Environmental & Planning Policy must be joined up

Cameron must rethink planning to prevent flooding

A group of experts led by the Landscape Institute have written to David Cameron warning that the Government must not risk future flood prevention by focusing on short-term problems. The experts are calling for planners to adopt a series of measures aimed at tackling the risk of flooding, including measures like planting trees, requiring that all new developments in towns and cities should include flood alleviation and protection measures, and that any new homes built on flood plains must be resilient to flooding. Sue Illman, president of the Landscape Institute, said: “We want the money that is going to be invested spent wisely to give us a proper outcome.” The Guardian reports that dredging of two major rivers feeding the Somerset Levels is due to begin in the next few weeks.

The LGiU produced the above (edited by me) today but that is only part of the story. Fundamentally, the UK problem is that Planning is seen as a predominately economic matter with environmental consequences being very much a secondary consideration. Such has been the case for generations and Governments of all colours have failed to act to bring true harmony between environmental and planning policy making.

The issue has not been highlighted by flooding so much in Sefton, although concern about the potential for flooding was a major consideration in the minds of Formby residents when they recently rose up to fight a new housing development off Liverpool Road. The elephant in the room, or should I say both elephants, are flooding and building on high grade agricultural land. Both are high end public concerns that most Westminster politicians seem to be oblivious of.

Environmental sustainability has to lead the Planning agenda

If Westminster is going to act to curb building in ways that cause flooding they also need to act at the same time to curb building on high grade agricultural land. Environmental sustainability has to be the primary aim with economic growth, important though that is, taking second place.

Sefton Central Area Committee – round 3 of the muddle in the middle!

I will try not to have another rant about this ridiculously large Area Committee which covers around a third or more of the population of Sefton Borough but it still does not hang together despite this being the best of the first 3 meetings of the Committee.

Last night's Sefton Central Area Committee meeting in Formby

Last night’s Sefton Central Area Committee meeting in Formby

It was dominated, at least as far as the public was concerned, with Formby traffic matters but at least the meeting was in Formby this time! But this led to an odd situation when it came to a vote on a particular traffic matter in Proctor Road Formby. I will not rehearse the rights and wrongs of the report before the Area Committee as frankly I know nothing of this very local matter because I represent a community miles away from it. However, the 3 Formby councillors from Harrington Ward clearly have been living the matter for months because there have been 3 rounds of consultation with the residents about a parking matter.

The interesting point though was the vote because the Chair effectively called for it to be of just those 3 members when previously this massive Area Committee has all voted on everything. Now don’t get me wrong I am all for localism but I wonder if what happened was constitutional? And I was not the only one sat there wondering that!

Flooding and coastal erosion were big issues in Formby and Hightown following much damage as a consequence of the winter storms of the past few weeks. Council reports on this worrying problem are bound to follow but it was Formby and Hightown Parish Councils leading the charge for action.

On an amusing aside I inadvertently referred to Inspector Phil Hatton of Merseyside Police as Cllr. Hatton! Shades of Militant there with my slip of the tongue but I hastily corrected myself amongst much humour around the Committee.

It was nice to see the 10 Parish Councils, which are all within the Central part of the Borough, making their presence felt because frankly they have been shunted into a siding in recent times by Sefton Council and its leading councillors in my view. A re-write of the Borough’s Parish Charter is now on the cards formally and despite being given credit for the original Charter last night I am happy to see it updated so long as the Borough does not try to water it down of course.

Can this Area Committee work? Well no it can’t; all that can happen is that it is able to work as best it can. It is and always will be a dog’s breakfast of a muddle that the Labour-run Council just needs to admit it is not fit for purpose.