Maghull – Heavy rain reminds us of the potential peril of building on agricultural land locally

The recent heavy rain got me thinking about the soon to be built and vast urban extension to Maghull of @1700 houses. I went to have a look at the site on Sunday 23rd February. The photos below really speak for themselves as they start with the waterlogged site as I saw it followed by where the water eventually drains to i.e. Dovers Brook and the River Alt.

Maghull East Site from Ashworth Motorway junction 23 02 20

Maghull East Site from Poverty Lane 23 02 20

Dovers Brook at Sefton Lane looking north 23 02 20

Dovers Brook at Sefton Lane 23 02 20 – the bridge is all but lost under the floodwater.

River Alt 23 02 20 looking south from Bridges Lane.

Having lived locally for over 50 years I can’t say I’m surprised by this situation as our low-lying land has always been liable to flood after heavy rain. Of course climate change is making those floods more regular and at times worse than they have been in the past.

What has not, in my opinion, been effectively resolved is how the floodwater is dealt with as flooding of Sefton Lane is far from unusual each year these days. What worries me is how the local drainage network is going to cope after a vast area of presently agricultural land (the Maghull East Site) is put under concrete, brick and tarmac. The implications will not be just on that site, if the drainage issues are not fully addressed, but potentially to the west of it to the River Alt which takes a great deal of Maghull’s surface water run-off.

That the Maghull East Site site will be developed is a given as Sefton Council’s Local Plan has already designated it for building on but, and it’s a very big but, what guarantees are going to be put in place that this building will not make a presently unresolved flooding problem even worse?

Sefton Council and the developers of the land have to get this right otherwise those of us who fought against the vast site being designated for building will be reminding the powers that be that they were warned about the consequences.

My thanks to Andrew Blackburn for the lead to this posting

Maghull’s Vast Urban Extension -Sefton Council complains about site it selected to build on!

The vast Maghull East site seen from Poverty Lane presently used for growing crops but under Sefton Council’s Local Plan it will become housing.

Sefton Council produced a Local Plan which it finalised and published in April 2017. In that plan, amongst other hugely controversial sites across the Borough which had been designated for building, was the massive urban extension of Maghull dubbed the Maghull East site.

Presently @1700 houses are expected to be built on that former Green Belt and presently high grade agricultural site which I and many other environmental campaigners fought against. But this is not another rehash of the arguments to save the site from development because we lost and Sefton Council won you might say. No, this is a commentary on what has happened since then as Sefton Council and developers/builders have been working up strategies and plans to deliver this massive urban extension to the Town.

Sefton designated this site, no one else selected it for them

You see Sefton Council designated this site to be built on, no one else selected it for them. Yet now we seem to have a situation where the same Council is complaining that that things are not going well, that things have been flawed, that the site is going to have all kinds of detrimental effects on Maghull etc. etc. We’ve even heard Sefton moaning about the Town’s infrastructure being unsustainable if things are not put right.

I’m sure all those concerns are only too valid as they are amongst those raised by those of us who campaigned against this monster site being developed in the first place. Indeed, it was obvious to us that developing such a huge site as this would be full of difficulties and that’s even if you, like Sefton Council, felt it was sensible to go ahead with!

Sefton Council is fighting against a process which it put in place!

My point? Sefton Council is now fighting against the consequences of developing a site which it chose itself. Maybe it should have thought through what it was planning to do before agreeing to do it because the drainage, traffic, infrastructure, schools, doctors/dentists and other environmental issues (or indeed the Council’s interaction with developers) were are quite predicable problems.

We have reached a stage now where Maghull residents, many of whom opposed the building in the first place, have had to rise up again because the development they did not want has turned into the organisational mess that they feared it would and all because this vast site was picked by their own Council to build upon.

Building on Green Belt does not provided much at all in terms of affordable housing

Well I’ve been singing that tune for a very long time now, with specific reference to the encroachment onto the Green Belt in Sefton Borough. The BBC has the story on its web site – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-45079648

My major objection to the vast amount of Green Belt being lost to housing in Sefton Borough, especially with regard to the Maghull & Lydiate area, was of course that the land is predominately high grade arable land that grows the food we eat. To sacrifice such land when only around 2% of England is made up of this level of land quality is utter madness to me.

But of course that very same land is also in Sefton’s Green Belt, so Maghull’s vast urban extension (see lead photo) which is down to be built to the east of the Town in due course means that both high quality food growing land and Green Belt will be lost for ever.

The large red area is the ‘Maghull East’ urban extension to the Town. The M58 Junction 1 is in grey – top right with Prescot Road running north to south on the far right of the map.

Of course I know that we have a housing crisis and I realise that Governments, Councils and many individuals are happy to sacrifice food growing high grade agricultural land to get what they see as much needed housing. But hang on a minute where is the housing crisis in reality? It’s mainly with the affordable housing and the social rented sector and it’s because of the lack of such housing that huge pressure is put on the rest of the housing market.

We are kicking our precious food growing land and Green Belt into touch to gain the very sort of housing that we are not crying out for!

So what do we need? We need really affordable housing and social rented housing because the roots of our housing crisis are well planted within the right to buy legislation of the 1980’s. That the money raised from the sale of what were council houses was not used to build more social housing has substantially created the problems we are now living with. On that basis much of the house building required is affordable and social housing but it’s not! it’s more 3, 4 and 5 bedroomed houses for sale and we are kicking our precious food growing land and Green Belt into touch to gain the very sort of housing that we are not crying out for!

