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

Maghull’s vast urban extension – Labour blasts development on land their Local Plan identified for development! You could not make this up

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/council-leaders-fury-arrogant-developers-13496470

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site – see link above

Well, well, well would you believe it Sefton Labour are protesting about a housing development on land which they voted to take out of the Green Belt for it to be built upon.

The vast Maghull East site seen from Poverty Lane presently growing crops.

I fought for this particular site (and indeed many others) to be protected from development not only because it was in Green Belt (prior to Labour-run Sefton taking them out of it) but in many cases these development sites are also the highest grade of food growing agricultural land. That I now hear Labour complaining over a process which they put in motion by picking the sites that would be built on is bizarre!

A Maghull Town Council leaflet from 1998 – That fight to stop Green Belt building was won.

In 1998, when Sefton’s last Local Plan (known then as a Unitary Development Plan) was being put together Sefton Council wanted the very same site east of Maghull to be taken out of Green Belt. I was then a Maghull Town Councillor and we brought together a community-wide campaign to resist the plan. What’s more we won. But as soon as the next plan was announced (the recently agreed Sefton Local Plan) it was no surprise that Sefton looked straight at the site, which is partly in Melling Civil Parish as well, that they had failed to take out of Green Belt last time for building on once again. This time the now Labour-run Town Council in effect rolled over and did not raise a community-wide campaign to fight their political masters in Bootle Town Hall.

By sitting back and letting it happen Labour were signalling that they were going to allow the vast Maghull East site of high grade agricultural land to be taken out of Green Belt. And that’s what happened bearing in mind that Labour had said they were going to fight for the Green Belt! In the end Labour voted on Sefton Council to allow this and many other sites to be built on.

Campaigners, outside Maghull Town Hall trying to save Sefton Borough’s high grade agricultural land from development.

And this is not the first time they have protested about the activities of developers whom they gave the green light to. They did it only a few weeks ago with regard to the much smaller Turnbridge Road site on the western side of Maghull & Lydiate.

So what are all these crocodile tears all about? Are they trying to cover their tracks by blaming developers? It was always the case that developers would have their own ideas for the sites and would not want to do what Sefton Council or the local community wanted them to do.

Developers are are about as popular as bankers or politicians. I’m sure the developers will be pushing at boundaries; that’s what I would expect but the bottom line here is that no matter how the developers are perceived the fact is that Sefton Labour fired the starting pistol for building on these sites in their Local Plan. Labour-run Sefton Council chose the land that would be developed no one else.

Labour need to stop running and hiding and take the blame for what they chose to do.

Lydiate/Maghull Green Belt loss – The party politics of the Turnbridge Road site

Turnbridge Road site as it is today

One thing I did not do in my last posting about what went on at the Sefton Council Planning Committee last Wednesday was to mention how the political parties voted over this contentious matter. (I often do not dabble in the politics behind some of my postings when I am sharing them on other forums where party political comment is inappropriate)

What I saw was 7 Labour votes for the planning application and 5 votes against as follows – 3 Lib Dem, 1 Tory, 1 Independent. Frankly, this is no surprise to those of us who have tracked the progress of Sefton’s Local Plan, which has taken many, many acres of former Green Belt and some of the very highest grade of agricultural land across the Borough out of such protection for building purposes.

Since Sefton Labour did their about -turn (saying they would protect the Green Belt and then voting to build on it) Labour has been consistent in their line of taking land out of Green Belt. Do you remember this Labour poster from their protect the Green Belt days:-

Labour poster displayed in Lydiate – October 2013 – how much must Labour be regretting put these posters up because they voted on Sefton Council to build on the Green Belt!

The election of two independent councillors in Maghull/Lydiate and indeed the independent councillors also elected in Formby are a direct consequence of Labour backing building on Green Belt via Sefton Council’s Local Plan.

The War against Labour-run Sefton Council’s Green Belt busting Local Plan has been lost but there were many local battles where Labour was bloodied.

This is what a recent letter said to those who had taken part in the Sefton Council Local Plan process:-

Dear Sir or Madam

Examination of the Local Plan for Sefton – Receipt of Inspector’s Report

The Council has received the Inspector’s Report into the examination of the Local Plan for Sefton. This is has now been published by the Council and is available at the following locations:

Online at www.sefton.gov.uk/localplan
At each of Sefton’s libraries
At the Planning Offices at Magdalen House, Bootle

Following receipt of the Inspector’s Report the Council now intends to adopt the Local Plan at its meeting of full Council on Thursday 20th April 2017 [6.30pm at Southport Town Hall].

