Food hubs to drive rural food revolution but not where high grade agricultural land gets concreted over in Maghull, Lydiate, Formby, Southport!

This comes from a Government press release from the Dept. of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. All well and good but here in Sefton the Labour-run Borough Council is hell bent on concreting over our high grade agricultural land!

Government-backed Food Enterprise Zones (FEZ) will create more than 10,000 new jobs, support tourism and inject investment into rural communities across the country.

More than 10,000 new jobs are set to be added to the UK’s growing food and farming industry as a network of new food hubs takes shape across England with building work expected to begin early next year, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss announced yesterday.

The 17 government-backed Food Enterprise Zones (FEZs), stretching from Cumbria to Cornwall, will help drive up tourism, attract investment and add millions to our growing rural economy.

Championing celebrated British foods, including the Melton Mowbray pork pie, stilton cheese and Norfolk pork, the hubs have been awarded a share of £830,000 funding to help fast-track the expansion of food and farming businesses in the regions.

Speaking at the first meeting of all 17 FEZs, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:

Our food and farming industry is an economic powerhouse, now worth more than £100 billion a year and employing one in eight people.

We want to build on that so food and farming becomes a top destination for high-flying graduates, is as prestigious as medicine, as fun and stimulating as the gaming industry and as cutting-edge as London’s Tech City.

Food Enterprise Zones will unleash food entrepreneurs, bringing together researchers, farmers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers so they can improve productivity and spark new ideas off each other all the way along the supply chain from farm to fork, from lab to lunch.

Plans for FEZs are well underway, including a new Artisanal Food Village in Cornwall, an agri-food park near Malton in North Yorkshire, and a cluster of local artisan food producers around the River Orwell in Suffolk.

In East Anglia three FEZs alone are set to create thousands of new jobs through expanding existing food businesses and developing new ones. These include Jimmy’s Farm, which will be part of the new Orwell Food Cluster in Babergh, along with the Suffolk Food Hall and the East of England Co-operative Society.

Fionagh and Richard Harding of Norton Barton Farm, one of the businesses set to benefit from a new Food Enterprise Zone in Cornwall, said:

“We are thrilled to have been chosen for a Food Enterprise Zone; it’s particularly good news for Bude and North Cornwall where employment is focused around tourism and agriculture. We hope that we will be able to encourage new entrants into the food industry.”

By making it easier for businesses to grow and bringing different parts of the food supply chain together, FEZs will ensure greater collaboration between rural businesses, kick-start local food economies and help people develop new skills.

Food and farming is the biggest manufacturing sector in Britain, worth more than cars and aerospace combined. In 2013 entrepreneurs set up 30,000 new food and drink businesses generating thousands of jobs in the sector, and the industry’s continual innovation is bringing 16,000 new products to the market each year—more than France and Germany combined and second only to the US.

Exports of UK food and drink are also booming with almost £19 billion worth shipped to 214 countries and territories around the world. Since 2010 the UK government has opened more than 600 new international markets supporting more businesses to sell their produce abroad.

Sefton Council – We will try to build the houses on another Council’s patch

This is my 4th and for the moment last posting about the huge house building problem that will seemingly be foisted on the Borough of Sefton and more precisely on Maghull, Lydiate, Aintree and Melling if our Labour rulers can’t find an out of Borough solution.

My last posting is available via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/07/08/sefton-borough-what-on-earth-do-you-do-when-you-may-need-to-build-up-to-1290-houses-per-year-in-the-borough/

The report of council officers to our Sefton Labour rulers says ‘in order to meet a significantly higher land requirement it would be likely that land would have to be identified in adjacent Boroughs’. Those adjacent Boroughs are West Lancashire (which Sefton has by a long way the biggest boundary), Knowsley and Liverpool – from where the crisis seems to have been created, via poor counting in the first place! The officers go on to tell the comrades about the ‘Duty to Co-operate’ with neighbouring Councils. Now then where have we read about that before?

Here I am at Lambshear Lane Lydiate checking out farm land that is coming under threat from house building.

Here I am at Lambshear Lane Lydiate checking out farm land that is coming under threat from house building.

