Sefton Local Plan – An excellent submission from a Lydiate resident

As Lib Dem Planning Spokesperson on Sefton Council I led the opposition to Sefton Council’s Local Plan on the Planning Committee. As a consequence I have been sent many copies of objections to the Plan which is now going on to be reviewed by an independent planning inspector. This is one such objection.

For the attention of the inspector.

I wish to object to the local plan as proposed by Sefton Council. I am basing this objection on several grounds which concern sites I am familiar with.

The loss of Green Belt land on the following sites will lead to the development of urban sprawl :

MN2.27 Land at Turnbridge Road ; MN2.28 Land North of Kenyons , Lydiate ; MN8.1 Lambshear Lane

To support this claim I would refer to paragraphs 83 and 84 and 85 of the NPPF. Para 83 states that ‘once established Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances, through the preparation or review of the Local Plan. At the time, authorities should consider the Green Belt boundaries having regard to their intended permanence in the long term, so that they should be capable of enduring beyond the plan period.’ I’m sure I hardly need to point out that in the case of MN2.28 Turnbridge Road land, a drain could not be considered a durable boundary as required in paragraph 85. And if allowed development of this site would open the whole area to the North and West of the Leeds to Liverpool canal to later development. This area is currently acknowledged as being unattached to an urban area.

And it goes without saying the openness of the countryside would be adversely affected and eroded. Indeed, 2011 the amount of Green Belt for development in Sefton was 2.6%; from there it increased to 3.2% and then crawled to 3.6% before now landing on 4.4% One wonders if Paddy Power could take out a book on it reaching 5% before long.

Country Lanes are not robust boundaries and if the Turnbridge Road proposal was allowed the next robust boundary would be Southport Road, which is an A road to the north several large fields away. A similar situation arises to the east of Lydiate where lack of robust boundaries would lead to a ‘doughnut’ of housing encircling the current village of Lydiate .As the West Lancs border closely follows Lydiate in a rabbits ear shaped boundary the whole village could be developed in future up to the border.

I would also like to object to these proposed developments on the grounds of the quality of farmland in this area, which is described by an agronomist as being noted for its excellence of agricultural production. Once developed this land would be lost to farming. The Uk already has a balance of payments deficit in international food trade. And security of supply has long been claimed as a national goal by governments. The soils here are classed as amongst the Best Most Versatile in the country and hence most valuable.

Given the NPPG advice that ‘unmet housing need is unlikely to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and other harm to constitute the ‘very special circumstances ‘justifying inappropriate development on a site within the Green Belt’ I hope you will agree with me that this is the case in this instance. I make this request especially as there are brownfield sites (some very large) in urban areas demanding development and regeneration for the sake of residents living in close proximity to eyesores and dangerous derelict works and areas of contaminated sites, now fenced off, from a less caring time. Some of these sites in the local plan are not scheduled for development for a despairingly long time. And it is clear that there will be a Green Belt first situation.

I now would like to open my concerns to other aspects of the local plan.

Should development be allowed on Green Belt land first there is the distinct possibility that the brownfield sites will lay unloved in a rust belt amongst family homes. It could be argued that the housing market in this area is supply led ( Zoopla shows house price are falling now in L31) and if demand dries up the brownfields will not be enhanced. One site was given planning permission around 2004 but the developer let the permission lapse. This brownfield site consists of a number of old works, factories along the Hawthorne Road/ Canal corridor.

There is also an issue with the high number of vacant housing throughout the borough. Which is higher than the government’s aims at 5822 over 4% of housing stock. One wonders if building so many new houses will lead too more vacant housing. When I asked about refurbishment I was told it would cost £90,000 per house. I found this strange given that a year earlier the price was said to be £35,000. There now appears to be large scale demolition of 2 bed housing in the Klondyke estate.

I would also like to draw your attention to both Maghull and Lydiate with regard to education and the Local Plan. There is also a real concern around the potential increase in school requirements. Sefton schooling officials claim (with some uncertainty) that the total average child yield for Sefton schools would be 32 per hundred households. They don’t show where they acquired these stats. The average Child Yield for other authorities in the region would show the following numbers: Average Child Yield for primary school children equals 25 children per 100 households, 16 secondary school pupils per hundred households and 3 for upper school children. So this adds up to 526 extra school places in the primary sector alone resulting from the developments around Maghull and Lydiate. I would suggest that tacking the odd classroom to existing schools may be inadequate. And children from other authorities in Sefton Schools have rights as do their younger siblings to Sefton education services.

Another concern throughout this area of Maghull and Lydiate (Park and Sudell Wards) is the predicted increase in traffic. To suggest that 4,000 extra vehicles would spread evenly through the day is very questionable and seems to defy the times of stress (rush hours) I find the comparison between residential areas and Switch Island also questionable. Switch Island has had millions of pounds and several adjustments to get the feeder roads to the level of today.

The Peel Ports claims of local and regional employment associated with Post Panamax traffic appears at variance and seems to ignore the multipliers associated with B2 and B8 jobs.
The hi-tech container handling equipment to be used at the port (Liverpool 2) calls for highly qualified operators and control room staff. The need for low skilled workers will not be met by the addition of two large berths. The fact that the Irish Sea is outside any ECA and numbers of ship movements (which in some years pass the criteria) for monitoring for air pollution within 1 kilometre of the docks, the council seem only to agree to measure up to 250 metres.

