but clear advantage to a Parish Council in Sefton Borough (or anywhere else) in putting together a Neighbourhood Plan. That advantage, to the parish councils, is that when Sefton Council finally adopts the new way of leveraging out community benefits from property developers (Community Infrastructure Levy or CIL) parish councils who have a neighbourhood plan will have more say in how it is spent than under the present Section 106 system. Under CIL a parish council gets to say how 25% of the money (extracted from a developer) is spent as opposed to 15% where there is no neighbourhood plan in place.

Typically such S106/CIL money is used to improve roads, develop local infrastructure, plant trees etc. in the area close to the development.

Now the big question. Why is Sefton Council dragging its feet over the adoption the new Community Infrastructure Levy process? They have certainly been considering it for a very long time now. I hear that some planning authorities have decided not to adopt CIL and to stick with S106, if Sefton does that the last worthwhile reason to have a neighbourhood plan is out of the window. Time will tell……

Maghull – It’s eastern urban extension land has been cropping in 2017 but for how much longer?

The Maghull East site is probably the most controversial of all of the Green Belt development sites across the whole Borough of Sefton because it is so vast, indeed it is now referred to as an ‘urban extension’ such will be its size.

The land is predominately high grade agricultural land which grows our food so building on it is utter madness to me. However, we environmental campaigners lost the battle to save it and Sefton Council is to have its will to develop the site for housing and business use.

I thought it would be useful to have a photographic record of the site so I took a photo at the height of summer and another one in this autumn. Both shots are from the same location – the M58 motorway junction bridge at Ashworth. I think you will agree they look radically different despite there being less than 2 months between them. Obviously the weather played its part too:-

Click on the photos to enlarge them

The photos are also on my Flickr site at:-