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

Maghull’s vast urban extension – Labour blasts development on land their Local Plan identified for development! You could not make this up

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/council-leaders-fury-arrogant-developers-13496470

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

Well, well, well would you believe it Sefton Labour are protesting about a housing development on land which they voted to take out of the Green Belt for it to be built upon.

The vast Maghull East site seen from Poverty Lane presently growing crops.

I fought for this particular site (and indeed many others) to be protected from development not only because it was in Green Belt (prior to Labour-run Sefton taking them out of it) but in many cases these development sites are also the highest grade of food growing agricultural land. That I now hear Labour complaining over a process which they put in motion by picking the sites that would be built on is bizarre!

A Maghull Town Council leaflet from 1998 – That fight to stop Green Belt building was won.

In 1998, when Sefton’s last Local Plan (known then as a Unitary Development Plan) was being put together Sefton Council wanted the very same site east of Maghull to be taken out of Green Belt. I was then a Maghull Town Councillor and we brought together a community-wide campaign to resist the plan. What’s more we won. But as soon as the next plan was announced (the recently agreed Sefton Local Plan) it was no surprise that Sefton looked straight at the site, which is partly in Melling Civil Parish as well, that they had failed to take out of Green Belt last time for building on once again. This time the now Labour-run Town Council in effect rolled over and did not raise a community-wide campaign to fight their political masters in Bootle Town Hall.

By sitting back and letting it happen Labour were signalling that they were going to allow the vast Maghull East site of high grade agricultural land to be taken out of Green Belt. And that’s what happened bearing in mind that Labour had said they were going to fight for the Green Belt! In the end Labour voted on Sefton Council to allow this and many other sites to be built on.

Campaigners, outside Maghull Town Hall trying to save Sefton Borough’s high grade agricultural land from development.

And this is not the first time they have protested about the activities of developers whom they gave the green light to. They did it only a few weeks ago with regard to the much smaller Turnbridge Road site on the western side of Maghull & Lydiate.

So what are all these crocodile tears all about? Are they trying to cover their tracks by blaming developers? It was always the case that developers would have their own ideas for the sites and would not want to do what Sefton Council or the local community wanted them to do.

Developers are are about as popular as bankers or politicians. I’m sure the developers will be pushing at boundaries; that’s what I would expect but the bottom line here is that no matter how the developers are perceived the fact is that Sefton Labour fired the starting pistol for building on these sites in their Local Plan. Labour-run Sefton Council chose the land that would be developed no one else.

Labour need to stop running and hiding and take the blame for what they chose to do.

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