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.

We import 50% of our food!- Now do opposition politicians get why I keep banging on about saving high grade agricultural land from development?

Over the past 20 years or so I have consistently fought to stop the headlong charge to build on the highest grades of agricultural land in Sefton Borough. That fight was most recently via its Local Plan process and prior to that it’s Unitary Development Plan in the late 1990’s. But my point here is not just about saving to save Green Belt, worthy though that aim is, it’s about trying to save the land which grows our food!

That we now import 50% of what we eat when only a few years ago it was just a third is surely a big worry as the higher that figures grows the more shaky becomes our food supply sustainability. What’s more the higher that figure grows the worse becomes our environmental sustainability too. This is not a race we want to win unless we want to find ourselves short of food one day!

Here’s an interesting article from the BBC web site (see link below) about the cost of our food and how much we import:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45559594

Maghull’s massive urban extension site

I have photographed this (infamous)* site a number of times so that there’s a record of it as prime high grade, productive agricultural land before the bulldozers arrive at some point in the future. But it is a huge site bounded by Poverty Lane, the M58 Motorway, School Lane and The Liverpool – Ormskirk railway line so it’s hard to get a good shot of it all. Here’s my latest attempt:-

The photo was taken from the Ashworth Motorway Junction bridge and you can see the vastness of the site, which will soon be filled with around 1600 houses and an business park. Some welcome the houses, I morn the loss of high grade agricultural land that feeds us and would have fed future generations. I don’t see how you can celebrate building on such land when there is brownfield land across the county available to build on. Sorry I’m an environmentalist.

* infamous to those who fought to save it from the bulldozers that is.

Click on the photo to enlarge it

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 – A lot of folk at Parish Council meeting to hear about a leisure/sporting facility being proposed

Last Tuesday’s Lydiate Parish Council meeting was a full house so to speak as over 30 residents from the Hall Lane/Southport Road area turned out to hear a presentation to the Council from a local landowner who wants to develop outdoor leisure/sporting facilities on what is presently agricultural land in Green Belt off these roads.

It had not been intended as public presentation by the land owner but as word got around of the presentation locals turned out in force from what is a sparsely populated rural part of Lydiate Civil Parish.

We were told that the land owner wanted to diversify and use the 22 acres of land for water sports activities, nature reserve, mountain bike track, zip wire etc. Access would be off Southport Road with a car park on the site. A pre-planning application had been submitted to Sefton Council in late 2017 and the owner said he had been asked to provide evidence of support and need for the facility.

Soil taken from creating the lakes would be used on site to mound up the mountain bike track around 1m. The present idea is that the site would potentially attract up to 200 visitors on a good summer day with a charge of around £5 for access to what seems to be planned to be an unfenced site. Not much winter use is envisaged and no floodlighting is planned. Over a year 15,000 to 20,000 people visiting the facility seems to be envisaged.

The facility would be run by a staff of around 6 people engaged with training, maintenance and water sports supervision.

I think it fair to say that the developer’s plans got a frosty reception from the attending residents with many questions being asked about a myriad of concerns. Having said that we were told that the developer had letters of support from some local schools, business and the scouts.

I got the impression that the developer was testing the water and looking for ideas to develop his plans from locals and that things may well change prior to any formal planning application being made to Sefton Council.

The fact that the land is firmly within Sefton’s recently revised Green Belt and that it is high grade agricultural land means to me that Planners are going to have a very critical eye on the matter. The other thing that struck me was that I don’t recall any proposals being made to take this piece of land out of Green Belt or to develop it during Sefton Council’s controversial Local Plan process which has only just ended. To me that process was the obvious time to have raised such plans.

I have the feeling that this matter is going to be hugely controversial should a formal planning application follow on from the presentation to Lydiate Parish Council. I would add that the Parish Council will respond to any formal planning application that is submitted when the full facts surrounding the matter are known.

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…..