The Access to Port of Liverpool Report dated Nov 2011 points to the large number of HGVs using Dunnings Bridge Road. The Entry to the Port report shows an average of about 350 HGVs enter or leave the port every hour. And this is predicted to rise to 800 by 2030 or 750 if investment in freight infrastructure happens. I understand that the majority of HGVs use Dunnnings Bridge Road. Given the recent criticism of diesel vehicles and pollution one can only wonder of the effects on a Ward (Linacre). with very high levels of early death rates.

Switch Island must be on course to become one of the ‘hottest’ roundabouts in the country!
One wonders at the benefits that the residents of Bootle will get from the SuperPort, so loved by certain councillors! I hope the only thing in it for residents will not be a lungful of exhaust emissions from passing HGVs as operators move their boxes to their factories.

There is also a wide variety of wildlife supported by the fields around Lydiate.
To the west fields support pink footed geese in the season and there are bats roosting near Bells Lane ( reported to Sefton ecology ) there are of course many other examples of habitats and wild life which would need to be taken into consideration.s present.

Should the opportunity arise I would like to speak at the hearing.

Thank you for your kind attention,

Yours Faithfully,

P J Greener.

Is there a housing shortage? Well both yes and no seem to be the right answer

The link above is worth clicking and the document is interesting reading.

Westminster politicians keep on telling us we are short of housing, so much so that many folk simply do not question whether they are right any more.

This research confirms to me what I have always thought i.e. we have too much of the wrong types of housing. The problem areas are too few 1 & 2 bed properties and not enough affordable and social housing.

On this basis and taking Sefton Council’s astonishingly poor Local Plan into account why on earth are we going to end up with masses of 3 & 4 bedroom properties being built on high grade agricultural land and Green Belt in the Borough when what we really need is not that kind of property at all! Sefton’s housing need reflects the national situation but our daft Labour-run Council just does not see the picture. Why?

My feelings are that Labour have been led by the nose by planning officers and have not taken the time to understand the Borough’s real housing issues at all. Maybe there is some of following the national trend going on within Sefton Labour too; a simplistic let’s get on and build houses (any houses?) and worry about the consequences later? Whatever the case our Council leadership have got it very wrong as few 1 & 2 bedroom properties will be built, affordable housing has all but been kicked into the long grass and there don’t seem to any plans at all to bring forward any social housing developments.

Where was the innovation within the Sefton Local Plan to convert unused retail space into dwellings for example on a significant scale. To have taken this course could have taken pressure off the Green Belt. But no innovation just a plan to build more 3 and 4 bedroom houses based on dubious population stats on high grade agricultural land!

You simply could not make this farce up.

Labour V Environmental Campaigners – It’s getting rough for Labour in Sefton

I commented a couple of days ago about how environmental campaigners in the Sefton Central Constituency have targeted Labour Councillors following them approving a Local Plan for the Borough of Sefton which no one I have spoken to has a good word for.

Well the battle lines have really been drawn now as the campaigners, who are independent of the main political parties, are presently delivering the first edition their own newspaper called ‘Sefton community Matters‘.

I continue to stand with these campaigners as indeed does the Lib Dem opposition group on Sefton Council. We share a common agenda but respect the independence of environmental campaigners.

I was pleased to see the campaigners use the photo below that I took at the recent Sefton Council meeting on the front page of their newspaper.


PEOPLE BEFORE POLITICS is their slogan and its a good one too. Indeed, it has been one used by Liberals and Lib Dems for generations in our battles against the Tory and Labour establishment.

Green Belt – London being urged to follow Sefton model?

Open up green belt to solve London’s housing crisis

A report, co-authored by planning consultancy Quod and the London School of Economics’ Paul Cheshire, has called on the capital’s local authorities to review rules protecting green belt land around the city. It calls for homes to be built in certain areas as part of a push to address the city’s housing shortage. The report claims brownfield sites are the “first and best option” for development, but that a large chunk are “poorly connected and costly to develop”. “Londoners should be able to get greater value from the green space that surrounds them. This can be achieved in a way that also sees a limited amount of green belt land used to accommodate more homes,” it concludes.

The Financial Times covered this.

Do folk who advocate building on Green Belt know nothing of why it is there in the first place? The environment that we depend on is being destroyed each time the Green Belt is eaten away for building purposes and when the Green Belt is also high grade agricultural land, like in Sefton, we remove land on which we grow our food.

Maghull Town Council – Just how many houses would the planners have had to have dumped on Maghull before the Town Council said NO?

I really have no idea what figure Labour would have finally baulked at despite being a member of the Town Council as an opposition councillor. This Labour-run Town Council have made some tentative noises about concerns they may have about the Local Plan (which is dumping many hundreds of houses on the Town) yet the Council, in my view, is still a long long way from really fighting for the Town.

Green Belt campaigners outside Maghull Town Hall at a previous meeting.

