Maghull – Now about that vast urban extension to the east of the Town

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

The Liverpool Echo has the article on its website – see link below

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/housing-company-banned-joe-anderson-16287342

I wonder where this is heading and will Sefton Council take the same approach to these developers as Liverpool City Council seems to be doing? It feels like a long time now since Sefton Council picked the vast Maghull East site for an urban extension to the Town on what is presently high grade agricultural land. And it was a hugely controversial move which created a significant environmental protest movement in the Town and indeed across the Borough of Sefton, which I was a part of – see my many previous posting about it on this Sefton Focus Blog Site.

But there is danger here in thinking that Sefton Council or indeed Liverpool City Council can achieve much on land which is in private ownership. Yes, if the land to be sold is owned by a Council it gives it far more leverage as to the use it is put to otherwise, if the land is in private hands, the leverage is far, far less.

Like many I want to see the end to leasehold and ground rents etc.

Lydiate – Peter Greener RIP

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

I think I first met Peter Greener in 2011, although it could have been earlier, when we were fighting a planning application that would have breached the Green Belt on the western side of Lydiate. It went all the way to a Planning Inspector’s Inquiry which was held at Bootle Town Hall over a couple of days. Peter, myself, Andrew Blackburn, Robbie Fenton (Andrew, Robbie and I were at the time Sefton Councillors for Park Ward) and a representative of the Sefton Branch of CPRE (Council for the Protection of Rural England) were fighting the local resident’s case and we won that battle.

Peter was a real driving force and he had great environmental credentials.

He went on to join with other environmental campaigners, such as Fragoff, across Sefton Borough to try to defend Green Belt and high grade agricultural land from development. The photo at the head of this posting (click on it to enlarge) shows Peter center stage in a light blue pullover with other protestors outside Maghull Town Hall during a meeting of what was then the Sefton Central Area Committee of Sefton Council.

I covered, on this very blog site, Peter’s efforts to challenge Sefton Council’s emerging Local Plan in March 2015 and here it is:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/03/29/sefton-local-plan-an-excellent-submission-from-a-lydiate-resident/

Unfortunately, Peter’s health went to decline 2 or 3 years back and he died on 9th May. My condolences to his wife Wendy (a Lydiate in Flower volunteer) and her family at this sad time. We have lost a decent man who put a great deal of effort into campaigning for our local environment.

Maghull/Lydiate* – What was the thinking when the Turnbridge Road site was picked for development?

You only have to pick up a copy of the Aintree & Maghull Champion newspaper or look at comments on the Maghull Community Facebook page to see how troublesome this site is proving to be during the early stages of construction work to realise what a tough site it was always going to be to build on.

And before you think oh here’s that damn environmental campaigner going on about stopping development and building on agricultural land again just bear with me…..

When Sefton Council chose the sites that it was willing to take out of Green Belt/allow to be built upon in its Local Plan, why was this site picked?

I ask because it has proven to be a devil of a site to develop due to the restricted access to it. What with a weight limited canal swing bridge, narrow estate roads & country lanes and two primary schools to negotiate those of us with local knowledge have been left scratching our heads. For less than 50 housing units it makes you wonder what the imperative was to get this particular site built upon.

Now don’t get me wrong I was an opponent of Sefton’s Local Plan whilst I was on the Borough Council (until 2015) and continued to fight it (in my capacity as a Lydiate Parish Councillor) after I left that Council and yes I have ranted many times about why we need to protect things like high grade agricultural land from being built on. But that’s not my point here. Putting to one side feelings about the rights and wrongs of building on Green Belt and agricultural land, which grows the food we eat, why from a strategic planning perspective did Sefton Council prioritise this oh so difficult site above other alternatives?

Answers on a post card to Sefton Planning Dept…….

Oh, and by the way, I’m guessing that the ‘temporary’ road speed markings down the rural part Green Lane are associated with trying to control construction traffic accessing the site?

*Note:- The site is being accessed through Maghull’s streets and lanes but it’s actually wholly within Lydiate.

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!