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.

Maghull – An odd story about the Town’s Neighbourhood Plan

I read the story in this week’s Aintree and Maghull Champion whilst doing a fair of scratching my head because it just seemed so odd.

The article talked about Maghull’s Neighbourhood Plan as being ‘launched’ and for all the world the article read as though the process of compiling the plan has been completed.

BUT, like all other Neighbourhood Plans, it needs to go before a Planning Inspector and be subject to a referendum of Maghull’s electors before it’s a done deal, yet nothing of this was mentioned.

Now don’t get me wrong the newspaper could not possibly know all the ins and outs of Neighbourhood Planning processes so must have been going on what they had been told by Maghull Town Council I guess.

So the bottom line is that the Maghull Neighbourhood plan can’t possibly have been ‘launched’ and the best that can be said is that it has reached another stage in an ongoing and lengthy process.

Maghull – Less than 5 days to respond to Neighbourhood Plan consultation!

I’m no fan of Neighbourhood Plans as I think they are far too limited in what than can achieve for a community. However, Maghull Town Council is one amongst a number of local parish councils that is presently trying to pull one together.

But today a Maghull resident (folks still think I represent Maghull on the Council – I have not since May 2015 but had done for 30 years prior to that) got in touch with me to ask my opinion on what had just been posted through their door today the 2nd October. This is what they said:-

‘Got a MTC [Maghull Town Council] flyer today consulting on their Neighborhood Plan. It tells people to go to the Town Hall and pick up a copy of it. Wait for this, all remarks have to be back by Friday 6th October. 4 days time! I haven’t even got the document, then it would have to be read before an opinion could be formed. Is this a joke or what. A real, proper consultation?’

I suppose my first thought was surely the date printed on the flyer for responses has to be wrong but then I also thought well just how many residents are really going to traipse down to Maghull Town Hall anyway to pick up a copy of what will in all likelihood be a very dry document – hardly good bedtime reading.

The danger with a situation like this, which Maghull Town Council has placed itself in, is that it can give consultation a bad name if it is in such a tight timescale and by its nature is pretty much inaccessible to residents who probably don’t know what a Neighbourhood plan really is anyway.

Further words fail me, they really do…..

Former Maghull Library Site – Call for community to express a view on the future use of it lasted less than one day!

The former Stafford Moreton Youth Centre and old Maghull Library stand ripe for redevelopment in the heart of Maghull.

The former Stafford Moreton Youth Centre and old Maghull Library stand ripe for redevelopment in the heart of Maghull.

Now call me an old cynic if you like but a community engagement process that was launched in the Aintree & Maghull Champion on Wednesday 4th November and ended just after 10am on Thursday 5th November is just a little short. But even that ridiculously short period depended on your copy of the Champion being delivered on the 4th November. Are we being played silly beggars with; you can bet your bottom dollar we are!

My previous postings on this subject refer at:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/10/16/maghull-sale-of-old-library-and-stafford-moreton-youth-centre-site-the-facts-need-outing/

and

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/10/26/former-maghull-library-site-labours-internal-squabble-was-quite-odd-to-say-the-least/

This is what the Champion newspaper article of 4th November said:-

IMG

Click on the article to enlarge it

‘The Cabinet now have the chance to carry out a full review of the sell-off of these community assets while taking into account evidence from the emerging Neighbourhood Plan’ and ‘The key is to ensure people in this community have a say’ are the interesting quotes from the Champion article because it seems as though Sefton’s all-powerful Labour Cabinet gave the promises of Maghull’s back bench Labour councillors the two finger salute literally hours after they were published in the paper! The Labour big guns simply confirmed their original decision to sell off the land at the Cabinet meeting on 5th November and in doing so humiliated their fellow comrades. Clearly Sefton Labour’s factions have fallen out big time.

But we can only assume that the Maghull Labour back bencher’s did not know that their lords and masters were going to make fools of them, why else would they use the pages of the Champion to launch a community consultation process which, in effect, could never happen?

I do hope that Champion is not being used to fight Labour’s internal battles and it will be interesting to see how the paper reacts to this bizarre turn of events.

Neighbourhood Plans – Are they Labour’s apology?

Having spent a couple of years on Sefton Council’s Planning Committee as the Lib Dem opposition spokesperson (2013/14 and 2014/15) and fought Labour’s Local Plan for the Borough every inch of the way I now wonder if their enthusiasm for Neighbourhood Plans is their back-handed way of apologising for building on high grade agricultural land?

Green Belt campaigners, outside Maghull Town Hall.

Green Belt campaigners, outside Maghull Town Hall.

Neighbourhood Plans are a potentially useful but significantly limited tool to plan for the development of a town or village at a very local level but as I have said before, there is no point in doing one unless you know why you are doing it.

They can cost the public purse a lot of money and they involve a huge amount of work and community involvement and in the end a referendum in the designated area. What’s more if they conflict with the local authority’s Local Plan (in our case Sefton Council’s) they get chucked out by a Planning Inspector anyway.