Green Belt campaigners outside Maghull Town Hall at a previous meeting.

Last night we Lib Dems voted to oppose the Town Council’s submission to the Planning Inspector who will assess Sefton Borough Council’s Local Plan. We did so because the Town Council is still basically going along with the Plan whilst saying there could be a few issues around infrastructure that worries it. Not good enough.

That’s more like sitting on the fence than fighting for Maghull. I told Labour members that I would have far more respect for them had they fought and lost rather than not have fought at all. But they continue to hide behind their survey conducted in 2013, a survey we Lib Dems would not back as in our view it was flawed. And I would add it’s a survey which I am now told has had all its background data destroyed! Bearing in mind that I had asked to see this data quite some time ago and was told by the Council that the information was held by the Labour Party, I now find it has been disposed of. Read into that what you wish.

Our bottom line is that Maghull Town Council, under Labour, has not robustly stood up for the Town. It has not taken the fight to the Planning Officers of Sefton Council and Maghull is now going to have 100’s and 100’s of houses dumped on its Green Belt and high grade agricultural land. Why if the Town Council (then Lib Dem run) could fight and win a similar battle with the planners in 1998 did Labour think it was a good idea not to put up a fight this time around?

Frankly I can’t get my head around this socialism lark; it’s all smoke and mirrors. Labour having told Maghull folk they were going to save the Green Belt then vote to build on it via Sefton’s Local Plan! Party politics before local people is one answer but hang on a minute the local Labour MP says the Local Plan needs to go back to the drawing board or words to that effect. I reminded his councillor comrades of that last night and told them that on this I was with the MP over his advice to ditch the plan and and start again with a community based approach. However, just like last week at Sefton Council the MP’s councillors utterly ignored their own MP!

But don’t you feel that a Local Plan is a very municipal socialist thing for Labour to want to put together anyway? They love dictating what they think is good for us, trouble is this Plan is a hopeless Local Plan

Oh yes, a couple of other gems from last night. The environmental campaigners who attended last week’s Sefton Council to lobby against the Local Plan were criticised by Labour for not staying for the debate on Sefton Council’s budget. Environmental campaigners generally were also criticised by Labour for not opposing the new Switch Island to Thornton Link Road. The spurious link here being that Labour said the land could have been used for 600 house instead of the road. Yes, I can’t quite get my head around that argument either!

This carry on resembles a Brian Rix farce and Maghull is being very poorly served in my view. When it comes down to it did Maghull Town Council under Labour not put up a fight because their bosses (Bootle Labour) had already decided what was going to happen?

Sefton Local Plan – Resident Group ratchets up the pressure on Sefton Central Labour Councillors – Guest Posting.

It looks idyllic but it is the latest site to fall under Sefton Labour's building plans - next to Leeds Liverpool Canal and behind Turnbridge Road, Maghull/Lydiate.

It looks idyllic but it is the latest site to fall under Sefton Labour’s building plans – next to Leeds Liverpool Canal and behind Turnbridge Road, Maghull/Lydiate.

This photo is amongst my Flickr shots at:-

Dear Councillor

Since you last considered the Local Plan at the draft stage in 2013, there have been many significant new developments. Before you finally vote, the following are brought to your attention:-

New Government guidelines state only in exceptional circumstances should green belt land be destroyed. “Exceptional circumstances” definitely does not mean building huge distribution centres on prime agricultural/green belt land.
It is Sefton Planners who are saying they cannot insist on brownfield sites first. This is against Government Policy. Our MP, Bill Esterson has stated there are sufficient brownfield sites in Sefton to cater for demand.
The population increase is projected to be 5,000. Planners are asking for 11,070 new houses sufficient for 24,500 people based on 2.2 people per household. Our MP cannot understand this and has suggested the Council go back to the drawing board.
We have the finest agricultural land in the country right here in Maghull and Lydiate. Once built upon, it will be lost forever.
No plans have been put in place for infrastructure. Our roads are at gridlock now at peak times, our schools are over-subscribed, doctors and dentists appointments are at a premium. The Council has no money and will be depending on the generosity of the developers which just will not happen.
Flooding and drainage problems were dismissed, even though United Utilities claim their budget will only allow provision for 30 new houses each year. 1400 houses are planned for East Maghull – a new town in itself.
Affordable housing – an amendment was passed for the East Maghull site ruling out an affordable housing condition on this site..

Taking all these facts into consideration, there seems no logical reason for building on any green belt land. This Local Plan will result in there being vast amounts of empty properties in Maghull and Lydiate, as there are already substantial numbers of houses for sale in this area., similar to those to be built under this Local Plan.

If you refuse to listen to us, you still have to convince the Planning Inspector. Given all these negative factors, it is highly likely the Local Plan will be refused by an Independent Inspector, causing even more expense to the Tax payer.

Just remember, there are elections looming and the community will not forgive the Labour Party if this Local Plan is adopted. This Local Plan can only be approved with the support of East Sefton Labour Councillors. Ironically, it is only the East Sefton Councillors who are at risk at the ballot box. Who goes, the public will decide.

We urge you to listen to the community and do the right thing next Thursday by not approving this Local Plan.

Yours sincerely