Sefton Borough – Building on Green Belt and the land that grows our food

I light of Labour supporters continuing to blame everyone else for Labour-run Sefton Council voting to build on Green Belt and high grade agricultural land across the Borough, here’s my recent letter to the Champion newspaper:-

Dear Sir,

Interesting how Labour supporters and councillors still try to defend their Sefton Councillors voting to build on Green Belt and high grade agricultural land around Maghull & Lydiate and indeed in other places across Sefton Borough. Their line of defence seems to be ‘the government made us vote for it’ or words to that effect.

Well when I was a Sefton Councillor representing Maghull & Lydiate until 2015 I did not feel in any way compelled to vote for building on Green Belt and the land that grows our food, indeed I kept voting against it! Had I won my seat again in 2015 I would have continued to oppose it.

Sefton Council allocated the sites that are down for development, no one else. My advice to Labour supporters is stop blaming others and accept responsibility for what Labour-run Sefton Council decided to do.

Yours sincerely

Tony Robertson

Maghull – ‘Poppy Fields’ and Maghull North Station progress

I have been keeping an eye on the progress of these two adjacent developments off Maghull’s School Lane and here are are some photos of things as they were on 11th November.

Station platforms beginning to emerge

Almost completed houses on ‘Poppy Fields’, the former site of Moss Side Hospital and subsequently Ashworth South Hospital

Looking over the recently created rainwater collection pond (Sustainable Urban Drainage or SuD in drainage engineer’s speak). School Lane is behind the fence in the background.

Of course the Maghull North Station construction process has become hugely controversial with neighbouring residents in Mersey Avenue in recent weeks due to intrusive night time working, noise and flood lighting.

Merseytravel/Network Rail are promising a residents meeting we are informed in an attempt to find a way forward. There was no work taking place when the photo above was taken.

The housing development on Poppy Fields or the Moss Side Hospital/Ashworth South site (all are used to describe this site and its history) was not controversial when the wedge shaped piece of land was designated for housing in Sefton Council’s otherwise hugely controversial and recent Local Plan. But the site sits across the road (School Lane) from the most controversial of all the sites in that Local Plan – The Maghull East Urban Extension of around 1,600 houses plus a business park.

Poppy Fields in its former guise as a mental health treatment hospital site and before that, in World War 1, as a world leading center for the development of treatments for those suffering from ‘Shell Shock’ is of huge historical significance.

Maghull – Council still worrying over problems they did not fight when they had the chance to

My letter to the Maghull Champion newspaper in response to Maghull councillors crying crocodile tears over the massive Maghull East development site:-

Dear Sir,

I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read in the Champion that Maghull Town Council leaders are still worrying over the huge urban extension housing development to the east of Maghull which will go a long way towards making the Town 25% larger.

If Maghull Council had got up and fought for the Town when Sefton Council was developing its Local Plan, which dumps 1600+ houses plus some industrial units on some of the highest grade agricultural land in England, then we may not be in the situation we are now.

I was a member of Maghull Town Council for 30 years and led it to oppose development of the very same land in 1998. We won that fight. Yes, it may not have been won this time around but no serious battle was even fought by Maghull Council, end of.

Yours sincerely

Cllr. Tony Robertson
Member of Lydiate Parish Council

Lydiate – Looking at its emerging Neighbourhood Plan

Well the first thing to say is that it will most certainly not set all Lydiate resident’s hearts a flutter. A worthy if unexciting plan is about the best I can say based on the drafts I have seen to date.

And that’s not to belittle the work of Lydiate Parish Council and those who have helped pull the emerging plan together (including myself I might add), it’s just that the world will continue to turn pretty much the way it has done with or without Lydiate’s Neighbourhood Plan.

As I have said many times a neighbourhood plan can’t lead to less Green Belt being grabbed or less high grade agricultural land being built upon. This is because Sefton Council’s Local Plan has already set such in stone and neighbourhood plans can’t change that unless they are proposing a greater loss of Green Belt, more housing etc. Once Sefton Council decided to allow building on what is presently farmed land, Green Belt etc. the dye was cast.

Yes I know some folks said and some even believed that if community ‘X’ had a neighbourhood plan that the amount of housing to be built could be reduced and that some if not all of the threatened Green Belt could be saved. Sadly, this was at best either highly unrealistic expectations or deliberate misinformation.

