Lydiate & Maghull – Those Neighbourhood Plan Referendums – We were given a vote on the wrong Plan!

Here I am looking at what was protected Green Belt and presently still is high grade agricultural land off Lambshear Lane in Lydiate. It’s been reserved as building land in Sefton’s Local Plan.

If you live in either community did you vote in the 2 separate referendums on the Lydiate or Maghull NP’s on 18th December? I did but with little enthusiasm even though I had a hand in putting the Lydiate one together.

Why my lack of enthusiasm? Because these Neighbourhood Plans will have only marginal influence on the big planning issues that people are concerned about. The significant issues were all ‘settled’ when Sefton Borough’s Local Plan was controversially rammed through Sefton Council by its Labour majority.

It’s the Sefton Local Plan that we should have had a referendum on!

I must admit to being baffled by the publicity surrounding the two NP referendums with even our local MP seemingly getting over-excited about them in the Champion newspaper. You’d have thought that these NP’s were game changers in the world of urban planning because of the hype, when in fact they are only very limited in their effect.

Did I vote yes?. Yes, I did. Would it have made any difference if I had not voted for the Lydiate plan or if either of the plans had been rejected? No, not really.

In simple terms, the electorate was given the chance to vote on the wrong plan. Now a vote on Sefton’s Local Plan, which only Sefton Councillors were able to back or sack, would have been very significant and well worth getting excited about. Why? Because that Local Plan defined which parcels of Green Belt and high-grade agricultural land will be built on across Sefton Borough. In other words, it defined 95% of planning guidance for Sefton Borough whilst the public (on this occasion in Maghull & Lydiate) was thrown a ‘democratic’ option to approve, or not approve’ around just 5% of that guidance.

The vast Maghull East urban extension (presently high grade agricultural land) site as seen from Poverty Lane, Maghull

Sorry, I really can’t get excited about a worthy but hardly significant NP for my Lydiate community when I’ve had a hugely controversial Local Plan imposed on me by Sefton Council’s ruling political establishment. The massive Maghull East urban extension, to be built on the highest grades of agricultural land, will still be built – The Maghull NP does not stop that. And in Lydiate, the allocated sites for building houses (again mostly on high-grade agricultural land which feeds us) are unchanged by that community’s NP.

We were thrown one bag of Kevin Carrots to approve or disapprove

As I say the vote was on the wrong plan. We were thrown one bag of Kevin carrots to approve or disapprove of when we should have been considering whether it is wise to build on field after field of them across the joint communities of Lydiate and Maghull.

Labour excited about an Eric Pickles inspired policy

It was also strange how excited the political party (which voted through Sefton’s Local Plan) got about the two Neighbourhood Plans whilst also trying to give the impression that their Local Plan had been nothing to do with them at all. Even odder when you consider that Neighbourhood Plans were promoted by none other than the Tory’s Eric Pickles.

There’s nothing wrong with the Lydiate Neighbourhood Plan, I might add, in case you were wondering. It’s just that the context of it and indeed the importance of it has been completely over-played in my view. I have had nothing to do with the Maghull NP I should add.

Lydiate – Notes from a Small Parish

Yes I know, I could not help but pinch the title of Bill Byrson’s excellent book but it felt appropriate to me anyway.

I’ve not updated on the activities of the Parish Council for a while but as we have just had our October meeting here goes with a few notes:-

* We donated £73 to the WW1 Lydiate Project to help them produce 100 additional printed booklets on their work. Here’s a link to this primary schools based project:-

madcos.org.uk/project/ww1-lydiate/

By the way have you seen/read ‘Great War Britain – Liverpool – Remembering 1914-18’ by Lydiate historian Pam Russell? May well be worth tracking a copy down – it was published this year. The copy below was for sale in Liverpool Central Library:-

* After the Brexit carry on it will hardly be surprising if Lydiate folk look upon another referendum with a skeptical eye but there is going to another very local one early next year. It will just be for Lydiate voters and it will be regarding whether the community accepts the Neighbourhood Plan which the Parish Council has put together. I’ve blogged about these plans many times before – watch out for a polling card popping through your letter box.

* We have put £500 to one side, in effect pledged it, to the Moss Alliance to help pay for their legal costs against fracking. My previous posting on this matter is available via this link:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/tag/the-moss-alliance/

Sandy Lane Changing Rooms building

* The Parish Council continues to look for ways to improve the changing room facilities and indeed the old tennis courts at Sandy Lane Playing Field. I’ve mentioned this a number of times previously. Suffice to say that the project may now take the form of a small extension to the present building but with a far more substantial project to provide modern changing rooms and a multi use games area (MUGA) to follow. It all depends on funding and grants and it could take a while to bring this project forward.

