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.

Green Belt loss – Well I’m not surprised, are you?

The vast Maghull East development (presently high grade agricultural land) site as seen from Poverty Lane, Maghull

New Government data backs CPRE Green Belt figures – the story is on the CPRE’s web site via the link below:-

www.cpre.org.uk/media-centre/latest-news-releases/item/4973-new-government-data-backs-cpre-green-belt-figures?utm_medium=email&utm_source=engagingnetworks&utm_campaign=campaigns-update-2018-oct-nonmembers&utm_content=Campaigns+Update+2018+Oct+-+non+members

Quote from CPRE article – New statistics from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show the largest increase in the amount of Green Belt land released for housing to date

An analysis of the new Government data released today (4 October) by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) shows that since 2012 almost 10,000 hectares of Green Belt land have been released from ‘protected’ Green Belt boundaries by local councils. Ten councils have together released more than 5,000 hectares in the past year alone [1].

Can’t say I’m in any way surprised having spent years trying to stop building on Green Belt and the highest grades of agricultural land in Sefton Borough and now hearing of even more Green Belt development in neighbouring West Lancashire.

Where on earth is the connect between housing, planning, food production and environmental policies here in the UK? And what’s so galling is that even when this precious food growing land is lost we will still not end up with the types of housing that we actually need!

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!

Maghull/Lydiate – HOUSING DEVELOPMENT – “IT AIN’T NECESSARILY SO !”

The vast Maghull East development site as seen from Poverty Lane, Maghull

Cllr. John Pugh is the Opposition Leader on Sefton Council. This is his press release following a Sefton Council Planning Committee ‘wobble’ regarding housing development sites in the Borough last week:-

*****

The decision last week by Sefton council to delay giving the final go-ahead to housing development in Southport could give hope to Maghull and Lydiate residents facing massive housing expansion in the area.

A combination of people power and sound argument at last Wednesday’s planning committee prevented the usual rubber stamping of a planned housing development on farmland in Bankfield Lane Northern Southport.

According to the Sefton Lib Dem opposition leader Cllr John Pugh, this represents a watershed moment.

“Until now the ruling party [Labour] has pushed all plans through, claiming that the government requires it and their hands are tied. Incursion into the green belt has been driven by housing target numbers with little regard to sustainability. However developers last week had no good answers when residents brought up the issue of drainage and flooding key issues in Maghull and Lydiate – and Sefton’s planning committee for once wobbled.”

“Its time now for Sefton to follow West Lancs and review its local plans. The huge numbers of dwellings supposedly needed are based on dubious projections from consultants’ reports.Those reports are a developer’s charter , a builder’s dream but not a sustainable blueprint for our future communities. Sefton’s plans are no longer consistent with the government’s recently released 25 year plan and have to be changed. The government now is insisting that development should result in “Net Environmental Gain “ https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/693158/25-year-environment-plan.pdf

Last week Sefton wobbled. This week campaigners for the greenbelt and a more sustainable approach need to scale up their efforts to persuade.”

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…..