But there is one small but clear advantage to a Parish Council in Sefton Borough (or anywhere else) in putting together a Neighbourhood Plan. That advantage, to the parish councils, is that when Sefton Council finally adopts the new way of leveraging out community benefits from property developers (Community Infrastructure Levy or CIL) parish councils who have a neighbourhood plan will have more say in how it is spent than under the present Section 106 system. Under CIL a parish council gets to say how 25% of the money (extracted from a developer) is spent as opposed to 15% where there is no neighbourhood plan in place.

Typically such S106/CIL money is used to improve roads, develop local infrastructure, plant trees etc. in the area close to the development.

Now the big question. Why is Sefton Council dragging its feet over the adoption the new Community Infrastructure Levy process? They have certainly been considering it for a very long time now. I hear that some planning authorities have decided not to adopt CIL and to stick with S106, if Sefton does that the last worthwhile reason to have a neighbourhood plan is out of the window. Time will tell……

Maghull – It’s eastern urban extension land has been cropping in 2017 but for how much longer?

The Maghull East site is probably the most controversial of all of the Green Belt development sites across the whole Borough of Sefton because it is so vast, indeed it is now referred to as an ‘urban extension’ such will be its size.

The land is predominately high grade agricultural land which grows our food so building on it is utter madness to me. However, we environmental campaigners lost the battle to save it and Sefton Council is to have its will to develop the site for housing and business use.

I thought it would be useful to have a photographic record of the site so I took a photo at the height of summer and another one in this autumn. Both shots are from the same location – the M58 motorway junction bridge at Ashworth. I think you will agree they look radically different despite there being less than 2 months between them. Obviously the weather played its part too:-

Click on the photos to enlarge them

The photos are also on my Flickr site at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Maghull’s vast urban extension – Labour blasts development on land their Local Plan identified for development! You could not make this up

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/council-leaders-fury-arrogant-developers-13496470

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site – see link above

Well, well, well would you believe it Sefton Labour are protesting about a housing development on land which they voted to take out of the Green Belt for it to be built upon.

The vast Maghull East site seen from Poverty Lane presently growing crops.

I fought for this particular site (and indeed many others) to be protected from development not only because it was in Green Belt (prior to Labour-run Sefton taking them out of it) but in many cases these development sites are also the highest grade of food growing agricultural land. That I now hear Labour complaining over a process which they put in motion by picking the sites that would be built on is bizarre!

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

In 1998, when Sefton’s last Local Plan (known then as a Unitary Development Plan) was being put together Sefton Council wanted the very same site east of Maghull to be taken out of Green Belt. I was then a Maghull Town Councillor and we brought together a community-wide campaign to resist the plan. What’s more we won. But as soon as the next plan was announced (the recently agreed Sefton Local Plan) it was no surprise that Sefton looked straight at the site, which is partly in Melling Civil Parish as well, that they had failed to take out of Green Belt last time for building on once again. This time the now Labour-run Town Council in effect rolled over and did not raise a community-wide campaign to fight their political masters in Bootle Town Hall.

By sitting back and letting it happen Labour were signalling that they were going to allow the vast Maghull East site of high grade agricultural land to be taken out of Green Belt. And that’s what happened bearing in mind that Labour had said they were going to fight for the Green Belt! In the end Labour voted on Sefton Council to allow this and many other sites to be built on.

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

And this is not the first time they have protested about the activities of developers whom they gave the green light to. They did it only a few weeks ago with regard to the much smaller Turnbridge Road site on the western side of Maghull & Lydiate.

So what are all these crocodile tears all about? Are they trying to cover their tracks by blaming developers? It was always the case that developers would have their own ideas for the sites and would not want to do what Sefton Council or the local community wanted them to do.

Developers are are about as popular as bankers or politicians. I’m sure the developers will be pushing at boundaries; that’s what I would expect but the bottom line here is that no matter how the developers are perceived the fact is that Sefton Labour fired the starting pistol for building on these sites in their Local Plan. Labour-run Sefton Council chose the land that would be developed no one else.

Labour need to stop running and hiding and take the blame for what they chose to do.