Green Belt loss – Well I’m not surprised, are you?

The vast Maghull East development (presently high grade agricultural land) site as seen from Poverty Lane, Maghull

New Government data backs CPRE Green Belt figures – the story is on the CPRE’s web site via the link below:-

www.cpre.org.uk/media-centre/latest-news-releases/item/4973-new-government-data-backs-cpre-green-belt-figures?utm_medium=email&utm_source=engagingnetworks&utm_campaign=campaigns-update-2018-oct-nonmembers&utm_content=Campaigns+Update+2018+Oct+-+non+members

Quote from CPRE article – New statistics from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show the largest increase in the amount of Green Belt land released for housing to date

An analysis of the new Government data released today (4 October) by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) shows that since 2012 almost 10,000 hectares of Green Belt land have been released from ‘protected’ Green Belt boundaries by local councils. Ten councils have together released more than 5,000 hectares in the past year alone [1].

Can’t say I’m in any way surprised having spent years trying to stop building on Green Belt and the highest grades of agricultural land in Sefton Borough and now hearing of even more Green Belt development in neighbouring West Lancashire.

Where on earth is the connect between housing, planning, food production and environmental policies here in the UK? And what’s so galling is that even when this precious food growing land is lost we will still not end up with the types of housing that we actually need!

Building on Green Belt does not provided much at all in terms of affordable housing

Well I’ve been singing that tune for a very long time now, with specific reference to the encroachment onto the Green Belt in Sefton Borough. The BBC has the story on its web site – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-45079648

My major objection to the vast amount of Green Belt being lost to housing in Sefton Borough, especially with regard to the Maghull & Lydiate area, was of course that the land is predominately high grade arable land that grows the food we eat. To sacrifice such land when only around 2% of England is made up of this level of land quality is utter madness to me.

But of course that very same land is also in Sefton’s Green Belt, so Maghull’s vast urban extension (see lead photo) which is down to be built to the east of the Town in due course means that both high quality food growing land and Green Belt will be lost for ever.

The large red area is the ‘Maghull East’ urban extension to the Town. The M58 Junction 1 is in grey – top right with Prescot Road running north to south on the far right of the map.

Of course I know that we have a housing crisis and I realise that Governments, Councils and many individuals are happy to sacrifice food growing high grade agricultural land to get what they see as much needed housing. But hang on a minute where is the housing crisis in reality? It’s mainly with the affordable housing and the social rented sector and it’s because of the lack of such housing that huge pressure is put on the rest of the housing market.

We are kicking our precious food growing land and Green Belt into touch to gain the very sort of housing that we are not crying out for!

So what do we need? We need really affordable housing and social rented housing because the roots of our housing crisis are well planted within the right to buy legislation of the 1980’s. That the money raised from the sale of what were council houses was not used to build more social housing has substantially created the problems we are now living with. On that basis much of the house building required is affordable and social housing but it’s not! it’s more 3, 4 and 5 bedroomed houses for sale and we are kicking our precious food growing land and Green Belt into touch to gain the very sort of housing that we are not crying out for!

Melling – Opposition to Green Belt planning application for Spurriers Lane site grows

I blogged about the controversial planning application for a permanent travellers site off Melling’s Spurriers Lane recently. Here’s a link to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/06/04/melling-spuriers-lane-a-single-track-backwater-but/

I have subsequently been asked by a Melling resident for my advice and opinion on the development. These are the points I made in response:-

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* I oppose farmland being used for other purposes and I fought against the Sefton Local Plan because it allows this very thing to happen (on the sites taken out of the Green Belt).

* I’m guessing that you will have got the 3 Molyneux ward Sefton Councillors on board as they will be crucial in lobbying their fellow Sefton Councillors, who sit on the Planning Committee, to oppose the application. None of the Molyneux ward members are on the Planning Committee as far as I can see so they should be free to express a view. Planning Committee members can’t say what they think about a plan before the meeting it is discussed at. If they do, it is called pre-determination and it precludes them from voting on it.

* My personal view is that the planning application is not consistent with the new Sefton Local Plan as the site is within Green Belt and a change of use from farmland is an inappropriate use of the land.

* I know how nice the Spurriers Lane area is as I represented Melling on Sefton Council until 2011, although it suffers terribly from huge amounts of fly-tipping particularly the bit of it in West Lancs which is called Outlet Lane.

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Obviously I’m just a Lydiate Parish Councillor these days so my opinion on this Melling matter will be of little interest to the Planning Committee of Sefton Council but as a matter of principle I always try to defend Green Belt land from development.

