Cacoathes: an urge to do something inadvisable.

Jen Robertson dug out this interesting but rarely used word because on the odd occasion I am known for saying some inadvisable things but it did make me think of recent seeming uses of it all be it without it actually being said.

The EU Remain campaigning Labour Party doing a complete U-turn and voting for Brexit? Inadvisable

The classic of Nick Clegg saying he would oppose Tuition Fees and then dropping that opposition. Inadvisable

Labour saying they were going to defend the Sefton Green Belt and then voting to build on it. Inadvisable

The Tories saying in their 2015 manifesto that they wanted to remain in the Single Market and then voting to leave the Single market. Inadvisable

The UK voting to leave the EU in the advisory referendum. Inadvisable

I could go on but I am sure you get my drift…..

Me – Guilty as charged for wanting to save the Green Belt and reduce the number of Sefton Councillors

Below is my response to what I can only say was a most odd attack on me from a Labour Councillor which was published in the Aintree & Maghull Champion on 24th February.

*****

Dear Sir

Councillor John Sayers (Labour – Park Ward) seems to be criticising me for things I am very much guilty of.

Yes I have campaigned for the number of Sefton Councillors to be reduced from 3 to 2 per ward to save the public purse money and no I did not succeeded in that aim because Labour Sefton councillors refused to support that campaign.

Yes I am guilty of being an environmental campaigner who is utterly horrified that Labour-run Sefton Council proposes to build on vast swathes of the highest grade of agricultural land in England which also happens to be a part of Sefton’s Green Belt.

It was not I that voted against reducing the number of councillors in Sefton and it was not I that voted for building on the highest grade of agricultural land. However, in both cases it was the Labour Group on Sefton Council voting against reducing the number of councillors and for building on the Green Belt.

So yes accuse me of wanting to save council tax payers money and of campaigning to save the environment but all I can say in response is I am guilty as charged.

Cllr. Tony Robertson
Lib Dem member of Lydiate Parish Council

The Champion newspaper published my reply in their edition of 9th March

Saving greenfield land and our cities

Remember my posting of yesterday about some folks wanting to sweep away Planning rules, well here is a more balanced approach.

Richard Rogers, architect and former chair of the Urban Task Force, writes in the Guardian beseeching developers and the government to cast their eyes away from greenfield sites and instead build in the UK’s cities. “With intelligent design and planning, we don’t need to overflow into new towns on greenfield sites; doing so would damage the countryside and – more importantly – wreck our cities. We do need to make more of what we have, unlocking a million development opportunities, and building new places that mix uses, tenures and people, rather than slowly churning out identikit housing estates. Our urban renaissance does need new towns, but they must be new towns in our existing cities,” he argues.

But are local authorities like Sefton in the mood for listening or are they still hell bent on building on high grade agricultural land come what may? Sadly, I think I know the answer!

Plan to build on Green Belt and high grade agricultural land – Labour can point the finger of blame at themselves

Sefton Council’s opposition Lib Dem Group, who have campaigned against the Labour-run Council’s plans to build on areas of Green Belt and high grade agricultural land across the Borough, have welcomed a recent intervention from Coalition Planning Minister Nick Bowles.

Labour have told us that they have no choice but to build on Green Belt and high grade agricultural land, some of which is prone to flooding, but we have said they do have a choice. Now the Minister with Planning responsibilities has effectively backed our stance.

In a letter to the Planning Inspectorate, the body that deals with appeals against planning applications that are turned down by a local authority, dated 3rd March the Minister says ‘local authorities and the communities who elect them, are in charge of planning for their own areas.’ He goes on to say ‘a local authority could adjust a Green Belt boundary through a review of the Local Plan. It must however always be transparently clear that it is the local authority itself which has chosen that path’.

Environmental protestors outside Maghull Town Hall

Environmental protestors outside Maghull Town Hall

So its clear, Labour do have a choice and they made it to build on Green Belt which also happens to be high grade agricultural land in most cases across Sefton. Labour have been far from straight with Sefton residents. They have even put up posters saying ‘Save our Green Belt’ whilst in the Council chamber they have been voting to build on it! No wonder environmental campaign groups like Fragoff have taken the Council on.

We Lib Dems want to save the land, which Labour is going to allow to be built on, to grow food for future generations. Labour wants to plant houses on land that will never be able to support food growing again.

Sefton’s Green Belt – Labour push ahead with consultation on a Local Plan that is simply not robust enough

Near three hours of debating last night failed to persuade Labour run Sefton Council to seriously think again with regard to their draft Local Plan.

FRAGOFF PUT POWERFULL CASE BEFORE COUNCIL

The evening started with an excellent and in depth presentation from Fragoff the once Formby but now Borough-wide environmental campaign group. This was in support of their petition to the Council and I suppose the real thrust of their message was that the Council is working on flawed and potentially inaccurate information – A view that I share.

