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……

Lydiate – The ‘scale’ of the Lydiate Neighbourhood Plan

If you live in Lydiate you should have had a leaflet from the Parish Council in the past week or so all about the proposed Neighbourhood Plan for the Civil Parish of Lydiate.

It was not a bad leaflet actually apart from one rather surprising word in it. That word was ‘scale’ and the context in which the words was used is this:-

‘Influencing the scale and design of new [housing] developments’

Now, what can’t a Neighbourhood Plan do? It can’t be at odds with the Borough’s (in our case Sefton Borough) Local Plan. That means, as far as housing is concerned, that Lydiate’s Neighbourhood Plan can’t say that less houses should be built in Lydiate but it can say that more housing should be built.

Now look at the sentence the word ‘scale’ is used in again and remember that the only influence the Lydiate Neighbourhood Plan can have on house numbers is to increase the number to be built. So why say ‘scale’ unless you mean you really do wish to up the number of houses that are to be built?

Could it be that Lydiate Parish Council are mistakenly of the view that their Neighbourhood Plan can reduce the number of houses that are going to be built? Frankly, I would find that rather hard to believe as I have heard professional planners make it so clear so often that a Neighbourhood Plan can’t propose that less houses be built than the number in the Borough Council’s Local Plan.

Is Labour-led Lydiate Parish Council seriously suggesting therefore that even more Green Belt and high grade agricultural land be concreted over for additional houses? Frankly, I would doubt it as the Lydiate electorate has recently taught Labour a very hard lesson about being straight with them over the Green Belt. So what on earth do they mean by the word ‘scale’?

Sefton Local Plan – Which hymn sheet are Labour singing from?

The article above is on the Echo web site.

But hang on a minute, what about the comments of Cllr. Dowd? Does it not read as though he is suggesting that he is only doing what Government dictates? Well yes it does, in my view, but back in October 2013 Cllr. Dowd was clearly singing a different tune when backing his own Party Leader Ed Miliband who was then pushing for a far greater number of houses to be built. Have a look at Southport GB web site:-

The important lines are – Sefton Council leader Peter Dowd has welcomed Ed Miliband’s plans to build one million houses over the five-year period between 2015 and 2020.

One Million houses in the UK in five years is 200,000 homes per year which means 1000 per year in Sefton Borough. This is Double the present controversial Sefton Council plans.

At the time Sefton, under its Labour rulers, was actually talking of just over 500 houses per year needing to be built in the Borough – Almost the same figure that the last Labour Government was imposing upon Sefton via its then Regional Spacial Strategy which the Coalition Government abolished. So in 2013 Labour nationally was talking of doubling the number of houses to be built in Sefton and their Labour Council Leader was seemingly agreeing. This would clearly have a huge and negative implication for Sefton’s Green Belt and its high grade agricultural land.

And where are we now? Sefton’s Labour-run Council is now promoting 615 houses per year to be built – did they fail to persuaded Sefton’s all powerful Planning Officers of the merits of pushing the figure up to 1,000 per year? Did Sefton Labour get cold feet over their big October 2013 plan? I suppose we will never know but to now try to play the card that the Government are making us do this is frankly ridiculous when they were promoting more house building, in the period 2015 to 2020, as their own policy only 15 months ago!

And don’t forget that Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson has cut himself free from what his Labour colleagues are doing on the Council by coming out very much in opposition to what they are planning for.

More Labour Party positions than you can shake a stick at? It seems so and none of them driven by anything other than their own policy shifts.

Sadly our Green Belt and high grade agricultural land is done for under this Labour-run Council unless they sober up quick and join Bill Esterson MP, Sefton Lib Dems and non-party political environmental campaigners.