Co-Options onto Parish Councils

My heart always sinks when I see a Parish Council using its power of co-opting a person onto its Council. The power is used to fill a vacancy amongst the Parish Councillors caused by death, illness, disqualification, resignation etc. of an incumbent councillor. It’s never a good sign to see co-option taking place, in my view, because it means that local democracy is not working well and no one wants stand for election to fill the vacancy via a by-election.

My personal view is that this power should be withdrawn as it should have no place in a modern democracy.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve been on a Parish Council when co-options have taken place and yes I have gone along with them in the past. But the last time one came up on Lydiate Parish Council I voted against the co-option, not because I had a problem with the person concerned, how could I – knew nothing of them, but because I have grown to realise that co-option is not something I can continue to support. If someone is willing to be co-opted then they should also be willing to stand in a by-election where all the electorate of the Parish or ward of the Parish gets the opportunity to vote them in or not so long as more than one candidate stands for the vacancy of course.

I know co-option is favoured by many associated with Parish Councils because it saves on by-election costs but just think on that a minute because it’s side stepping democracy is it not?

And what made me think of this matter again now? Seeing a public notice for a Parish Councillor vacancy on Aughton Parish Council and along side it an agenda for a Parish Council meeting which had an item on it associated with making a co-option. I’m not trying to single out Aughton Parish Council by the way (it may well be one of the best Parish Councils in England for all I know) as co-option is common-place across many Parish Councils in England but I am saying that the practice should be brought to an end.

Lydiate – Progress with Multi Sports area and changing rooms at Sandy Lane Park

Sandy Lane Changing Rooms building in March 2016

I’ve not come back to this subject in a while as I’ve had little to report but things are moving again I’m happy to say. To recap my last posting from January this year said this:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/01/13/lydiate-the-long-haul-to-try-to-address-sporting-deficiencies-at-sandy-lane-playing-field/

Last week The Parish Clerk, Parish Chairman and I met again with a representative of Liverpool County FA to take forward our discussions and seek their support for our project.

At present our two potential major funding partners are likely to be the Football Association and Sport England and we will be progressing applications to them over the coming weeks. The advice and assistance of Sefton Council’s Planning Dept. is also being taken up, so we hope to have a bigger picture of the project over the coming weeks and months.

This is the run-down condition of the Sandy Lane Park tennis courts surface. Could they be rebuilt as a multi-use games area – MUGA?

In simple terms we want to upgrade and enlarge the changing rooms so that they are accessible and suitable for women’s football as well as for men. The sad fact is that Sandy Lane’s changing facilities are inadequate to say the least, being very much from a previous era. We also want to upgrade the football pitches to deal with drainage problems and to turn what are presently run down tennis courts into a multi-sports area.

This continues to be a very big project and I’m sure the Parish Council will have to overcome all kinds of hurdles as it tries to bring it to fruition.

More news as I get it.

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

Formby – Can an artificial pitch be dangerous to health?

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/new-3g-football-pitch-divides-14553067

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

This story jumped out at me because I had never even considered that artificial pitches could be dangerous in this way. Having said that the School and Formby Parish Council seem happy to put the money in and get on with the construction subject to planning permission.

Maybe an angle to take into consideration and investigate further though as Lydiate Parish Council develops plans for a multi use games area (MUGA) project for its Sandy Lane Playing Field.

Lydiate – That outdoor sporting/leisure site proposal & its relationship to a designated Conservation Area

One thing that slipped my mind when I put together my report on the presentation to Lydiate Parish Council about this proposed development (my immediately preceding blog posting refers) off Hall Lane/Southport Road is the relationship of the site to Lydiate’s Conservation Area.

The matter was raised at the meeting but as I say this aspect slipped through the net when I was writing the posting up. Having been reminded of it now I have been onto Sefton Council’s web site (see link below) where the boundaries of the Conservation Area are defined:-

maps.sefton.gov.uk/webmaplayers/?x=336440&y=405089&resolution=1&epsg=27700&mapname=smbc&baseLayer=ColourMapping&datalayers=Sefton%20Boundary%2CConservation%20Areas%2CselectFeaturesControl_container

As you can see the site is right up against it where Hall Lane joins Southport Road by Our Ladies RC Church. On that basis this close association with the conservation area will surely be a restricting factor in how the site can be developed other than for agricultural use.

Lydiate – A lot of folk at Parish Council meeting to hear about a leisure/sporting facility being proposed

Last Tuesday’s Lydiate Parish Council meeting was a full house so to speak as over 30 residents from the Hall Lane/Southport Road area turned out to hear a presentation to the Council from a local landowner who wants to develop outdoor leisure/sporting facilities on what is presently agricultural land in Green Belt off these roads.

It had not been intended as public presentation by the land owner but as word got around of the presentation locals turned out in force from what is a sparsely populated rural part of Lydiate Civil Parish.

We were told that the land owner wanted to diversify and use the 22 acres of land for water sports activities, nature reserve, mountain bike track, zip wire etc. Access would be off Southport Road with a car park on the site. A pre-planning application had been submitted to Sefton Council in late 2017 and the owner said he had been asked to provide evidence of support and need for the facility.

Soil taken from creating the lakes would be used on site to mound up the mountain bike track around 1m. The present idea is that the site would potentially attract up to 200 visitors on a good summer day with a charge of around £5 for access to what seems to be planned to be an unfenced site. Not much winter use is envisaged and no floodlighting is planned. Over a year 15,000 to 20,000 people visiting the facility seems to be envisaged.

The facility would be run by a staff of around 6 people engaged with training, maintenance and water sports supervision.

I think it fair to say that the developer’s plans got a frosty reception from the attending residents with many questions being asked about a myriad of concerns. Having said that we were told that the developer had letters of support from some local schools, business and the scouts.

I got the impression that the developer was testing the water and looking for ideas to develop his plans from locals and that things may well change prior to any formal planning application being made to Sefton Council.

The fact that the land is firmly within Sefton’s recently revised Green Belt and that it is high grade agricultural land means to me that Planners are going to have a very critical eye on the matter. The other thing that struck me was that I don’t recall any proposals being made to take this piece of land out of Green Belt or to develop it during Sefton Council’s controversial Local Plan process which has only just ended. To me that process was the obvious time to have raised such plans.

I have the feeling that this matter is going to be hugely controversial should a formal planning application follow on from the presentation to Lydiate Parish Council. I would add that the Parish Council will respond to any formal planning application that is submitted when the full facts surrounding the matter are known.