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/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.

Lydiate/Maghull – Turnbridge Road Site – A long night at a Sefton Planning Committee meeting

Tonight the contentious planning application for new housing was before Sefton Council’s Planning Committee for the land (in Lydiate) off Maghull’s Turnbridge Road.

Big turn-out of protesting residents at tonight’s Sefton Council Planning Committee meeting in Bootle Town Hall.

Turnbridge Road was the second item on the agenda following another contentious application for the former Peerless Factory site on Dunnings Bridge Road in Netherton. Oddly the Peerless site seemed to be almost a model of what community engagement in the planning process should be whereas Turnbridge sadly looked to be nothing like that.

June Avery addressing the Planning Committee

Local resident June Avery was presenting the case for local people who live close to the Turnbridge Road site in Maghull and Lydiate and she was an excellent advocate for local views and concerns. She was followed by someone speaking on behalf of Wain Homes (the developer who is to build on the site) and he did not, in my view, answer many of the concerns that June had raised in the detail that was required. I thought he was particularly weak on the issue of engagement with local residents, his line being that the site was consulted upon during the development of Sefton Council’s Local Plan and that no further consultation was needed, or words to that effect. His words did not go down well with some members of the Planning Committee who raised issues about his contribution and the implications of what he had said.

This then led to a protracted discussion about whether the Planning Committee was going to defer making a decision on the application for more information or whether it would vote on the matter tonight. The latter won out and a vote was taken. I think it was 7 votes for the application and 5 against and the only change was a condition to try to bring Wain Homes to the table to discuss issues about the site with residents. Whether this will work I am not at all sure.

So the application is now passed and the developer will get on with construction. But what really struck me was that on the same night at the same Planning Committee there were two applications which seemed to be at opposing ends of the spectrum in terms of community engagement. Everyone seemed pleased with the developer of the former Peerless site for the lengths they had gone to in taking residents views on board. Suffice to say that my impression was that few if any of those present tonight thought the same about the Turnbridge Road site.

So a small part of the Maghull/Lydiate Green Belt is now officially lost but there are far bigger sites in the sights of developers and many more acres of Green Belt and the highest grade of agricultural land at great risk locally.

Yes we will get more housing, but will it meet local needs i.e. social housing, housing for the elderly and housing for those trying to get onto the housing ladder? At the margins maybe but in the main it will almost certainly not. Sacrificing Green Belt and the highest grade of agricultural land is a very big step indeed (and it’s one I opposed) but if we go ahead and do it whilst not even meeting local housing needs then it becomes a huge mistake as we will never get the land that grows our food back.

Lydiate/Maghull – Green Belt loss & housing development at Turnbridge Road – Residents protest

I have covered the development of this site for housing many times on this blog site right through from Sefton Council deciding to take it out of the Green Belt to the unlicensed felling of many trees and the difficulties there will be in accessing the site during any construction period. And of course as I was heavily involved in the fight against Sefton Council releasing land from the Green Belt, during my time as as local Sefton Councillor, this is a matter close to my heart.

Sheila and I made a submission to Sefton Council about the original planning application for this site (the plan has since be slightly amended but is substantially the same in my view) and it can be accessed via this link:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/03/24/lydiate-land-north-of-turnbridge-road-our-response-to-planning-application-for-34-dwellings/

Today Planning Committee members of Sefton Council visited the site and those raising concerns about the development were there too:-

And just to reiterate something that needs to be understood, the whole of the development site is within Lydiate but the access to it will be from Maghull’s Turnbridge Road.

And the debate now moves on to the meeting of Sefton Council’s Planning Committee to be held at Bootle Town Hall on Wednesday 5th July (which will decide upon the application) where a petition will be presented by local resident June Avery.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Maghull/Lydiate – My letter to the Champion newspaper in respect of the Turnbridge Road site

The letter below is in response to the article on page 9 of the Aintree & Maghull Champion newspaper on 24th May where Labour councillors complain about a developer when their party on Sefton Council voted for the site to be developed via the Sefton Local Plan!

*****

That the developer of the Turnbridge Road site in Lydiate (which will be accessed from Maghull) is not engaging with locals is indeed an outrage. I wrote a detailed objection regarding this development to Sefton Council as part of the planning process. I also opposed the Sefton Local Plan which designated this site for development.

But just hang on a minute the councillors protesting about this in the Maghull Champion article belong to a political party – Labour – which voted for that site (amongst many others across the Borough) to be developed! Do I hear the sound of stable doors being slammed shut after the horse was allowed to trot out?

