Labour – What a strange Green Belt pledge

Everyone in Sefton knows that Labour pledged to defend the Green Belt but then voted on Sefton Council to build on it! A real say one thing do another politician’s pledge if ever we heard one.

The part of Sefton Borough that it going to be hit hardest by Labour’s broken pledge is Maghull & Lydiate where huge urban extensions are to be built on high grade agricultural land which is also Green Belt. This is the very land that grows the food that we eat.

This huge site off Poverty Lane in Maghull is just one that Labour-run Sefton Council has voted to build on.

This huge site off Poverty Lane in Maghull is just one that Labour-run Sefton Council has voted to build on.

Click on the photo to enlarge it

So what is the Labour pledge now? ‘Protect our community from inappropriate development on greenbelt land’. What on earth does that mean?

Does that mean it was ‘appropriate’ for Labour to vote for Green Belt land to be built on across the Borough on the ‘we say it is appropriate’ basis?

Why did Labour think it ‘appropriate’ for the land to the east of Maghull (1500+ houses and an industrial park) to be built on? What made this site ‘appropriate’?

If I was a potential Labour supporter, which of course I am not, in Maghull & Lydiate I would be thinking that I had been spun too many yarns by the comrades especially about such vital environmental matters locally.

Sefton’s Green Belt – It seems it’s not going to be saved

After what seems to have been years of fighting against Labour-led Sefton Council’s Local Plan, which proposes that houses and industrial units will be built on the highest grade of agricultural land, it seems that Labour and the planners have won and we environmental campaigners have lost.

Lydiate environmental campaigners presenting former Lydiate Parish Council Chairman Dave Russell with a petition to try to save the Green Belt from development around Lydiate

Lydiate environmental campaigners presenting former Lydiate Parish Council Chairman Dave Russell with a petition to try to save the Green Belt from development around Lydiate

In the last few days the Planning Inspector’s initial findings have been published and my reading of that document is that the inspector is endorsing a great deal of what our Borough Council wants to do.

The document itself is hardly accessible, even though it is a public document, as it is written in terms that most ordinary folk will not be able to relate to. This was brought home to me when a Lydiate resident said this to me “How are the public supposed to understand that gobbledygook”.

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

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

The world of planning and planners is a closed one simply because it is full of so much jargon that it is in effect inaccessible to Joe and Jane Public and that in 2016 really is inexcusable.

And in case you think I am being a little unfair here’s a link to the Sefton Council web site which carries the inspectors initial findings:-

Labour-led Sefton Council and those who live in the closed world of town and country planning certainly do live in a very different world to me:-

* Building on the highest grade of agricultural land in the UK on which we grow our food – Is that really a sensible/credible thing to do?

* Potentially increasing the size of communities like Lydiate and Maghull vastly – How will that help with the stretched local services particularly the ever present NHS primary health care/GP crisis?

* Sefton is very low-lying so flooding, as witnessed in Maghull on Boxing Day 2015, is going to be more frequent – Surely it is unwise to build on low -lying land.

And to put the tin lid on it, so to speak, the inspector seems to think that the affordable housing that we do need probably won’t be supplied, in the numbers required, via the Plan or at least that is my reading of his view.

Many of us have been scratching our heads about the supposed housing need. Yes we need affordable housing for young people to be able to get on the housing ladder. Yes we need 1 and 2 bedroom properties because many of us live alone these days and we also need small properties for the retired and elderly to be able to downsize to. We also need more social housing. But will any of this flow from this Plan? It seems unlikely to me.

What we seem to be going to build in Sefton are many more 3 and 4 bedroom properties so increasing our problems not resolving them! It’s as though the Council and planning experts have picked up and looked though the wrong end of a telescope and when this has been pointed out to them they have gone into denial of the obvious.

As an environmental campaigner this is a sad day indeed for the Borough of Sefton but it seems to be a cause for celebration for Labour! Cllr Ian Maher, Labour Leader of Sefton Council, said: “The initial findings from the Inspector are very supportive and subject to a few minor amendments, set us up on a clear path to adopt the plan.” What’s to be happy about, I ask you what on earth is there to be happy about?????

Sefton’s Local Plan – A Maghull resident puts his concerns into verse

This was written as a follow up to a previous verse that was published in the Champion Newspaper.

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

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

RIP Maghull and Lydiate Part Two.

In 2012 you published my letter,
An obituary for our town, in verse.
After five weeks of public inquiry,
The situation has become far worse.

It will be like the Viking invasions,
As builders destroy our community town,
With the blessing of council and planners,
Unless the Inspector gives the thumbs down.

Your local groups attended every hearing,
To plead your cause, with experts, at great cost,
Whist the appearances of local councillors,
Were limited, four or five days at most.

With plans to surround us with fields full of houses,
There will be nowhere to soak up excess rain
So living in a flood risk area,
Boxing Day floods will soon happen again.

Local traffic will come to a standstill,
As vehicles creep along roads, nose to tail.
At peak times you may be overtaken,
By a rather athletic looking snail.

Make no mistake, we’ll all be affected,
We will all be in the same plight.
Because at least until 2030,
We will all live on one huge building site.

Despite all their eleventh hour protests,
Please don’t believe what your councillors say.
The reason we’re in this situation,
It’s had their support, each step of the way.

