Extending Merseyrail’s Northern Line from Ormskirk to Burscough

To me this is one of life’s ‘no brainers’ as it would bring Burscough into the Merseyside commuter belt as far as practical and accessible public transport into Liverpool is concerned.

Money needs to be found though but with house building on a large scale in Burscough being on the cards due to the West Lancashire Local Plan being approved then it would seem that there could well be money on the table.

I think there is reason to be optimistic here and I hope that Lancashire’s politicians can be united in making it happen. Certainly, a recent discussion between Merseytravel officers and myself gives me grounds for guarded optimism.

I was at Ormskirk Station a couple of days ago awaiting Jen who was due into Ormskirk on one of the hardly regular trains from Preston. It can’t but strike you when stood on Ormskirk Station that the Northern Line ending there is just daft. My view is that it should end at a logical place i.e. Preston but that may be dreaming a little too much at present. However, Burscough is a step in the right direction so let’s get on with it and soon.

Here is a photo I took whilst waiting for Jen:-

rsz_ormskirk_station_at_night

The photo is also amongst my Flickr shots at:-
www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Lancashire V Sefton – Forget partnership because sadly it has become a neighbour dispute!

I have commented before about my concerns regarding this relationship. It should be good, positive and comprehensive yet sadly it is very far from that. The Council area that Sefton has the most common interest with, other than Liverpool, is the one that it seems to have the worst relationship!

My concerns have been long standing and relate to the lack of joined up thinking over health and transport going back a long way and certainly to the reorganisation of local government in 1974. With a shared hospital Trust covering Ormskirk and Southport and joint transport challenges you would have thought the two councils would have been drawn together to solve common difficulties but no; the invisible Merseyside/Lancashire boundary is, in local government terms, all but a brick wall and a tall one at that.

More recently it became apparent to anyone taking a close interest in the emerging Local Plans for Sefton and West Lancs that the expected co-operation and joint working was simply not happening beyond the odd stone being tossed over that brick wall with a message wrapped around it.

West Lancs has criticised Sefton’s draft Local Plan because Sefton has a big idea to close up the Green Belt boundary between Lydiate (in Sefton) and Aughton (in West Lancs). Similarly Sefton is cheesed off because West Lancs is to allow the building of houses bang up against the Southport (in Sefton) and Halsall(in West Lancs) boundary. This means that West Lancs gets the housing it wants but Sefton has to provide all the services for the new Halsall residents such as GP’s, schools, dentists etc.

So as you can see and indeed as I have commented about before the cooperation between these two neighbouring Councils has been and is at such a low level as to be of little use to anyone.

But then another neighbour dispute pops up if those above were not enough! This time it’s back to the joint transportation problems and it’s associated with Sefton’s response to the West Lancashire Highways and Transport Masterplan drawn up by Lancashire County Council. Readers will recall that I have covered this quite recently but there has been a further twist in that Sefton Council (report dated 31st January) has all but given the draft Masterplan a two fingered salute! A few quotes:-

“the Council [Sefton] is disappointed that it has received no further contact or consultation from Lancashire County Council since an initial stakeholder meeting in April 2013.”

“the document makes no reference to the current configuration of health services offered by Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust.”

“On page 20 the Masterplan seems to suggest that some reduction in car traffic may occur, which does not seem consistent with the assumed growth in traffic on page 25.”

On the Masterplan’s suggestion that Southport bound traffic from the M58 be routed via Switch Island and the presently being constructed Link Road Sefton says “Sefton Council does not consider this proposal either acceptable or appropriate. The Council is disappointed that it has not been approached for any discussion about this proposal in advance of it publication.”

The response is far more detailed than the scything quotes above but you get my drift i.e. the Sefton – West Lancashire/Lanachsire County partnership is sadly becoming no more than a battleground!

West Lancs Local Plan – Pugh challenges Planning Inspectorate as Sefton is dumped on

A couple of days ago I highlighted the unfortunate consequences upon Southport of the West Lancashire Local Plan being approved by a Planning Inspector. The matter has now been taken up by the MP for Southport Dr John Pugh.

Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport

Dr. John Pugh Lib Dem MP for Southport

*****

Sir Michael Pitt,
Chief Inspector,
The Planning Inspectorate
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Temple Quay
BRISTOL BS1 6PN

Date: 16 November 2013

Dear Sir Michael,

It has been reported to me that a Planning Inspector recently gave the ‘all clear’ to West Lancashire District Council’s Draft Local Plan in particular as it related to plans to build new houses on the local Green Belt around New Cut Lane, Halsall, an area which is regarded by most of its residents as being part of Birkdale which it abuts.

While the Inspector has, quite correctly, recognised that there is travel to work and shop between Southport (Seton MBC) and West Lancashire, in determining that this new housing can be treated as meeting West Lancashire’s Housing need, rather than Sefton’s I find this argument to have significant and worrying weaknesses. Draft Local Plans need to look not just simplistically at Housing need but also at the infrastructure which is necessary to accompany and support any new housing and indeed the present housing, industry etc. There is no evidence that I have yet seen to show that West Lancashire District Council has in any way considered the extra stress on an already-overburdened and tightly-enveloped Southport which will be associated with the building of and occupation of these substantial number of new houses. Nor is there any obvious evidence of West Lancashire District Council having co-operated with Sefton MBC in terms of assessing the possibility of development in boundary areas between the two authorities in general and the New Cut Lane area in particular. There may have been some information, which might be stretched to ‘consultation’ but these processes do not amount to ‘co-operation’ which involves working together. The decision to choose this particular area to expand into would seem to be a rather cynical determination that there will be no substantial group of residents/electors who will be particularly objecting to this proposal compared to any proposal closer to one of the West Lancashire current population centres.