Yours sincerely

Cllr. Tony Robertson
Lydiate Parish Councillor

Lydiate – Land North of Turnbridge Road – Our response to planning application for 34 dwellings

Trees taken out at the end of Maghull’s Turnbridge Road

I thought it may help others (who may wish to make their own comments) if I published here the representations that Sheila and I have made to Sefton Council’s Planners with regard to the recent planning application for this site.

Tree felling machinery at work on the site in September 2016.

I am sure others will have additional ideas about how their representations should be framed but this is what we have said:-

*****

Planning Services
Sefton Council
Magdalen House
30 Trinity Road
Bootle
L20 3NL

Yr Ref DC/201700456

Land North of Turnbridge Road Maghull – Site within Lydiate Civil Parish

We write to make representations on the planning application as invited by your letter of 17th March.

Protection of the Green Belt

Firstly, our understanding is that the site is presently within Green Belt but that Sefton Council intends to remove it from such protection. This is clearly an unwelcome move and we oppose the reduction of the Maghull/Lydiate Green Belt.

Wooded nature of the site prior to September 2016

Secondly, this site was significantly wooded (as it had been for very many years) until a huge number of trees were felled in September 2016. Our understanding is that such works were undertaken without a licence from the Forestry Commission and that the felling has been subject of an investigation by said Forestry Commission. Our view is that the felled trees need to be replaced in significant numbers and to achieve this the number of properties to be constructed on the site should be reduced to accommodate a greater number of trees than is presently being proposed. The sight lines from the Leeds Liverpool Canal tow path and indeed on all sides of the development should replicate the wooded views prior to the felling. The fencing which presently abuts the Leeds Liverpool Canal tow path will also need careful consideration so that it is both secure but does not preclude the natural tree/shrub line from being the true screening of the site. In other words the starting point for consideration of the soft landscaping of this site should be that which was there prior to the seemingly unlicensed felling that took place last autumn, not from the state of the site as it is now i.e. following the felling. The Forestry Commission report on the site, following the felling, obviously needs to be accessed and taken into account in the assessment of this application.

Drainage issues

Thirdly, it is vital that the stream/drainage ditch that arrives on this site from underneath the canal is in no way hindered in its flow through to Maghull Brook, indeed this watercourse needs to be protected and kept clear both during and after the construction of the properties. Similar comments obviously go for Maghull Brook too of course. If this is not achieved the previous flooding issues suffered by properties in High Banks and Southport Road (documented by SMBC Drainage Engineer Sam Dimba) could well make an unwelcome return.

3 storey apartments

Fourthly, no properties adjoining this proposed development site, or indeed that are close to it, are more than 2 stories high so the roof line/height of the development needs to be pegged back to that of the surrounding Maghull & Lydiate properties. This is therefore an objection to the proposal to build a three storey block of 9 apartments on the site.

Construction traffic access

Fifthly, access to this site for construction purposes is clearly going to be problematic due to the presence of two weight limited canal swing bridges at Bells Lane and Green Lane. These bridges go out of service at times due to vehicles crossing them that are too heavy. There is obviously every opportunity for construction vehicles to make this situation worse for all concerned locally if they try to use the bridges. One alternative that may be under consideration is to take construction traffic through the Green Park Estate and thereby worryingly close to two primary schools – Green Park & St. John Bosco. However, this is clearly a concern due to the narrow nature of the estate roads and the congestion in Green Lane, Green Link, West Meade and Round Meade at schools times. The other alternative, a temporary road off Bells Lane for construction traffic, also raises issues that will need to carefully considered due to the narrow nature of Bells Lane and a weight limited canal swing bridge previously mentioned. It is also the case that roads such as Turnbridge Road and Greenbank Avenue could be hugely and detrimentally impacted on by construction traffic if access is agreed via Green Lane/The Green Park Estate. This is clearly an issue that will need to be fully addressed prior to any construction traffic accessing the site. What’s more the developer will need to be transparent in defining how construction traffic access will be properly managed/policed. This will require a clear and effective contact process for residents to be able to both report and stop any transgressions of the finally agreed access route(s).

Clearly our primary consideration is the protection of the Green Belt as defined prior to the present Sefton Local Plan being developed. However, should Sefton Council be determined to take this site out of the Green Belt and release it for the development of housing we hope that notice will be taken of the representations in this letter.

In summary the major issues are:-

* Protection of the Green Belt.
* The replacement of the many recently felled trees on the site.
* Perimeter fencing being secure but not obscuring the natural wooded view of the site. Wooded sight lines surrounding the site prior to September 2016 being replicated.
* Open drainage steams/ditches not being compromised during construction or indeed after.
* The 3 storey apartments being reduced to 2 storey.
* Access to the site during construction being very carefully managed.

Yours sincerely

Tony & Sheila Robertson