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.
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.