Lydiate – Fly-tipping of tyres – Altcar Lane

This was the scene off Altcar Lane a few days ago:-

If I have read the situation here correctly these tyres have been taken out of the drainage ditch that runs alongside Altcar Lane during maintenance of the ditch.

Used tyres seem to be dumped in ditches all over Sefton Borough and indeed all over everywhere. I’m guessing that’s to avoid the cost of them being disposed of properly. Surely there has to be a process devised so that the fly-tippers can be traced as you would be hard pressed to find a roadside ditch without tyres in it these days.

Homes to live in – Why healthy communities need a wide rage of housing types

During the years that I spent trying to grapple with the Sefton Borough Local Plan I came to understand housing provision much better and I realised that the Local Plan process (in Sefton as elsewhere) is far more about deciding which land is designated for housing then it is about actual housing need.

Yes I saw and read many worthy documents about land use, housing need etc. but I quickly came to the conclusion that actual housing need is always going to be a secondary issue to the needs and wants of land owners, developers and builders. In my view the Local Plan process simply brings some kind of order to the clamor from land owners and developers who want to have their land set aside for housing so that it climbs in value.

By the way this posting is not a stab at Sefton Council, whose Local Plan I fought every inch of the way, as it’s not intended to be a party political piece at all.

My major point is this. Having lived in the Maghull/Lydiate community for 50 years (33 of those years as a local councillor – Town, Parish and Borough) I like to think I have some understanding of it, it’s history and to be precise, bearing in mind the thrust of posting, its housing situation and needs.

If you look at the joint communities of Lydiate and Maghull they have grown massively since the 1930’s and are virtually unrecognisable now from the rural agricultural communities they once were. The housing built in this period has overwhelmingly been of 3 bedroomed semi-detached style/type. Yes a few bungalows have been sprinkled here and there and in more recent times blocks of the McCarthy & Stone type flats for retired people have sprung up. The other significant changes have been the huge reduction in the amount of social housing (caused by 1980’s Right to Buy legislation) and also the significant rise in privately rented accommodation.

Let’s look a social housing first. It served a purpose in the past and because of Right to Buy it now struggles to serve the same purpose because there is much less of it around. The fact that local authorities have been unable to replace social housing (council housing), as it was lost via Right to Buy, has meant that there is a shortage of it. The lack of social housing means that those on low wages who can’t afford to take on a mortgage or even the sky high rents in the private rented sector are in effect left outside the housing market. My view is that most if not all communities that wish to be more than commuter belt or ‘bed and breakfast’* in nature need a decent supply of social housing.

Here in Sefton Borough what was once council housing has all gone either via Right to Buy or due to the fact that government of the day back in the early 2000’s pushed Sefton Council to hand over it’s remaining housing stock to a social landlord – One Vision Housing was created to enable that transfer to happen. I have not looked at the Maghull/Lydiate housing stats for a while now but on one road in Lydiate which used to have 20+ council houses only 3 are still social housing under One Vision Housing. That’s a staggering reduction in social housing and it illustrates my point very clearly.

And what about private rented housing which has made a massive return in most communities from a time where it had all but died out. That’s until the 1980’s when it started to become very common once again. Trouble is it swung back but with rent levels so high renting privately can often be more expensive these days than buying a house on a mortgage!

So this is where we are but when you add into this mix two very significant factors i.e. we are living much longer and that many young people can’t now take on a mortgage (as their parents did) due to the high cost of housing it starts to make our local housing market quite unbalanced. This is especially the case when what is being built is almost always 3, 4 and 5 bedroomed houses**.

Let’s look at us old folks first. Some of us, maybe a significant number of us, may well want to downsize to a smaller property which would likely be all on one level for mobility reasons. But I mentioned earlier that Maghull & Lydiate only has a sprinkling of bungalows and the construction of them is rare these days as there’s more money, for land owners and developers’ in building 3 bedroomed houses and bigger. This of course means that being in short supply the price of bungalows is high, probably too high. That in turn means the opportunity to downsize is reduced so singles and couples who would downsize don’t do so and their predominately 3 bedroomed houses do not come onto the market for families to buy.

OK, keep all that in mind and then say to yourself what should a future housing plan for Maghull and Lydiate look like? Well it would surely be a balance between building single level accommodation for the elderly to downsize into, small houses (1 and 2 bedroomed) for young people trying to start on the housing ladder and the reprovision of some of the lost social housing supply. Frankly the building of large numbers of 3, 4 and 5 bedroomed properties would not be the highest priority because we are not really short of such housing.

So there are the bigger issues as I see them. The Local Plan process puts the important housing issues to the back of planning process as it looks to carve up often very high quality land, which presently grows our food ***, for housing that will not even meet local need. And this despite agricultural land being sacrificed under concrete and tarmac. My feeling is that the previous name for these type of plans – Unitary Development Plans – had a similar end result effect as we have not arrived in the housing mess we are presently in because of a Local Plan that has only just been approved. Those previous plans must have had a similar lack of vision for future housing need. The new Local Plan for Sefton simply ensures that what is presently an imbalanced housing market and provision gets worse in the future and I bet this is being replicated in community after community across the land.

This lengthy and somewhat detailed posting has been an attempt to pull together a number of threads that I have previously blogged about. All political parties that have been in government since the 2WW hold responsibility for this housing mess.

* The term ‘bed and breakfast’ was I think first brought into use in this context during the big 1990’s housing boom years when I recall that in the then Sudell ward of Maghull around one third of the electoral register was changing in a year as houses were continually bought and sold. The term meant that the population was significantly transient and people living in communities seeing such huge housing movement were there effectively for the bed and breakfast only and had little ‘buy in’ to the community itself.

** The fact that we are living in generally smaller family units theses days also leads you to conclude that there is another reason for the need to construct more 1 and 2 bedroomed properties.

*** There’s a worrying lack of connection between housing and environmental policy in the UK. Indeed, the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) has only recently confirmed what it and many of us have been saying for some time i.e. that there is enough brownfield land (previously developed land) to cater for house building needs and that construction on Green Belt and high grade agricultural land is not actually required. Trouble is that pass has already been sold by Councils across England who have released land in Green Belt for development. Having said that of course the Local Plan process itself is at fault here in that each local authority has to have its sown plan. That means that council areas which have large expanses of brownfield land may not allocate it all for housing and those with very little turn their eyes towards Green Belt and high grade agricultural land.

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:-

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.

Lydiate – Bells Lane boundary sign renewal

Sefton Council’s contractors are in the process of refurbishing the ‘Lydiate’ boundary sign on Bells Lane where you come out of West Lancashire. My previous posting refers:-

You can make out the two new posts for the Lydiate sign to be fixed to next to the large tree. Bet it won’t be as ‘posh’ as the West Lancs sign facing the other way though:-).

We hope the new posts will have a ‘Lydiate in Flower flower’ flower trough placed on them in due course to welcome folks to the community.

Click on the photo to enlarge it