Lydiate & Maghull Labour’s bizarre ‘Fake News’ obfuscation

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

There’s a very odd Labour Party leaflet doing the rounds in Lydiate and Maghull at present which seems to have an unhealthy fascination with Donald Trump’s infamous ‘fake news’ phrase.

I don’t intend to comment on the majority of the leaflet but on one very very bizarre part of it. It says:-

‘What they say: The Council has released land for development… but this is FAKE NEWS’ – It then goes on to say under the heading ‘THE TRUTH’ that ‘The Council owns very little land in Lydiate and Maghull – almost exclusively parks and gardens and hasn’t released any to be built on.’

Firstly, Sefton Council under its Labour rulers HAS released land for development, it did it via it’s own Local Plan process and this is a matter of public record.

Secondly, the release of land for development has NOTHING what so ever to do with parks and gardens.

The land released by Sefton Council is not its own land, it’s land in the hands of private owners who have been falling over themselves in the past few years to try to get the Council, via its Local Plan process, to release their land from the Green Belt so that it can be built upon.

What Sefton Council under its Labour Leadership HAS done is to decide which parcels of Green Belt land will be released from that protection for development to take place.

So Labour are denying that they are allowing parks and gardens to be built upon when we all know that no parks and gardens in the Borough are down to be built on. Yes I know, it makes no sense at all.

But what they seem unwilling to admit is that their Local Plan, published by their Labour-run Council (and which is a public document freely available on the internet for anyone to see) HAS released land from Green Belt (some of it being the highest grade of agricultural land in England) for building upon. Yes, I know again, it makes no sense at all!

So just what is the fake news here? It’s certainly not that ‘The Council has released land for development’ because it has and we all know it has.

‘The Truth’ is in fact the truth as we all know that our local parks and gardens are not going to be built on.

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!

How utterly bizarre, the Party that said it would protect the Green Belt actually voted to build on it, then it enshrined its own U-Turn in a public document (the Sefton Local Plan). Now it tries to hide behind some weird obfuscation that tells locals that their parks and gardens are not going to be built on when no one thought that was going to happen anyway!

I thought I had seen it all in my 33 in local politics but this just takes the biscuit especially under the strap line ‘Trust your neighbours in Labour to tell you the truth’.

Maghull – 1 & 2 bedroom properties are required BUT………

My frustrations with Sefton Council’s Local Plan are well documented on this blog site. Having spent more years than I care to recall fighting it; I lost of course as did many other campaigners across the Borough.

It’s not that we don’t recognise the need for housing locally, as our opponents often try to portray our campaigning, its that we see the need to protect some of the very highest grades of agricultural land in England from being concreted over. But the other clash was actually about the type of housing to be built in the Borough. The poster below on fencing surrounding the the Ashworth South Site in Maghull sums up the problem:-

If we have to lose land for housing (in fact nearly everyone was happy for the Ashworth South site to be developed) then at least make it for types of housing that we actually need. Yes I’m sure 4 and 5 bedroomed properties will sell but they are hardly a priority for the Maghull & Lydiate part of the Borough. We need single level 1 and 2 bedroomed properties for the elderly to move into to free up family sized houses together with small properties to get young folk on the housing ladder. And of course we need more social housing for rent as the housing ladder is actually beyond the pockets of many young folk these days even if they are in work.

Yet despite these rather obvious housing needs we seem to have the worst of all worlds. Other than the Ashworth South site a great deal of high grade agricultural land (which grows the food we eat) is going to be used for house building particularly in Maghull, but where will the housing be that we actually need?

Housing and land use policy in the UK is without doubt a complete mess. I despair I really do…..

Sefton Housing Plans Fail New Government Test – Pugh turns screw on Council’s building plans

The vast Maghull East site seen from Poverty Lane presently used for growing crops but under Sefton Council’s Local Plan it will be concreted over.

The Liberal Democrat leader on Sefton Council, Cllr. John Pugh is calling on Sefton to review its housing plans following a new government statement toughening up environmental requirements.

In launching the new environmental policy last week, the Prime Minister and the government called for the principle of environmental net gain to be embedded in the planning system.

What this means according to Cllr. Pugh is that any development must enhance and improve the environment. “It is clear that Sefton’s current plans do not meet this test. The government policy document specifically mentions “flooding” and there is no doubt that many of Sefton’s housing projects increase rather than decrease pressure on our ancient drainage system.

A flooded Bridges Lane between Dovers Brook and the River Alt – when it all got too much in December 2015

This new policy raises the threshold for what we expect of new development in order to give more sustainable outcomes.

The Council repeatedly state that they must observe government policy and here is an opportunity to run a new slide rule over proposed developments in Southport, Maghull and all parts of Sefton.

My instinct is that many proposed current developments would fail the new test. That’s scarcely surprising when the council previous policy relied on consultants who also work for the big house building firms. Opposition councillors will be seeking an early opportunity to force a council re-think in the light of the new policy.”

ENDS

Quote from “Our Green Future” HM Government www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/673203/25-year-environment-plan.pdf

P5
We will ensure that we support development and the environment by embedding the principle that new development should result in net environmental gain

P33 We will seek to embed a ‘net environmental gain’ principle for development to deliver environmental improvements locally and nationally. …………. We want to establish strategic, flexible and locally tailored approaches that recognise the relationship between the quality of the environment and development. That will enable us to achieve measurable improvements for the environment – ‘environmental net gains’ – while ensuring economic growth and reducing costs, complexity and delays for developers.

NB Current policy is simply permissive that planners should provide environmental gains where possible.

Financial Times 11th January

‘Developers will have to deliver a “net environmental gain” when they build new housing estates and infrastructure projects under Theresa May’s new 25-year environment plan.’