Malcolm Gore,
Concerned Resident.

Sefton Local Plan – Labour has concerns about it? Really, then why do they keep supporting it!

The letter below was written in response to the lead article in the Aintree & Maghull Champion on 13th January entitled ‘Concerns at Local Plan put to Inquiry’

Dear Sir,

I read with mounting disbelief the representations made to the Planning Inspector by Maghull’s Labour councillors as reported in the Champion on 13th January.

Yes they were making all the right noises but hang on a minute it is Labour run Sefton Council that is trying to impose its appalling Local Plan on the Borough. What’s more when I was a member of Maghull Town Council Labour members would not vote to reject the Local Plan! Now all of sudden Labour has concerns.

Frankly, this say one thing and then say just about the opposite when Labour thinks folks will have forgotten about their original stance on a matter as important as this is appalling.

Having fought Sefton’s Local Plan, which proposes thousands of houses to be built on high grade agricultural land, areas that flood and Green Belt with Labour councillors supporting for the Plan I find Labour’s concern now very hollow indeed.

Let’s see Labour run Maghull Town Council propose that the Local Plan be completely rejected and for Labour run Sefton Council to do the same then Labour will have clearly done a welcome U turn. Warm words now giving the impression of concerns about the Plan mean nothing unless they actually reject it/withdraw it.

Yours sincerely

Cllr. Tony Robertson

This letter was significantly edited and published in the Champion on 27th January 2016

Sefton Local Plan – Residents take on Council spin

A commentary on Sefton Council’s bizarre Local Plan process from Malcolm and Joan Gore of Maghull:-

I read with interest this weeks article [Champion newspaper of 22nd July] on the Local Plan and Councillor Maher’s [Council Leader] comments but feel there should be a few points of clarification.

Firstly the new figures are from the D.C.L.G. a government department and would be the same irrespective of which party is in power.

Secondly, what the Council decided was to submit the plan as it stands but to immediately review it in light of the new statistics. To this end they are providing the inspector with details of sites, previously rejected and some new ones, that developers have applied for since the plan was passed.

They promise to consult with neighbouring authorities, hoping that they will increase their housing provision but as they all have already had their Local Plans passed, this is a bit of a “red herring”. In fact if Sefton had produced a plan quicker, we would not be in this predicament.

This means that if the plan for 615 houses is adopted the Council can then review it and build even more houses, wherever they want, without consultation, with Lydiate and Maghull Green Belt taking an even bigger hit.

The 615 figure has always been vigorously contested by everyone, so now the figures are approaching the ridiculous. The council should be disputing these household projection figures, which has seen Sefton’s rise from one of the lowest in the country to one of the highest in the space of a few years but why would they when originally back in 2013, the third draft plan option was to build even more houses on more greenbelt land.

Malcolm and Joan Gore

Maghull residents.

Maghull/Lydiate – Green Belt Campaigners Public Meeting

As someone who has fought Labour every inch of the way as they have been voting to build on our precious Green Belt and high grade agricultural land in Sefton Borough I thought I would pop along to the public meeting organised by the Maghull & Lydiate Action Group last Thursday evening.

A packed public meeting in Maghull Methodist Church on 26th February.

A packed public meeting in Maghull Methodist Church on 26th February.

The meeting was held in Maghull Methodist Church Hall and was packed with locals who all clearly felt as I and indeed the Action Group feel about Labour’s mad building plans.

It was nice to here that Lydiate Parish Council’s fight to save the Green Belt was appreciated but at the same time sad to hear Labour-run Maghull Town Council coming in for a lot of stick for it’s lack of fight. Sad because in 1998 Maghull Town Council, then Lib Dem-run, led the campaign to fight off Sefton Council’s attempt to build on the very same Green Belt that Labour are intending to build on now. No one can understand why Labour has just let it all roll over them this time.

I kept quiet for most of the meeting as I did not feel it was appropriate for me to spout off as a Lib Dem politician and councillor at a meeting called by people independent of all political parties. So I sat and listened to many contributions from Green Belt campaigners from Maghull, Lydiate and Formby. It was only after the meeting was all but over that I contributed.

Firstly, I apologised for being there quite openly as a Lib Dem politician even though I am one on the same agenda as the Action Group. As my contribution seemed to be welcome I outlined some issues that I have been involved with and answered a couple of points that had come up during the meeting. Fortunately, my comments were well received despite them hardly being politically impartial.

Labour councillors came in for a lot of stick for voting to build on the Green Belt after saying they were going to save it and also for not turning out to speak to the Green Belt campaigners when asked to. A photo was put up on the projector screen of Labour folk holding up posters saying ‘Save the Green Belt’ in Maghull Square before their Sefton Councillors U turned and voted to build on the Green Belt.

At the end of the meeting we were all treated to what may have been the first public showing, in Maghull anyway, of a funny video. It’s on You Tube and is a spoof Hitler video adapted to local circumstances associated with the Labour Party and the Green Belt. It had us all laughing, despite the fact that I had previously seen it on You Tube. I understand that Green Belt campaigners in Bradford have now adapted the same video for their similar local circumstances.

A useful meeting which I was happy to attend but probably one that a Maghull Labour councillor would have found very uncomfortable. Talk about your sins finding you out!