* It looks like funding to help with the lighting of the Christmas Tree (actually its a holly tree) on the Village Green will no longer be provided by Sefton Council after Christmas 2019. There’s a challenge for Christmas 2020 and beyond….

Maghull – New cycle track from Switch Island towards Maghull on A59

I have commented before about the narrow and completely inadequate cycle/footpath out of Maghull towards Switch Island and it seems someone has been listening as construction work on a much wider path has been taking place in recent weeks from Switch Island up to the pedestrian/cycle crossing just before the Maghull boundary.

I do hope that the highway powers that be Highways England and Sefton Council are going to keep the new path construction going to the junction with Liverpool Road South as there’s no point in stopping at the cycle/pedestrian crossing. This is view from the crossing towards the Liverpool Road South junction – still a very narrow path at present but I will have more news soon on it:-

Of course what Maghull and Lydiate really needs alongside the A59 Northway is a safe cycle route from Switch Island through to Robins Island and Lydiate Parish Council has acknowledge this need in its draft Neighbourhood Plan.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Lydiate – More work on that Neighbourhood Plan

Yes I know it seems to go on forever, putting one together for Lydiate Civil Parish that is. And yes I’m still a skeptic of them, seeing NP’s as of little or marginal benefit only, at best.

But whatever I’m doing my bit to help put together the Lydiate one.

Our last Neighbourhood Plan meeting went into all kinds of detail but two particular areas really interested me, the lack of a cycle path on the A59/Northway through Lydiate and the poor state of the canal tow path through Lydiate.

What have these issues got to do with a Neighbourhood Plan you might ask. Well the connection is that when house building does takes place in Lydiate developers have to provide money to support local infrastructure. Presently that’s via a process known as Section 106 agreements. They may be morphing into CIL – Community Infrastructure Levy – but Sefton Council can’t seemingly make up its mind whether to make the change or not. But whichever process is used it means that the Parish Council can try to direct how up to 25% of that money is spent.

The two major areas that we have identified, via our NP process, are upgrading the tow path of the Leeds Liverpool Canal tow path through Lydiate and addressing the lack of a cycle lane alongside the A59/Northway through Lydiate.

The following 2 photos from 2014 show the canal tow path as little more than a rut in the grass alongside the canal:-

Looking north from Pilling Lane bridge along the canal

Looking south from Pilling Lane bridge along the canal.

It’s still the same now and we want it upgraded so that cyclists and pedestrians can make greater use of it. A wider hard wearing surface is required.

With regard to the cycle path along the A59/Northway, it comes to an abrupt halt at Robin’s Island. North of here there are cycle paths on either side of the dual carriageway through Aughton Civil Parish. We would like to see a safe cycle path/route coming into Lydiate. Here’s a photo of the end of the cycle path as you reach Robins Island from Aughton direction:-

A59 Cycle path becomes narrow pavement at Robins Island.

So there are a couple of our stated ambitions in the draft NP for Lydiate. Lydiate folk will get to vote on the plan, via local referendum, before it is finalised I might add.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

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……

Green Belt loss – Advice that missed the point?

I arrived late for the January Lydiate Parish Council Neighbourhood Planning meeting but in time to hear a Labour Parish Councillor giving Independent Sefton Councillor Pat O’Hanlon (who represents western Maghull & Lydiate) the benefit of his advice.

Incidentally the Labour Parish Councillor giving the ‘advice’ lost in last May’s Sefton Council elections to the very person he was advising.

The thrust of the advice, as I heard it, was all about why Labour-run Sefton Council had to have a Local Plan and why that plan had ended up meaning that Green Belt and high grade agricultural land would end up being built upon.

But what struck me was not the opinion being given but that it missed a quite crucial point out. The point being that Labour had made it very clear that they were going to defend/protect the Green Belt, indeed they put up posters and Labour councillors were photographed for the press holding up slogans about how they were going to save the Green Belt in Sefton Borough. Here’s one such poster:-

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!

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 reason Labour came unstuck in Maghull/Lydiate and Formby in the 2016 local elections was because they said one thing and then did another in the eyes of the electorate i.e. saying they would protect the Green Belt but then voting to build on it.

Goodness me I saw my own former Party leader throwing away our opposition to Tuition Fees when we had campaigned to oppose them so I know only too well what it feels like and indeed should feel like when the electorate catches up with you. Are Labour yet to learn that lesson?