Maghull/Lydiate – HOUSING DEVELOPMENT – “IT AIN’T NECESSARILY SO !”

The vast Maghull East development site as seen from Poverty Lane, Maghull

Cllr. John Pugh is the Opposition Leader on Sefton Council. This is his press release following a Sefton Council Planning Committee ‘wobble’ regarding housing development sites in the Borough last week:-

*****

The decision last week by Sefton council to delay giving the final go-ahead to housing development in Southport could give hope to Maghull and Lydiate residents facing massive housing expansion in the area.

A combination of people power and sound argument at last Wednesday’s planning committee prevented the usual rubber stamping of a planned housing development on farmland in Bankfield Lane Northern Southport.

According to the Sefton Lib Dem opposition leader Cllr John Pugh, this represents a watershed moment.

“Until now the ruling party [Labour] has pushed all plans through, claiming that the government requires it and their hands are tied. Incursion into the green belt has been driven by housing target numbers with little regard to sustainability. However developers last week had no good answers when residents brought up the issue of drainage and flooding key issues in Maghull and Lydiate – and Sefton’s planning committee for once wobbled.”

“Its time now for Sefton to follow West Lancs and review its local plans. The huge numbers of dwellings supposedly needed are based on dubious projections from consultants’ reports.Those reports are a developer’s charter , a builder’s dream but not a sustainable blueprint for our future communities. Sefton’s plans are no longer consistent with the government’s recently released 25 year plan and have to be changed. The government now is insisting that development should result in “Net Environmental Gain “ https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/693158/25-year-environment-plan.pdf

Last week Sefton wobbled. This week campaigners for the greenbelt and a more sustainable approach need to scale up their efforts to persuade.”

Former Councillor Brian Rimmer RIP

Former Sefton Council Norwood ward Councillor Brian Rimmer has died I am sad to have to report.

I first met Brian when he was Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Sefton Council around 1987. I went to see him to seek his help in trying to negotiate a better deal for Maghull Town Council, or more precisely for Maghull’s Council tax payers, over the rebate of over-paid Council Tax. This problem, called Double Rating, actually affected all the Civil Parishes in Sefton Borough where the local parish council maintained the parks and gardens i.e. Maghull, Aintree Village, Melling and Lydiate.

I went into Brian’s Southport Town Hall office (which strangely became my office when I became a Sefton Councillor in 1999 and then Lib Dem Leader on the Council in 2002) and realised I was talking to a no nonsense chap who wanted me to come to the point about what I wanted and why I wanted it. I spluttered out my wishes, he said he would do what he could and I was sent on my way thinking that Brian was a tough man to do business with and had I made a mess of my attempt to get him onside. Not long afterwards he got in touch, told me he had negotiated a better deal and was I happy? Happy, I was absolutely delighted.

My good friend and former Southport MP (now back on the Council as leader of the opposition) Cllr. John Pugh said in a Tweet today:- Sad to hear of passing of former councillor (43 years) and Mayor, Brian Rimmer – a warm and generous soul and friend who lived for his community and family

And former Sefton Councillor Roy Connell told me of his working as Brian’s Deputy Spokesman on Sefton Council’s former Social Services Committee and how he enjoyed working with a councillor who gave the officers of the Council a hard time especially if he thought they were looking for an easy life.

Brian was certainly a one-off but he was more than capable of negotiating political alliances when he felt that residents of the Borough could benefit from them.

RIP Brian Rimmer

Sefton Council’s opposition leader on Southport’s loss of rail services

Southport Station

Cllr. John Pugh the Lib Dem Leader of the opposition on Sefton Council and former MP for Southport has hit out at the loss of trains between Southport and Manchester Airport which have been proposed [in the May 2018 timetable] by Northern Trains and Network Rail.

TOWN HAS BEEN LET DOWN

Rail services to Manchester Piccadilly- the university and business sector are being pared back to two to three a day trains- there and back- with the train to Manchester Airport doomed. That’s the result of the new timetables just announced on March 21st by Northern Rail and agreed with Network Rail.

