Sefton Local Plan – A resident has his say following Planning Committee Meeting (Guest Posting)

“Come day go day,
Wishing my heart for someday,
Drinking buttermilk all the week,
Whiskey on a Sunday.”

The above verse to any self-respecting Scouser over 40, conjures up the image of “Scottie” Rd and the famous puppeteer Seth Davey with his “dancing dolls”. On Monday night his ghost re-appeared at Bootle Town Hall.

Sefton's Planning Committee meeting 12th January - Bootle Town Hall

Sefton’s Planning Committee meeting 12th January – Bootle Town Hall

For three hours at the Planning Committee ripped the Local Plan to shreds. Firstly by members of the public then the councillors, led by councillors Hands and Robertson and well asked questions from the Labour side. Highlights being:-

1) Planners cannot justify building 11070 houses which will house 24,500 people when the population increase is projected to be only 5,000. Bill Esterson [MP] cannot understand that one.

2) An amendment was passed to say there would be NO planning condition to build ANY affordable housing on the ‘Newtown’ site East OF MAGHULL. At the scrutiny committee they said they have neither the staff or the power to check planning conditions anyway.

3) The planners confirmed under planning rules they cannot insist on “Brownfield first ,so obviously it will be Greenfield first.

4) Every time infrastructure was mentioned we were treated to the same” It’ll be alright on the night”reply.

5)Planners admitted that the agricultural land in Maghull and Lydiate was the best in Sefton but insisted on building five times the amount of houses needed, all of which type are currently lying unsold in the town, was justified.

6) Flooding and drainage on the ‘Newtown’ site would not be a problem even though United Utilities have only enough in their budget for drains in the town for 30 new houses per year and S.U.D.S is limited. (see scrutiny report).

Then Seth floated in. A vote was called for and with military precision of a well rehearsed act his Labour “DANCING DOLLS” voted for the plan in it’s entirety. Naturally everyone else opposed it. WHAT A FARCE. It may be the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta but democracy is dead in Sefton.

Those councillors have nothing to lose but I have more faith in our Local Labour Councillors. On the22nd at the full council meeting I know they will take heed of their oath, support us and not join the “Dancing Dolls”

Maghull Green Belt – More pressure being heaped on Labour councillors

Below is the text of an e-mail sent to Labour members of Sefton Council by a clearly well informed Maghull resident following the Overview & Scrutiny meeting on Sefton’s draft Local Plan which I commented on recently on this blog site:-

*****

I attended last nights meeting, a debut for me, and was surprised by the orderly nature of the evening, considering the content. Whilst it is fair to say that Labour councillors are not on my Christmas present shopping list, (though Bill Esterson may get a surprise under his tree after his recent outburst) I must congratulate you on managing to get the planners,”on the ropes” a few times, particularly regarding roads and schools on the School Lane site, MN 338andMN246,( I assume M.N. stands for Maghull Newtown).

To admit that the cornerstone of the whole plan, 1400 houses etc. was still awaiting a traffic assessment and no “tipping point” would matter in terms of traffic volume, was quite frankly mind blowing. Should this not have been done BEFORE the site was put in the plan?

Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes surveys the present high grade agricultural land/Green Belt to the east of Maghull where a massive urban extension is being proposed by Labour-run Sefton Council

Simon Hughes MP and local Lib Dem Green Belt campaigners survey the present high grade agricultural land/Green Belt to the east of Maghull where a massive urban extension (‘Newtown’) is being proposed by Labour-run Sefton Council

Then in answer to your question about a catholic primary school, something they [Sefton Planning Dept.] had obviously not considered, to suggest they could go to St Georges would create even more traffic, have you ever seen the school run there.

This only confirmed my suspicions that someone from planning looked at a map, saw a big field and said, we’ll build here .

A quick point on figures discussed. The O.N.S [Office of National Statistics] project a population increase of 5,000 in the 16 years to 2031 and 6,000 in the 22 years to 2037.

The plan wants to build an average of 615 homes per year. Assuming a 2.2 [person] occupancy rate it means each year 1353 (615 X2.2) of the new population are housed, therefore it will take just over 3.5 years to house the 5,000 people in the 15 year plan period and just under 4.5 years to house the 6,000 in the 22 year period (5,000 divided by 1353 and 6,000 divided by 1353).

This means during the plan time 11.5 years worth of houses out of 15 years, 7072 houses to be exact, are not for the population increase as predicted but just to cover things like backlog, second homes, (come to sunny Maghull for your hols) etc. You must admit it is daft.

So come and join the Esterson camp you know it makes sense.

