Electoral Reform – Liverpool Echo article must point to it being needed

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/you-can-pin-red-rosette-8982793

Our crazy electoral system and the need for it to be changed to one that produces results proportional to the votes actually cast was probably the most significant national issue that brought me into Liberal politics in the first place back in 1980. Our rubbish electoral system usually produces governments that have only gained minority electoral support but are then given a Parliamentary majority. Not only that but it also gives us ‘safe seats’ where the election campaign usually ignores the voters in those constituencies altogether.

Any serious look at this ridiculous way of running a supposed democracy and you can only conclude that the Single Transferable Voting (STV) method should replace First Past the Post.

Anderson’s Metro Mayor ambitions dealt a blow

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/anderson-anger-merseyside-metro-mayor-8367926

Cllr_Joe_Anderson,_Leader,_Liverpool_City_Council.jpeg

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above.

You can look at this both ways i.e. it yet again highlights the dysfunctional nature of Labour Party politics on Merseyside (fighting like ferrets in a sack), which is clearly the case, or that on this occasion the inability of our local leaders to get along with each other has this time worked to the advantage of the rest of us. Both perspective are probably correct.

Of course as a Liberal I want as much power exercised as close to the people as possible but no way do I see having a Metro Mayor Lording it over us from Liverpool Town Hall as an acceptable way of supposedly getting that devolution of power. What do we gain by taking power from Westminster and handing it to one person on Merseyside – none at all. Manchester’s Council leaders may think it is a great idea, despite Manchester residents seemingly being very much of the opposite view but here on Merseyside the answer to governments of any colour has to be, devolution of powers yes, but in a way that the diverse communities of the Liverpool City Region are happy with. Don’t impose, that is not localism, it is big brother telling us what is good for us and we have had enough of that from our Labour-led Councils.

Sefton Local Plan – Labour MP blasts Labour-run Council’s Plan!

I have long held the view that there must be few if any people within Sefton Labour Party whom I would class as environmental campaigners. This view has been formed as I have watched the Labour Party develop a Local Plan for Sefton that will mean that building is now highly likely to take place on precious high grade agricultural land locally.

But maybe there is some hope as the biggest beast in Labour’s local jungle has made it very clear that he is not supporting what Labour councillors are promoting i.e. building on the Green Belt.

Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson says in a recent press release:-

‘Sefton Council should reconsider the latest draft of its Local Plan and give communities a far bigger role in drawing up a new version.’

He also says the Local Plan releases ‘far too much greenbelt to developers.’

He goes on to say ‘Sefton Council was in danger of allowing big business developers to build on great swathes of Sefton’s greenbelt with little or no benefit to local people.’

Welcome comments indeed but of course Bill needs to convince the Labour councillors on Sefton Council because they are the ones promoting what he seems to have grave reservations about.

Bill does seem to have forgotten though that his own Labour Party Leader, Ed Miliband, has called for even more house building but let’s give the MP a break here as he is effectively battling against his own Party Leader and his own local Labour councillors.

‘In my view, this plan is unfair. The plan, and the loss of greenbelt, disproportionately impacts communities in Sefton Central, in particular in East Sefton and in Formby.’ says Bill.

I think we all agree on that Bill so please get your local Labour councillors who represent wards in the Sefton Central Constituency to oppose the plan and the job will be a good one.

Liverpool City Region – looks like we are being stitched up for a Metro Mayor!

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/merseyside-labour-party-members-discuss-8044070

A smoke filled room comes to mind having read this on the Liverpool Echo web site – see link above.

The big question is will Bootle Labour Party, who run Sefton Borough, give in to the demands of Liverpool Labour Party who want to be in the big boys club. Historically Bootle Labour and Liverpool Labour have not got on so there may be some hope; we shall see.

Putting power in one person’s hands is never a good idea and those that want such power are usually, in my view, the very people who should not be given the opportunity to exercise it.

Peter Dowd will be next MP for Bootle

It kind of shows how poor our electoral system is when I can confidently predict the result of the next General Election in one constituency!

Peter Dowd has won his Party’s selection – the election involving the good people of Bootle is now all but irrelevant.

With Peter becoming an MP and I would add filling the boots of Joe Benton, one of the nicest people in politics, who will lead Sefton Council?

The choice is not obvious and no one really stands out within the Labour Group to fill Peter’s boots. There could be quite a punch up over this as that’s how Labour does its internal politics I hear.

Maghull TC – Lib Dem Opposition Group’s response to ‘additional sites’ consultation – Sefton Local Plan

Here is our submission regarding the ‘additional sites’ as they affect the Civil Parish of Maghull. Informed readers may wonder about the first paragraph of our submission as an article on this very blog site from last Saturday indicated that Maghull Town Council was indeed trying to cobble together a submission on the very last day of the consultation (8th August). Whether anything was sent in by the Town Council your guess is as good as mine but this submission was was sent off on the 6th August whilst the Labour-run Town Council was seemingly asleep on the job you might say!

I will soon publish the submission of the Lib Dem opposition councillors on Sefton Council.