We read about it in earlier submissions made in opposition to Labour’s Local Plan for Sefton because we Lib Dems were accusing the Council and indeed its neighbouring authorities of all but ignoring this duty to co-operate! But now the ‘duty to co-operate’ is all of a sudden an imperative. Well the record on this ‘duty’ is poor in my view so how much hope can we really hold of West Lancashire Borough Council and Knowsley Borough Council chipping in to build a few thousand houses for Sefton on their own patches?

But are we missing an obvious solution here i.e. building the extra houses in Liverpool? Well yes we may be but thereby hangs the other problem, it is folk wanting to leave Liverpool to live in Sefton that seemingly creates the crisis in the first place, or so we being told. Surely that means that if the houses are built anywhere but in Sefton (Maghull, Lydiate, Aintree & Melling) then they will be in the wrong place? Answers on a post card to Sefton’s Planning Department who seem to be in need of some inspiration!

Oh and by the way Knowsley and Liverpool are also part of the Liverpool City Region (West Lancs is only a non-voting member of it) with Sefton and is that not the same City Region where the Labour Council Leaders could probably not agree much at all? Will ‘Duty to co-operate’ really trump the usual Labour turf wars?

Those statisticians with their ever moving figures and guesstimates may well have pointed a loaded gun at the communities that make up Sefton East Parishes and the Labour rulers of Sefton. Watch this space as the crisis develops.

Sefton Borough – What on earth do you do when you may ‘need’ to build up to 1,290 houses per year in the Borough?

My posting of yesterday gave details of the staggering new range of house building figures that ‘experts’ are saying ‘need’ to be built in Sefton in the coming years. It was a target of 615 per year but now may be as high as 1290! This is my third posting on this issue. There’s a link to the previous one below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/07/07/sefton-green-belt-the-staggering-new-stats/

Of course building anything on high grade agricultural land which grows the food that we all eat is crazy but what will actually happen if Sefton’s Labour Council goes for the latest finger in the wind guesstimates from the expert statisticians who have never been wrong before!

Well at face value and in a worst case scenario it will lead to a doubling of the present target of 615 houses being built per year to double that. But can this be done without negative consequences? Of course it can’t and the negative consequences are not just the environment which will of course take a very big hit indeed. No, the other consequences are:-

* Could the infrastructure cope? By this I mean do we have enough GP’s and dentists, sufficient capacity in our sewers, the availability of school places etc. etc.? Well when the 615 figure was being promoted it was very clear that such things were down to little more than chance! But imagine if the vast majority of the extra houses were all to be built in one part of the Borough rather than being spread around? I’ll come back to that one.

* If too many houses are built at one time in one area what are the consequences? When firstly the developers may not wish to build so many all in one area as it could well depress sale prices and there may not be the demand for houses anyway. No developer is going to build without a guarantee of 100% sales.

* Then again what about the consequences on the already established housing stock. Yes, you’ve guessed it they may well suffer a loss of value because there are too many houses on the market in that area. I seem to recall a Lib Dem Focus leaflet that predicted that very scenario that was delivered around Maghull & Lydiate in the Autumn of 2013:-

IMG_0001

Click on the image to enlarge it

OK, so where would those additional house go? I quote from the document presented to our Labour rulers on 3rd July ‘The vast majority of additional sites are in Maghull/Lydiate, Aintree and Melling, which is already proposed to take the largest proportionate share of the housing allocations [based on the 615 house building per year figure] relative to its existing population’. It goes on to say ‘There is a point at which the local market in this area would become saturated and unable to absorb the number of houses required, even if additional sites were identified.’

Read my next posting to see what Council officers see as the solution to this housing crisis/conundrum.

Sefton Green Belt the staggering new stats!

Yesterday I mentioned some disturbing news that had been put before our local Labour rulers about the number of houses that will ‘need’ to be built in Sefton (virtually all on high grade agricultural land), that’s of course if you believe the statisticians who seem to have made a made a mess of such counting previously! This was my posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/07/06/seftons-green-belt-and-high-grade-agricultural-land-now-under-even-greater-threat/

Presently, Labour’s draft Local Plan for the Borough wants 615 houses built every year. This is a lot of high grade agricultural land to lose under tarmac and concrete. BUT now statisticians working for/providing information to the Council are in effect saying hang on a minute the last lot of statisticians made a b*lls up of the counting on previous occasions and in fact they got the figures for Liverpool utterly wrong! So what does this mean? Yes you have guessed it Sefton wants to increase the number of houses built each year to between 710 (not much above the 615 figure) and 1,290! If this latter figure is reached then it is more than twice the 615 figure which many of us think is too high anyway.

