A tribute to ‘Pat from Lydiate’

For the last 5 years, one of my Borough councillors for Park Ward of Sefton Council has been Independent Pat O’Hanlon. She effectively took up as a Borough councillor as I bowed out of being one in 2016.

I got to know Pat as she was one of quite a few environmental campaigners who came together from across the political spectrum to oppose high-grade agricultural land being taken out of the Green Belt in Sefton Borough for development via the Sefton Local Plan; a fight I had long been involved with myself as regular readers of this blog site will be aware. Pat came from a Labour/socialist background but had left the Labour Party due to its stance on this hugely controversial issue. Indeed, she didn’t just leave Labour she stood against them and took a Sefton Council seat off them in Park Ward.

I liked working with Pat as she reminded me of another previous councillor for Park Ward – Lib Dem Robbie Fenton – who was tenacious and very determined to pursue any and every issue brought to her attention. Like Robbie, Pat did not seek the limelight as a councillor, she just got on with the job and she did it very well.

I was disappointed when it became apparent that Pat would not be contesting her Park Ward seat this May as politics needs the Pat’s and Robbie’s of this world who don’t give a damn who they take on.

Before Pat was elected she gained the nickname ‘Pat from Lydiate’ as a consequence, I think, of an interview on Radio Merseyside. She was also a very significant campaigner against asbestos pollution and I think it fair to say she gave both Sefton Council and the Health and Safety Executive a real run for their money over it.

Well done Pat, I’d be surprised if anyone who’d approached you during your term of office as a borough councillor had anything but good things to say about you. You more than did your bit for Lydiate, Maghull and the local environment; enjoy your retirement.

CPRE confirm what we anti-Local Plan campaigners have long thought

Campaigners, outside Maghull Town Hall (June 2013) trying to save Sefton Borough’s high grade agricultural land from development.

I have said many times that there is no need to build on high grade agricultural land across England. As a Sefton Councillor, a Maghull Town Councillor, Lydiate Parish Councillor and then after coming off both Sefton & Maghull Councils I fought alongside environmental campaigners opposing the Sefton Local Plan which designated high grade agricultural land for house building. We LOST….

This is a matter I’ve blogged about far more times than I care to recall but the underlying feeling of those of us opposing Local Plans across England was that there must be sufficient brownfield sites to deliver the housing* we have long been told is urgently required. However, the process to identify building land and indeed land use generally has always been flawed. Scoping it out on a council by council area basis has been looking thorough the wrong end of the telescope for me. In my view it should have been done and needs to be done at a regional level. The old process was called Unitary Development Plans but they then morphed into Local Plans although still tackled on a council by council basis.

This article on CPRE website is very interesting and informative:-

www.cpre.org.uk/news/theres-already-enough-suitable-land-to-meet-targets-for-new-homes-we-find/ **

And as CPRE say in a Tweet today – BREAKING: We’ve found that there is enough brownfield land for 1.3 million homes – enough to meet government housing targets for the next five years.

There is already enough land to build the homes we need – so why deregulate the planning system?

* Of course we campaigners against the Sefton Local Plan were not just concerned about the concreting over high grade agricultural land, but what kind of houses would be built anyway. Many of us were of the view that the real housing need in England is in the social housing sector. On that basis councils, like Sefton, were not only sacrificing the land the feeds us for housing but they were not even gaining much if any social housing in the process!

** Whilst this article is mainly focused on the Tory plan for further planning deregulation (build what you want where you want) it, in my view, also exposes the flawed nature of Local Plans and their predecessor Unitary Development Plans.

Maghull – We shouldn’t even be building on this land!

The vast Maghull East site seen from Poverty Lane presently used for growing crops but under Sefton Council’s Local Plan it is to be covered with housing.

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

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/controversial-plans-build-841-homes-18569259

There’s every danger that you’ll be shouting back at me that I’m a broken record here especially if you agree with house building on Green Belt and on high grade agricultural land which feeds us. However, if you agree with me that building on such land is very wrong indeed then read on.

During my time as a Maghull Councillor I led the first campaign to save this land from development in the late 1990’s:-

Press cutting from 1998 as we fought to protect the Maghull east site from development. We won back then but Labour did not fight for the land the 2nd time around.

A Maghull Town Council leaflet from 1998 – That fight to stop Green Belt building was won.

We won that battle but developers and planners always had their eye on it and when they came back for 2nd go as part of the Sefton Local Plan the now Labour-run council did not run a similar campaign and Sefton Council chose the land to be built on.

So now we are left arguing over the detail of how the land will be developed rather than this high grade agricultural land continuing to grow the food that we eat! What makes it even worse is that the chances are that the vast majority of the houses to be built won’t even meet the real local housing shortage anyway as it’s in the social housing sector where the need actually is.

I despair I really do. All I can say is that during my time as a Sefton Borough and Maghull Town Councillor I fought to keep this land from development along with many other local environmental campaigners such as Peter Greener and Pat O’Hanlon. Planning and land use policies in the UK are an utter mess and they have been for generations now. When are we going to wake up to climate change, global warming and real housing need in the social housing sector? When are we going to start to value the land that grows our food?

Maghull – Plans out for consultation to build its vast urban extension – 1685 houses

After all the political fallout of recent years regarding Sefton Council’s Local Plan the biggest controversy within that plan is coming to its detailed conclusion.

Two separate planning applications for 1685 houses to be constructed on Land East of Maghull have now been put out to public consultation by Sefton Council.

The planning application numbers are DC/2017/01532 and DC/2017/01528. and the closing date for objections is 17th August 2019.

I understand that around 1100 letters have been posted out by Sefton Planning Services to those near the site and anyone who has submitted an objection previously.

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

I could rehearse all my many postings written for this blog site from the recent past but I’ve had my say and sadly I lost the battle so I’ll just put the relevant information out there with one thought – Why put the high grade agricultural land which grows our food under bricks, tarmac and concrete? What sense does that make?

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 & 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.