Your comments would be appreciated.

*****

There can be little doubt that environmental campaigners around Sefton are putting together a strong case to challenge Labour-led Sefton Council’s draft Local Plan and that their campaigning is gathering pace and supporters. If only Maghull Town Council (also Labour run) had found the courage to fight the Planners proposals for the huge urban extension, or ‘Newtown‘ as referred to above, rather than allowing it all to wash over them. In the last round of what was then called the Unitary Development Plan in 1998 the Town Council (then Lib Dem-run) stood up and took on all comers to defend Maghull’s Green Belt and it won the day. If you don’t fight you can’t win and this time Maghull TC (now Labour-run) did not fight!

Sefton Local Plan – Labour MP blasts Labour-run Council’s Plan!

I have long held the view that there must be few if any people within Sefton Labour Party whom I would class as environmental campaigners. This view has been formed as I have watched the Labour Party develop a Local Plan for Sefton that will mean that building is now highly likely to take place on precious high grade agricultural land locally.

But maybe there is some hope as the biggest beast in Labour’s local jungle has made it very clear that he is not supporting what Labour councillors are promoting i.e. building on the Green Belt.

Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson says in a recent press release:-

‘Sefton Council should reconsider the latest draft of its Local Plan and give communities a far bigger role in drawing up a new version.’

He also says the Local Plan releases ‘far too much greenbelt to developers.’

He goes on to say ‘Sefton Council was in danger of allowing big business developers to build on great swathes of Sefton’s greenbelt with little or no benefit to local people.’

Welcome comments indeed but of course Bill needs to convince the Labour councillors on Sefton Council because they are the ones promoting what he seems to have grave reservations about.

Bill does seem to have forgotten though that his own Labour Party Leader, Ed Miliband, has called for even more house building but let’s give the MP a break here as he is effectively battling against his own Party Leader and his own local Labour councillors.

‘In my view, this plan is unfair. The plan, and the loss of greenbelt, disproportionately impacts communities in Sefton Central, in particular in East Sefton and in Formby.’ says Bill.

I think we all agree on that Bill so please get your local Labour councillors who represent wards in the Sefton Central Constituency to oppose the plan and the job will be a good one.

CPRE – Green Belt policy should be strategic

In a letter to the Observer, Matt Thomson of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England says that planning policy allows for the review of the green belt boundaries in appropriate circumstances. However, the CPRE would prefer to see this done strategically rather than through the current piecemeal erosion. He suggests that any review would have to take into account the needs of the whole of the relevant green belt area and consider the reasons for designating land in the first place.

The Observer covered this story.

Now despite my being a little uncertain about CPRE (previous postings refer about their Sefton Branch) this is an important point. Environmental campaigners are not trying to defend every single piece of Greenbelt and in some exceptional circumstances there are plots of land within it that can be sensibly developed. The Ashworth South site in Maghull being a clear example of this. BUT in the vast majority of circumstances Green Belt should remain just that. Not only that but where Green Belt is also high grade agricultural land the answer always should be no, no, no to development. And it is this latter point that groups like CPRE need to fight for in my view.

With thanks to LGiU for the lead to this story.

Labour to allow more homes to be built on Green Belt!

A new policy review for Labour by Sir Michael Lyons has suggested that the party looks at allowing more homes to be built on the green belt if the land has little “environmental or amenity value”.

The Daily Telegraph has the story – see link below

www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/greenpolitics/planning/11169967/Revealed-Labour-plans-to-build-on-the-Green-Belt-if-it-wins-election.html

Another depressing report that shows how out of touch Westminster really is. Building on high grade agricultural land is madness!

Turn empty shops into homes – Lib Dems said this in Sefton months ago

Chris Blackhurst has argued in the Independent newspaper recently that empty UK shops should be given over to residential developers to address the housing shortage. He claims the benefits of this would be that “we would have a more realistic approach to future retail requirements; and people, at last, would have somewhere to live”.

This is an approach that Sefton Lib Dems have taken with regard to the Sefton Local Plan although whether anyone is listening to the numerous submissions made to the Council I don’t know – I fear they will simply have been put to one side whilst the Council continues to do just what it wants to do.

As an aside, the Sefton Local Plan process has presently been halted and meetings about the next stage have been cancelled whilst officials do more calculations. Calculations about what? – I hear you say. Well population predictions is the issue as that is the major driver for more house building. Were the original predictions wrong? Well we Lib Dems and independent environmental campaigners thought so and indeed we said so but Labour-run Sefton Council would insist on backing them. It will be interesting to see what the revised calculations look like but will they be any more reliable than the flawed originals?