Lydiate Green Belt – Tree Felling back in August – An update

I covered what I understood to the unlicensed felling of trees off and to the north of Maghull’s Turnbridge Road back in August when the felling took place. The site concerned is also adjacent to the Leeds Liverpool Canal I would add.

Land clearance machinery at work on the Lydiate site disgracefully released from the Green Belt by Sefton Council's nearly complete Local Plan.

Land clearance machinery at work on the Lydiate site disgracefully released from the Green Belt by Sefton Council’s nearly complete Local Plan.

In fact the whole site is with Lydiate as Maghull Brook, which is the Maghull – Lydiate boundary, runs right at the end of Turnbridge Road.

My last posting can be accessed via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/08/19/lydiate-green-belt-turnbidge-road-site-a-further-update/

As some weeks have passed since the Forestry Commission’s Woodland Officer visited the site (whom I am told confirmed that the felling was unlicensed) I thought it about time that the Commission’s tree was shaken so to speak. So I asked the Clerk of Lydiate Parish Council to contact them to see what the end result of their investigations is actually going to be. This is what we have found out:-

I understand that the Forestry Commission’s National Office have said that a restocking notice [an order to replant trees] has been placed on the land.

BUT the FC go on to comment on the fact that this piece of land has been identified as development land in the local plan [That’s Sefton Council’s Local Plan] and they are anticipating a planning application may be made for the site. They point out that any decision Sefton’s planners make will overturn the FC restocking notice. On that basis it may well be that the FC tries to work with the local authority and potential planning applicant to get sufficient numbers of trees included in the development.

I suspected that the the end result of the felling and FC investigations would be some form of compromise along these lines. However, considering that Sefton Council did nothing when the trees came down and it was local residents who brought in the FC then we can only hope that some good comes from this sad course of events.

Of course, if Sefton Council had not designated the land for building then the trees would not have been felled at all I assume!

Save our Green Belt – the 2nd consultation stage starts on Labour’s Green Belt Grab

Across the Borough of Sefton weekly newspapers have been hitting the door mat of thousands of residents telling them, via wrap around advertising pages, that the Council is ‘all ears’. But is it?

Certainly the Green Belt campaigners who are fighting to stop the Labour run Council from allowing the concreting over of it don’t think so. Indeed, they tell me it is like talking to a brick wall especially when they try to point out to the Council that the stats it is using for population growth are, putting it at its simplest, WRONG. The importance of the stats is that they say Sefton’s population, which has been dropping for years, is about to rise again meaning more houses need to be built. The Green Belt campaigners are convinced the stats are not robust and I share that view.

What‘s more the ‘consultation’ process, which was challenged at the last Full Council meeting as being to restrictive seems to be still just that, i.e. no one took any notice of the criticisms.

All ears? Well what do you think……………………………………

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.

Sefton Planning Committee approves Local Plan for consultation

The Labour dominated Planning Committee of Sefton Council last night voted to approve what I believe to be a flawed draft Local Plan.

The 8 Labour members of the Planning Committee all voted in favour of the Local Plan with its proposal for substantial building in the Green Belt. 4 Lib Dems and 1 Conservative voted against.

From my perspective the flaws are:-

• Too easily giving in to pressure to release high grade agricultural land for development.
• That in 15 years time the Council will most likely revisit the process and yet more ‘best and most versatile’ agricultural land will be lost.
• Dubious population growth statistics in a Borough where the number of residents has been dropping for years.
• That the population growth projections seem to be built on inward migration into the Borough when there is no evidence of this actually happening.
• A lack of detailed coordination with the West Lancashire Local Plan.
• Too much concentration on the Merseyside perspective when the majority of Sefton’s boundary is with Lancashire.
• Selecting sites for development in the Green Belt where concreting over the high grade agricultural land will forever stop the land being used for food production.
• The plan is simply not ‘green’ enough. The balance between economic development and sustainable environmental planning has not been struck.

Sefton Council’s Local Plan – A guest posting from the Lib Dem Opposition Leader on the Council – Cllr. Iain Brodie-Browne

Iain Brodie-Brown

We Lib Dems feel that the views of local residents are hugely important. We understand why Labour run Sefton Council’s proposals to allow building on Green Belt are extremely unpopular.

We do not oppose all house building, indeed we encourage it on the Borough’s brown-field sites, as there is a need for more housing -in particular low cost homes.* However, building on high grade agricultural land, which is how virtually all of Sefton’s Green Belt is categorised, is environmentally unsustainable.

There is a balance to be struck between the need for more low cost housing, especially in Southport, and environmental sustainability. We believe that the balance has not been struck by Sefton Council’s present proposals and will be seeking to take the pressure off the Green Belt as the Local Plan goes through the Council’s processes over the coming months.

We will be arguing for the Local Plan to become the ‘greenest’ plan in England; that is one that champions the continued farming of some of the best and most versatile agricultural land in the whole country. We will challenge some of the questionable population predictions for the Borough to ensure they are both robust and realistic.

Lib Dems have consistently fought to retain Sefton’s Green Belt. Indeed during the last round of potential ‘Green Belt grabbing’ in 1998, when the present Unitary Development Plan was being put together, we successfully fought off planners and developers who were trying to release a huge parcel of land to the east of Maghull. That very same piece of prime agricultural land is a developers target this time around. Our campaigners will be fighting for it yet again.

We believe in localism, indeed we have championed it for generations when other parties were not interested in it. Local people have to comfortable with Sefton’s Local Plan or it will simply be the Council’s plan that is imposed upon its residents.

* For example we approved the development of land at Kew in Southport.