Here I am at Lambshear Lane Lydiate checking out farm land that is coming under threat from house building.

Here I am at Lambshear Lane Lydiate checking out farm land that is coming under threat from house building.

My view all along, as Sefton’s Local Plan was being developed, was that anyone or group in the Borough who wanted to see some specific planning issues included about their community should first of all use the Local Plan process to get such matters included in it. Why? Because it would save having to do a Neighbourhood Plan for your community.

Oddly, Labour chose to seemingly not challenge what Council Officers wanted to see in the Local Plan for Sefton nor to come up with any innovative ideas for the Borough’s diverse communities. Of course they also backed a huge amount of building in the Green Belt on land that is virtually all the best and most versatile land for growing food in England!

Now they want the communities of Sefton to produce Neighbourhood Plans, seemingly to try to mitigate the negative effects of their Local Plan! Certainly that’s how I see the Neighbourhood Plans for the two communities of Maghull and Lydiate, both of which are going to see vast tracts of high grade agricultural land go under concrete and tarmac if Labour has its way.

Maghull Town Council (in Labour’s grip) has been trying to produce its ‘apology’ Neighbourhood Plan for a while now and I have commented before about all the twists and turns of the odd process they have constructed. You may remember they (Maghull Town Council) did a survey but when we asked to see it we were told the data was held by the Labour Party! Then when we pressed the issue we were told it had been destroyed!

Well the Maghull Neighbourhood Plan struggles on but the good folks of the Town seem less than interested in it.

Now Lydiate, also under Labour Control, wants to do one as well and we discussed it at the last Parish Council meeting. All well and good but the clear reason for doing it can only be that they want to mitigate the effects of the Sefton Local Plan that Labour forced through Sefton Council.

I am not opposed to them doing a Neighbourhood Plan in principle but if Labour had not imposed it’s Local Plan on the Borough in the first place then there would be no need for either Maghull or Lydiate to do a Neighbourhood Plan at all.

How all this is meant to grab the hearts and minds of Lydiate folk to want to get involved beats me as an expensive and time consuming process is now in train simply because of Labour’s Sefton Local Plan.

Funny old world is politics…….

Money being thrown at Maghull & District by Coalition? – What does it all mean?

I made mention of the Coalition Government funding 90% of the cost of Maghull’s second railway Station in a recent posting and them previously throwing a large amount of money at the presently being built Switch Island – Thornton (to be called Broomscross Road) link road. But there is a also a 3rd project that will ‘benefit’ Maghull and district that the Coalition has recently stumped up £5.5m (again around 90% of the cost) for.

Makes you wonder why the Coalition seemingly loves throwing so much money at the East Parishes part of Sefton, does it not, especially as the previous Labour Government did not put a penny into the pot for any of these three major transportation projects.

The third major project is to make the M58 Motorway junction near Ashworth Hospital/Kennet Prison a full junction as opposed to it being half of one as it always has been. I assume the half junction was a cost cutting saving when the Motorway was originally built?

I recall that my former Lib Dem councilor colleagues Cliff Mainey & Roy Connell campaigned for it be made a full junction some years ago. Cliff/Roy you have got your wish even though it took a few years!

BUT this 3rd project, welcome though it may be at face value, is probably tied to getting that huge piece of land to the east of Maghull developed for housing and business use. Readers will recall that Labour have already voted to build what can only be termed as a massive ‘urban extension’ on a truly enormous scale on that land in the Draft Local Plan for Sefton. Have Labour now inked out the building on that site even before the Local, Plan is finalised? I think we should be told.

Separately, the site Maghull North Station is to be built on can only be said to be confusing because at face value Labour are seemingly opposed to building houses on it (it is called the Ashworth South site) for some odd reason. My previous posting refers at:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2014/07/22/ashworth-south-site-the-proposed-maghull-north-station/

You see the remainder of the funding for the new station (or quite a bit of it anyway) will most likely come from ‘planning gain’ associated with the building of houses on the rest of this site. Interestingly, all the environmental campaigners locally that I know are quite content for this site to be developed because it has been developed before – Moss Side Hospital previously stood on it. So why Labour have cold feet about developing it when across the road (literally across School Lane) they are ‘ploughing’ on with building more houses on Green Belt land than you can shake a stick at remains a mystery. Can Bootle Labour Party please issue clear guidance and instructions to Maghull Labour, so they know what they are doing please!

So there you have it or put it another way:-

* Switch Island – Thornton Link Road – Not funded by Labour but by The Coalition – It has all-party support and should be finished by Christmas.

* Maghull North Station – Not funded by Labour but by The Coalition – seemingly has all-party support but Labour can’t make their minds up about developing the rest of the Ashworth South site which would enable all the funding to be in place.

* M58 Ashworth Junction – Not funded by Labour but by The Coalition – but have Labour done a deal to build an ‘urban extension’ to Maghull (on Green Belt land) to get the money?