*****

Maghull Town Council Liberal Democrat Group of Councillors

Submission to Sefton Council’s ‘Additional Sites’ Consultation – August 2014

We make this submission as an opposition group on the Town Council as the Council itself has, at least to our knowledge, not discussed the matter or indeed made any comments. This reflects Maghull Council’s reluctance to make a detailed submission in previous rounds of consultation on Sefton’s Local Plan.

For completeness our view on the already ‘approved’ sites for development in Green Belt and on high grade agricultural land (sites SR4.49 & SR4.27) in Maghull remains that they should not be developed because of the principles we detail below.

These are the principles which guide our response to the Local Plan in general and, in this case, the ‘additional sites’ consultation:-

Our starting point is the loss of ‘best and most versatile’ agricultural land
The Green Belt surrounding Maghull is almost totally comprised of high grade agricultural land often referred to as ‘best and most versatile’.

Our clear view is that compromising high grade agricultural land is a hugely negative step backwards and that it is environmentally unsustainable.

An Urban Extension
The potential size increase of Maghull will be nearly 25% and that’s simply based on Sefton Council’s draft Local Plan proposals (particularly site SR4.27) and not taking account of the ‘additional’ sites which land owners and developers wish to see added to this. This is, in our view, an urban extension not simply letting a little Green Belt be concreted over.

Environmental considerations
Whilst the draft Local Plan raises issues such as global warming, climate change and sustainable development it is far from being ambitious in this crucial area of environmental sustainability. Sefton’s Local Plan and indeed those of our neighbouring Councils need to major on energy conservation and the highest possible energy-saving/low carbon targets for all new developments. District heating is being embraced in one area of Kew in Southport but this can only be the start. Biomass boilers on a communal basis are another way forward that must be grasped.

Whilst doing this Sefton Council should be seeking effective ways to improve, as far as possible, the current stock of commercial and domestic buildings with regard to energy usage.

Shale Gas extraction has to be a major issue for Sefton as exploration work is already happening in neighbouring West Lancashire and the license under which that is taking place also covers parts of our Borough. It is almost certain that the UK will need to exploit this source of fuel within the next few years yet the Local Plan is all but silent on the matter. As the plan is meant to cover the next 15 to 20 years for it to virtually ignore this issue is far from being a sound planning process.

Flooding – Maghull is low lying and prone to flooding. Houses in Sefton Lane and in Fouracres have recently been flooded when Dovers Brook over-topped in September 2012. We would point out that Additional site AS15 is on land immediately adjacent to Fouracres.

Schools
We fear that planning for future school requirements is not a robust part of the Local Plan and that this needs to be addressed, especially if the Council is determined to press ahead with major housing developments in and around Maghull. A sit and wait to see what happens approach is irresponsible where significant developments are to take place, especially when half of the Borough is already very close to experiencing stresses with regard to primary school places.

It also has to be held in mind that schools in Maghull are popular for parents from West Lancs, Knowsley and Liverpool to send their children to, so housing developments in those neighbouring council areas will have an impact on the demand for places within Maghull.

NHS Pressure
We have concerns about the impact of major housing developments in the Maghull (and indeed in surrounding council areas) as they will have an impact on the capacity of our local NHS facilities and hospitals. The Local Plan needs to addresses the problems that will occur with extra pressure on hospitals, GP surgeries and NHS dentists. These health aspects have to be a major part of all future major planning applications as accessibility to and the capacity of NHS facilities to cope are big issues

These general principles are our over riding concerns and they lead us to make the following comments on the major ‘additional sites’ as they affect the Civil Parish of Maghull.

Site AS12 To the west of South Meade, West Meade, Green Lane, Rigby Road & Turnbridge Road, Maghull – This huge site to the west of Maghull is high grade agricultural land and Green Belt that is presently being farmed.

To turn it over to housing is unthinkable in environmental sustainability terms.

AS12 is vast stretching from behind and to the west of South Meade all the way to the Lydiate Civil Parish boundary and on past it to Lydiate’s Bells Lane. If approved it will, like the already provisionally approved site SR4.27 to the east of Maghull, form another massive urban extension.

We fear that the consequence of approval of AS12 will be that the former track bed of the Cheshire Lines Railway will, by default, become the boundary of housing to the west of Maghull and the semi-rural nature of the community in that part of the Town will be lost for good.

Further Green Belt encroachments would sadly be inevitable so development of this site is simply unacceptable in our view.

Site AS15 – Behind The Crescent & Fouracres, Maghull – As mentioned above this site is prone to flooding as the flood events of September 2010 demonstrated with many homes in Fouracres, Maghull being under water. These flooded properties are adjacent to this site and risk being flooded again. Our understanding is that this site is rich in wildlife and there have been previous proposals to turn it into a nature reserve, which seems a far more sensible use for the land.

Our view remains that these two sites are inappropriate for development because they are both in Green Belt, AS12 is being farmed and AS15 is prone to flooding.

Cllrs. Tony Robertson, Andrew Blackburn, Bruce Hubbard, Jen Robertson & Jane Day.

6th August 2014