The Council will notify people when the Local Plan is adopted. Following adoption the Local Plan will be used in the determination of planning applications in the borough

Kind Regards

Local Plan Team

In many ways it says so little after so many pitched battles between environmental and community campaigners on one side and Sefton Council, Sefton Labour, property owners and developers on the other. It was a long war and the environmental campaigners lost, although they gave Sefton Labour a number of bloody noses along the way.

I was one of the environmental campaigners and yes I am still angry. Angry because much of the land that has been taken out of Green Belt protection around the Borough is amongst the 2% highest grade of agricultural land in England. To build anything on the land that grows our food is utter madness to me.

But we all remember the heady days of the start of the Local plan process when both Labour and the Lib Dems in Sefton pledged to defend the Green Belt. The Lib Dems did that but Labour, who by then had a majority on the Council, bailed out and started to vote for building on the Green Belt.

The bloody nose was that they lost 4 seats on the Council because of their say one thing, do another approach to this matter. But sadly despite such losses Labour have got their way and what was previously Green Belt land in some parts of the Borough will be designated for building on following the final vote on 20th April.

And yes I know that housing is required but no I am not at all sure that the kind of housing we need will actually get built even though we are chucking away for ever the highest grade of agricultural land. Will there be accessible homes for the elderly, will there be starter homes for young people to get on the housing ladder, will there be social housing for rent?

What do I fear? That the majority of new homes will be 3 and 4 bedroomed properties for the well off which will price out those who need housing.

Sad, yes you bet I am but you know what we have learned is that if there were any ‘green’ credentials locally within the Labour Party there certainly aren’t any more.

Plans for Sefton Council’s massive urban extension of Maghull are on the move

The Maghull East site with crops growing on it on 24th April 2016. Building on it is madness.

I hear, from what I understand to be reliable a source, that a developer is is outlining its intentions with regard to the huge urban extension site on the eastern side of Maghull and into Melling.

A recent sunrise over the presently farmed land off Poverty Lane, Maghull. I wonder how many sunrises the crops will see in the future as the land has sadly been designated to build hundreds and hundreds of houses on (plus an industrial estate) by Sefton Council despite it being some of the 2% very best agricultural land in England.

Farmed high grade land which grows our food

The site, known as Maghull East, bounded by the M58, Poverty Lane, the Liverpool – Ormskirk railway line and School Lane is truly massive and Sefton Council wants around 1,600 houses on it plus an industrial park. It is presently farmed and the vast majority of it is the very highest quality of agricultural land which grows our food!

Because of the vast nature of the site planners from Labour-run Sefton Council are working up specific documents outlining how it should be built upon. This document is yet to be finalised but a developer is already knocking at the Council’s door.

Lydiate – Not many take up offer to express views on Neighbourhood Plan

Returning to an old chestnut here, Neighbourhood Plans and in this case the one Lydiate Parish Council is presently trying to put together.

Lydiate

As I have sad many times before, I am not opposed to them but neither am I at all convinced that they serve much of a purpose either. I suspect that Lydiate residents must be of a similar view as only 96 (3,6% of the households in Lydiate) had responded to the first round of consultation when the Parish Council met to review progress with its Neighbourhood Plan on Tuesday 28th June.

But to be fair there were we were told around a dozen extra responses are to come in for the Girl Guides and it is hoped Lydiate Scouts will get involved too.

IMG r

It’s not that the consultation process was poor, indeed I felt it was pretty good with every house in the Parish getting a newsletter (see photo above) about a month ago.

The trouble is that the major issue in Lydiate of recent times has been the proposal to build on its Green Belt and high grade agricultural land. The problem being that this battle has already been lost due to Labour-run Sefton Council deciding to go ahead with the building and Lydiate’s Neighbourhood Plan can’t change that. Yes I know that Labour sources have been trying to say for ages that a Neighbourhood Plan can change it but IT CAN’T no matter how much they may wish it.

My point being that from the 96 responses (so far) to the first round of consultation on Lydiate’s emerging Neighbourhood Plan it is reasonably clear that there are few other matters causing huge concern in the community.

Yes there are some and I will outline some of them here:-

* Lack of Dentists seems to be a concern
* The need for 2 and 1 bedroomed properties
* Lack of affordable housing to buy
* Requests for a Post Office to be re-established in Lydiate
* Concerns about building on the Green Belt were an issue of course but as I said our Borough Council has already sold that pass.

I must admit though that I was surprised that social housing for rent is not showing greater demand in Lydiate via this survey as it is a big concern. However, that may be because of the age profile of the majority of respondents – 45 years +.

There’s a long way to go in putting Lydiate’s Plan together and it will culminate in it being inspected by a Planning Inspector and be subject to, wait for it, a referendum of Lydiate electors.