I should be interested to receive your response to the above points.

Yours sincerely,

Dr John Pugh MP

West Lancs Local Plan is approved by Planning Inspector but Southport has been dumped on!

News that West Lancashire Council’s Local Plan has been approved by a Planning Inspector has been met with dismay by Sefton and Southport Lib Dems because some last minute additions to land to be released to be built on in Halsall Parish will clearly mean that the new West Lancashire Council tax payers will in fact be relying on Southport’s GP’s, Dentists and schools.

West Lancs plans to allow houses to be built on what is presently Green Belt land bang up against the boundary with Southport. The new housing will be significantly detached from other population centres and community facilities in West Lancashire meaning that the people who move into the houses will be dependent on services within Sefton such as GP’s, Dentists, schools etc.

It’s a cleaver move by West Lancs to pick sites far enough away from their own residents so there will be little protest about the loss of Green Belt land but the consequences of this last minute idea, which was endorsed by the Planning Inspector who approved the West Lancs Local Plan, will fall upon Sefton and Southport!

As part of the Local Plan process Councils are expected to work together and have a ‘duty to consult’ with each other. But when last minute changes were being made by West Lancs to their Plan via the release land bang up against the Sefton boundary the consultation process fell woefully short. What’s more by endorsing the West Lancs Local Plan the Planning Inspectorate, who we expect to referee a fair game, allowed West Lancs Council to get away with dumping housing on the boundary with Sefton that Southport’s schools, GP’s and dentists will have to pick up the consequences of.

The Planning Inspector should have seen the stunt that West Lancs was pulling and stopped it rather than allowing it stand in added on time.

SAVE OUR GREEN BELT – And it’s not just in Sefton where the balloon has gone up! True blue Aughton has had it with Tory-run West Lancs Council

I have made references to the connection between the West Lancs Local Plan and the one for Sefton previously. Indeed, I have mentioned the concern of West Lancs Council about potential building on Green Belt in Lydiate which will reduce the Green Belt between Aughton and Lydiate.

West Lancs Council and particularly Aughton is true blue Tory but last week West Lancs Council got both barrels at a public meeting in Aughton because residents felt the Council was not listening to them. Now where have we heard that before!

The Ormskirk Champion has the story in its 16th October edition under the heading ‘Residents stage walk-out at parish Meeting’

www.champnews.com/papers/

So it’s not just the Labour comrades in Sefton who are feeling the heat of public objections to building on the Green Belt; they are jointly in the dock with West Lancs Tories!

HOT OFF THE PRESS – WHAT ARE LABOUR UP TO?

By the way I wonder if there is any truth to the latest leak from inside a very wobbly Sefton Labour Party? A source there has indicated that Labour is considering reducing the number of houses to be built on the proposed vast urban extension to the east of Maghull whilst shoving those houses off to the Lydiate ‘reserve’ sites. I will be looking into this further.

HALT – back to the Wind farm campaign meeting in Lydiate

I promised to come back to this matter having not had time to write up what Kevin Sharpe and Colin Reader said in their respective presentations to the campaign meeting in any detail earlier this week. And it’s worth reviewing as it helps put things in context. These are the notes I made and they are not in any particular order.

_DAN5091_DxO

• The first big issue is that the land proposed for these monster wind turbines is high grade agricultural land in Green Belt, hardly the place to build them you may think and you would in my view be right. Interestingly, West Lancs Council Policy EN2 seems to back this view up.
• The National Planning Framework (NPF) says that renewable energy developments are inappropriate in Green Belt.
• In Lincolnshire a Valuation Tribunal has said that property close to turbines can be devalued.
• People living in Sefton and Ince Blundell Villages (and I think Lunt) did not get the mailing from the company proposing to build the turbines. I had picked up on this myself following a chat with a Sefton Village recently when I gave her a copy and she said it had not been seen in the Village before.
• Colin took us through a report by REF in Denmark about the performance of wind turbines, the thrust of which seemed to indicate that they start off at around 25% efficiency but within 18 years are down to small single figures of efficiency. Can’t claim to understand the background to this myself.
• The land owners are the Trustees of the Leverhume family.
• There will in fact potentially be 26 masts as 2 will be wind monitoring masts.
• Whist all this is about land in West Lancashire, that happens to be surrounded by Sefton communities, the draft Local Plan for Sefton, which I have posted about many times, does indicate that a renewable energy area in the adjoining land within Sefton Borough is being considered as well.
• The height of the masts will be 136.5m.
• The planning application for the site is expected to be submitted to West Lancs Council any day now.

It was nice to be able to support these genuine community campaigners because they are fighting for the high grade agricultural land via HALT that many others are fighting for via the Sefton Local Plan. Indeed, Colin Reader is prominent in both campaigns!

I hope these notes are of use to readers and my apologies to Kevin and Colin if I have noted any of their comments incorrectly – please shout if I have.

lydiateparishcouncil.gov.uk/objections-to-wind-farm/