Tonight the contentious planning application for new housing was before Sefton Council’s Planning Committee for the land (in Lydiate) off Maghull’s Turnbridge Road.
Turnbridge Road was the second item on the agenda following another contentious application for the former Peerless Factory site on Dunnings Bridge Road in Netherton. Oddly the Peerless site seemed to be almost a model of what community engagement in the planning process should be whereas Turnbridge sadly looked to be nothing like that.
Local resident June Avery was presenting the case for local people who live close to the Turnbridge Road site in Maghull and Lydiate and she was an excellent advocate for local views and concerns. She was followed by someone speaking on behalf of Wain Homes (the developer who is to build on the site) and he did not, in my view, answer many of the concerns that June had raised in the detail that was required. I thought he was particularly weak on the issue of engagement with local residents, his line being that the site was consulted upon during the development of Sefton Council’s Local Plan and that no further consultation was needed, or words to that effect. His words did not go down well with some members of the Planning Committee who raised issues about his contribution and the implications of what he had said.
This then led to a protracted discussion about whether the Planning Committee was going to defer making a decision on the application for more information or whether it would vote on the matter tonight. The latter won out and a vote was taken. I think it was 7 votes for the application and 5 against and the only change was a condition to try to bring Wain Homes to the table to discuss issues about the site with residents. Whether this will work I am not at all sure.
So the application is now passed and the developer will get on with construction. But what really struck me was that on the same night at the same Planning Committee there were two applications which seemed to be at opposing ends of the spectrum in terms of community engagement. Everyone seemed pleased with the developer of the former Peerless site for the lengths they had gone to in taking residents views on board. Suffice to say that my impression was that few if any of those present tonight thought the same about the Turnbridge Road site.
So a small part of the Maghull/Lydiate Green Belt is now officially lost but there are far bigger sites in the sights of developers and many more acres of Green Belt and the highest grade of agricultural land at great risk locally.
Yes we will get more housing, but will it meet local needs i.e. social housing, housing for the elderly and housing for those trying to get onto the housing ladder? At the margins maybe but in the main it will almost certainly not. Sacrificing Green Belt and the highest grade of agricultural land is a very big step indeed (and it’s one I opposed) but if we go ahead and do it whilst not even meeting local housing needs then it becomes a huge mistake as we will never get the land that grows our food back.