The Southport line to Wigan and Manchester is on schedule to be the only place in the north to LOSE services under Northern Powerhouse plans

Former MP, Cllr. John Pugh stated, “It is hard not feel angry with the way we have been treated and strung along. We have had warm words from Rail Ministers and the Secretary of State for Transport but the downward spiral in our services and connectivity continues just the same.

I have no confidence that Sefton Council or the Merseyside City Region has even broken sweat to fight our corner

We don’t need any more patronising waffle from the government, rail companies or anyone else. The fact is that we are being strung out to dry- a corner of the north that needs to finds its own voice.

We cannot quietly stand by and let our connections with the business quarter of Manchester and the airport just wither.

*****

Editors View:- John is obviously right and I share his skepticism about what the Liverpool City Region and its Transport arm Merseytravel have been doing or indeed not doing to both keep the present level of service on the line and promote Southport’s trains to Wigan, Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport. I go back to the first draft of the first ever Liverpool City Region Long Term Rail Strategy where the line did not even get a mention! At the time I was a Sefton Councillor and I pushed the Council to demand that the line be included. That Long Term Rail Strategy has now been updated (October 2017) and surprise surprise the line hardly gets a mention at all again. Must we conclude that rail connectivity for Southport (which is in the Liverpool City Region) to the east and the north of the Town is of no interest to the powers that be? Sadly I think we must!

Pacers are thankfully on their last legs or is that wheels

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-42937218

The BBC has the story on its web site – see link above

An alternative title for this posting could ‘Well John Pugh are you happy now?’ because during his time as MP for Southport John fought to get the appalling Pacer Trains replaced. To be fair many, many other people were on a similar track (sorry about the pun) but John made it onto a BBC North West TV programme about his fight to rid the rails of Pacers.

John has now returned to his political roots as a Sefton Councillor and leads the opposition on Sefton Council.

My previous relevant posting (amongst many!) about Pacers, because it links to the BBC TV programme that John Pugh appeared in, is accessible via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2013/01/01/calling-for-the-end-to-the-use-of-class-142-pacer-trains-on-our-railways/

John’s contribution to the programme is at about the 12 minute mark.

And here’s a video of the new trains being built in Spain:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-42946339/northern-to-replace-pacers-with-21st-century-trains

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.”

ENDS

Quote from “Our Green Future” HM Government www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/673203/25-year-environment-plan.pdf

P5
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.’

Sefton Council – So was it avoiding tax or not when buying Bootle Strand Shopping Centre?

Following the revelations in The Times newspaper of Wednesday this week a rather odd situation seems to be developing as Bootle Labour Party run around trying to deal with the fallout.

The Times article says:-

An email seen by The Times from the Labour leader of Sefton council confirmed that the structure of its purchase of the Bootle shopping centre helped to avoid tax. It said: “It is true that one of the important considerations for purchasing the company rather than the asset is that the council would not have to pay stamp duty land tax. This is a widely accepted tax-efficient way of completing the purchase.”

Yet since that article appeared a spokesman for Sefton Council has said this to the Liverpool Echo:-

A spokesman for Sefton council said: “In no way has there been any avoidance of tax relating to the purchase of the Strand Shopping Centre.

So which is it? Was Stamp Duty tax avoided or not avoided?

And another thing, when the matter was covered by BBC North West Tonight on Wednesday evening it was claimed by the BBC that the purchase of Bootle Strand Shopping Centre had all party support [on Sefton Council] or words to that effect. But that is not the case, the purchase was agreed by the Labour Party only Cabinet of Labour controlled Sefton Council. Why did the BBC say otherwise?

The bottom line here seems to be that a secretive process to purchase the shopping centre has taken place and dragging any detailed information out of the Council has required a Freedom of Information request. What little information was made available to opposition parties on Sefton Council clearly did not address the full picture, indeed opposition Lib Dem members of the Council were thrown out of a cabinet meeting, which they were observing, when the matter was under discussion by the Labour only Cabinet.

If there was nothing to hide why has it taken The Times newspaper and Cllr. John Pugh’s efforts to drag this out into the open?