Residents fighting for their Green Belt in Lydiate

Residents fighting for their Green Belt in Lydiate

By the way it is the fact that the Liverpool Council area figures have been so wrong (in the past) that means, so we told by the experts, that Sefton will have to build so many new houses in the future. What they mean is that far more people will be leaving Liverpool, than they originally thought, to come and live in Sefton and the Borough does not have the houses to accommodate them all at present.

And who has been saying that the population statistics being used by Sefton are unreliable? The Lib Dems and environmental campaigners such as Fragoff! And how do we know that the present ‘new’ figures are reliable? Why has the previous under recording in Liverpool only surfaced now? Who has known about it and for how long? Can we believe anything these statisticians are telling us?

My next posting on this matter will deal with the consequences of this astonishing leap in figures for new housing in Sefton as simply building twice as many houses over the forthcoming years in the Borough is not simply a case of putting more high grade agricultural land under concrete and tarmac. Even our Labour-led Council can see that, I hope!

Sefton’s Green Belt and High Grade agricultural land now under even greater threat!

Readers of this blog site will know how passionate I am to preserve Sefton’s Green Belt land from development mainly because it is almost all of the highest grade of agricultural land in England. To my mind building on it is utter madness as it is the very land that grows the food we eat and which we can’t grow enough of to feed ourselves now.

Green Belt campaigners outside Maghull Town Hall.

Green Belt campaigners outside Maghull Town Hall.

Click on the photo to enlarge it.

This is not though a rehearsal of my previous postings about how Sefton Council under Labour rule has got us to the state we are presently in i.e. them planning to concrete over acres and acres of additional land across the Borough but it is about the latest curved ball that has been launched at Sefton which makes for even more grim reading.

On 3rd July Sefton’s all powerful all-Labour Cabinet received a report from Council Officers which claimed in effect that if we were worried about building on high grade agricultural land before we now have double the reasons to be worried, or is that horrified!

It is all to do with a factor called ‘household projections’ i.e. the increasing number of new households that may be formed in the coming years. The report says that ‘this unexpected rise relates in a large part to under-recording of population in Liverpool during previous population projections and the incremental net migration to Sefton arising therefrom’. It goes on to say that ‘this has been compounded by an ageing population and other trends in household formation in Sefton which has resulted in a growth in small households’.

To put this in straight forward language my interpretation of this officer speak is that Liverpool Council, or those who compiled the previous population figures/projections for it, have made some big mistakes and Sefton Borough will have to live with the consequences!

I will return to this matter with more detail soon but how will Labour-run Sefton Council react to this news? Kick it into the long grass (if we have any left to kick into) whilst planning to give more of our precious high grade agricultural land the nod for concreting over?

CPRE see the coming election as a ‘victory’ for the countryside – Are they right?

Julia Marley, of the CPRE, writes in the Yorkshire Post about how smart planning is the key to protecting the countryside. She states that the CPRE realises that affordable homes are needed to keep the rural economy and communities alive. She argues that affordable homes can be delivered by smart planning, by building on brownfield land rather than green fields, protecting the Green Belt and increasing the delivery of homes communities want. She goes on to say that by using local skills from small and medium-sized builders, houses will get built that reflect the character of the towns and villages they are in while supporting the local economy.

Separately, in the Telegraph, Geoffrey Lean calls the election a victory for the countryside. All five nationwide political parties have pledged to prioritise building new houses on previously developed “brownfield” land rather than let it rip through the countryside, he says.

The Yorkshire Post & The Daily Telegraph covered these stories.

Lydiate campaigners and councillors fighting for their Green Belt

Lydiate campaigners and councillors fighting for their Green Belt

Yes it does sound like a victory but is it? In Sefton Borough sadly it is not. Why do I say this? Sefton Planners say there is not enough brownfield land to build upon so even if they prioritised such sites Green Belt/greenfield sites would also need to be built upon too. You see the big issue here is not simply about prioritisation of the type of land you build on first but about protecting high grade agricultural land from being built on at all! When political parties and government are talking about saving such land from development it will be a victory, until then ‘prioritisation’ probably means it will just take a little longer to get around to building on the land that grows our food.