Separately, I’ve also contributed to a thread on the Maghull Community Page of Facebook where one of the objecting campaigners was calling for those speaking at public meetings about the application to stick to the Green Belt issue and not to get carried away with the emotional issues surrounding the application. This was the advice I added:-

Sound advice Charlotte and the same will more importantly apply when petition/s are presented and spoken to at Sefton Council’s Planning Committee. The only things that will be taken notice of by the Planning Committee are Planning related matters of policy/guidance. I know as a former Sefton Councillor who sat on the Planning Committee that matters like this can be highly emotional but it is important to remain focused on grounds for objection that relate to Planning law, policy, the Sefton Local Plan etc. Best of luck.

Planning is a legal-type process so any comments not related to planning law and policy should automatically not be taken into account. I recall seeing controversial planning applications being opposed at Sefton’s Planning Committee in the past where those speaking concentrated on getting things off their chests rather then sticking to grounds of opposition related to planning law and policy. The speakers may have felt better for getting things off their chests but sometimes they were not actually having much influence the decision making process.

I have always felt that residents, who rarely come across Planning issues, are at a big disadvantage as they not only have a limited amount of time to get their concerns over to the Planning Dept. (of any council) but they also have to get their heads around a quasi-judicial process steeped in jargon, law, policy and the like.

Lydiate – A lot of folk at Parish Council meeting to hear about a leisure/sporting facility being proposed

Last Tuesday’s Lydiate Parish Council meeting was a full house so to speak as over 30 residents from the Hall Lane/Southport Road area turned out to hear a presentation to the Council from a local landowner who wants to develop outdoor leisure/sporting facilities on what is presently agricultural land in Green Belt off these roads.

It had not been intended as public presentation by the land owner but as word got around of the presentation locals turned out in force from what is a sparsely populated rural part of Lydiate Civil Parish.

We were told that the land owner wanted to diversify and use the 22 acres of land for water sports activities, nature reserve, mountain bike track, zip wire etc. Access would be off Southport Road with a car park on the site. A pre-planning application had been submitted to Sefton Council in late 2017 and the owner said he had been asked to provide evidence of support and need for the facility.

Soil taken from creating the lakes would be used on site to mound up the mountain bike track around 1m. The present idea is that the site would potentially attract up to 200 visitors on a good summer day with a charge of around £5 for access to what seems to be planned to be an unfenced site. Not much winter use is envisaged and no floodlighting is planned. Over a year 15,000 to 20,000 people visiting the facility seems to be envisaged.

The facility would be run by a staff of around 6 people engaged with training, maintenance and water sports supervision.

I think it fair to say that the developer’s plans got a frosty reception from the attending residents with many questions being asked about a myriad of concerns. Having said that we were told that the developer had letters of support from some local schools, business and the scouts.

I got the impression that the developer was testing the water and looking for ideas to develop his plans from locals and that things may well change prior to any formal planning application being made to Sefton Council.

The fact that the land is firmly within Sefton’s recently revised Green Belt and that it is high grade agricultural land means to me that Planners are going to have a very critical eye on the matter. The other thing that struck me was that I don’t recall any proposals being made to take this piece of land out of Green Belt or to develop it during Sefton Council’s controversial Local Plan process which has only just ended. To me that process was the obvious time to have raised such plans.

I have the feeling that this matter is going to be hugely controversial should a formal planning application follow on from the presentation to Lydiate Parish Council. I would add that the Parish Council will respond to any formal planning application that is submitted when the full facts surrounding the matter are known.

Sefton Borough – Building on Green Belt and the land that grows our food

I light of Labour supporters continuing to blame everyone else for Labour-run Sefton Council voting to build on Green Belt and high grade agricultural land across the Borough, here’s my recent letter to the Champion newspaper:-

Dear Sir,

Interesting how Labour supporters and councillors still try to defend their Sefton Councillors voting to build on Green Belt and high grade agricultural land around Maghull & Lydiate and indeed in other places across Sefton Borough. Their line of defence seems to be ‘the government made us vote for it’ or words to that effect.

Well when I was a Sefton Councillor representing Maghull & Lydiate until 2015 I did not feel in any way compelled to vote for building on Green Belt and the land that grows our food, indeed I kept voting against it! Had I won my seat again in 2015 I would have continued to oppose it.

Sefton Council allocated the sites that are down for development, no one else. My advice to Labour supporters is stop blaming others and accept responsibility for what Labour-run Sefton Council decided to do.

Yours sincerely

Tony Robertson

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……