We then moved on to the main debate of the night where many councillors from all 3 parties made contributions. The debate split down party political lines with Labour backing Green Belt grabbing for housing and industrial building and both Lib Dem and Conservative members defending the Green Belt. Of course Labour won the debate as they have a majority on the Council but it would be fair to say that they left the Council chamber somewhat battered and bruised.

But we now know who is on which side of the argument as my Group called for a ‘card vote’ where every single Councillor present has to clearly say whether they are for or against a matter.

LABOUR MP’S OWN COUNCILLORS DO NOT TOE HIS PARTY LINE

One of the most telling contributions though was from Cllr. Tony Dawson of Southport who quoted from items on the web site of Labour MP for Sefton Central Bill Esterson. Under the heading ‘Sefton Central Labour Party opposes any plans to build on the greenbelt’ Tony pointed out that the MP had said “The Labour Party is on your side with this. It is my view and the view of Labour Party members that we should not allow our greenbelt to be destroyed.” Tony reminded the Labour councillors present from Sefton Central constituency of this before the vote was taken yet they all then voted to consult on a preferred option for the Local Plan that does involve building on Green Belt land!

LABOUR COUNCILLORS VOTE TO CONSULT ON BUILDING UPON THE GREEN BELT

On the basis that the Labour members of the Council did not vote the way that the MP’s comments would lead you to expect them to vote the question is why does the MP’s web site not make it clear that his councillors would be voting to consult on building upon the Green Belt? The point here is that the MP’s views are actually simply that, views, because the people with the power are his councillors and when given the chance to vote they have consistently not supported his line.

Sefton’s Green Belt – Campaigners trying to save the Green Belt meet at Lydiate Village Centre

Last night I attended one of the meetings organised by local Green Belt campaigners at Lydiate Village Centre together with Cllr. Andrew Blackburn and Cllr. Edie Pope.

As an environmental campaigner I think it fair to say that most folks who know me realise that I have been fighting for the Green Belt and high grade agricultural land not to be concreted over for many years. Indeed, I led the fight to stop Sefton Council from releasing one of the very sites they presently want to release now, back in 1998.

We won that battle back then but this time with Labour having a majority on Sefton Council and them voting to build on the Green Belt the fight will be even more of an uphill battle than it was in 1998.

What’s more in 1998 the then Lib Dem run Maghull Town Council backed the campaigners and delivered a leaflet around the whole Town promoting protection of the Town’s Green Belt. And this is where the other significant difference is because in 2011 when Sefton Council publicly launched its Local Plan review Maghull Town Council (now Labour run) did not even make a submission to the Borough Council in defence of the Town’s Green Belt! No wonder the biggest piece of Green Belt that is up for development in the whole of the Borough is in Maghull. What you can’t be bothered to defend is easily lost.

And so to the meeting last night, it was organised by Fragoff the now prominent leading local Green Belt protection group that originally came together because of potential Green Belt loss in Formby.

rsz_lvc_-_fragoff_meeting_19_06_13

Lydiate Village Centre was full for the first (7.00pm) of the two advertised meetings and I would guess that the hall had 130 local people in it. A second meeting was due to start at 8.00pm but I had to leave at this point due to another appointment.

Fragoff have certainly done some in depth homework as they have developed their significant challenge to Sefton’s Local Plan and the meeting was a rehearsal, for the benefit of Maghull and Lydiate residents, of that work.

What interested me most was a matter that I have seriously pondered on ever since it popped out at a Sefton Council run ‘Stakeholders’ meeting on 8th May this year. It is with regard to Sefton’s population. I have posted about it before but it concerns Sefton’s falling population which we are told is about to go into reverse and start rising again due to inward migration. Consultants working for Sefton Council told those of us at the Stakeholders meeting that despite a more or less year on year population drop in the Borough for as long as most of us can remember they had advised the Council to expect the population to start rising due to people moving into the Borough from elsewhere. But who are these people, when are they coming and where are they coming from?

A break-down of population statistics discussed last night seemed to indicate that in terms of people from outside of the UK Sefton attracts around 100 per year according to present Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures so that is unlikely to be the source of the suggested population increase. So where does it come from and why is it important. Where the population increase credibly comes from I, like many others, am yet to be advised but it is important as anticipated population increases fuel the ‘need’ for more housing. More housing puts Green Belt land under pressure.

I have been keeping a close eye on Fragoff’s efforts for a long time now so I knew about their work in detail but it was clearly new to many residents attending the meeting. What it showed me, as I expected, is that there is a hugely sceptical Sefton population out there that is far from convinced about our Labour led Council’s plan to allow the building of houses on Green Belt and high grade agricultural land.

The profile of this vital local matter is bound to increase as we enter a second round of public consultation and Sefton Council’s Local Plan gets put under the public’s microscope again.

One interesting last point – There were no Labour councillors present at the meeting that I could identify.