SAVE OUR GREEN BELT – Sefton/West Lancs liaison or not!

Readers will know I have long been critical of Labour run Sefton Council’s approach to its Local Plan and the present public consultation which will almost certainly lead to high grade agricultural land being lost forever under concrete and tarmac. As an environmental campaigner I am utterly horrified.

But one of my related concerns, which I expressed at a Sefton Council meeting not so long ago, was with regard to my concern about the lack of detailed joint working with West Lancashire Borough Council as the two councils have been putting their neighbouring Local Plans together. So, when an e-mail recently hit my in box telling me that West Lancs has concerns about Sefton’s Draft Local Plan I think you will understand why I have worried about what I see as seemingly superficial liaison between the Councils. The e-mail was directing me to a letter sent by Planners at West Lancs Council to Planners at Sefton. It is rather long so I am only copying the pertinent points:-

“there are three areas of concern that West Lancashire Borough Council would like to raise with Sefton Council and request that Sefton Council look at how potential impacts could be mitigated through the Sefton Local Plan or that a particular allocation be reconsidered.
Firstly, there are a number of proposed development allocations (in Policies SR4 and SR5) that are located adjacent, or very close, to the borough boundary with West Lancashire, particularly in the Southport, Churchtown, Ainsdale and Formby areas. While West Lancashire Borough Council does not object to these allocations, we would wish to ensure that all potential impacts of these sites on land and communities within West Lancashire have been considered and that policy requirements for mitigation for any negative impacts on the West Lancashire side of the boundary are included within the Sefton Local Plan.
Secondly, those same allocations have the potential to generate fairly significant traffic travelling through West Lancashire on the A570 and/or the local moss roads in the Western Parishes. Policy SR10 is supported when it prioritises “Improved access to Southport from the east [A570 corridor]” but West Lancashire Borough Council would welcome further detail or discussion on what these improvements may be, especially where the improvements are needed within West Lancashire. In particular, the impact of increased traffic on the A570 on Ormskirk must be considered, as there is already significant congestion within Ormskirk and through-traffic travelling between Southport and the M58 contributes to this. Indeed, one of the reasons that the West Lancashire Local Plan 2012-2027 does not focus more development in the Ormskirk area is the added congestion this would likely cause, and so West Lancashire Borough Council would have concerns if additional traffic generated in Sefton were to add to this congestion in Ormskirk. Regard should also be had to the forthcoming West Lancashire Highways & Transport Masterplan from Lancashire County Council on this matter.
Thirdly, West Lancashire Borough Council wishes to express concern regarding the allocation of the two sites to the north of Lydiate as reserve housing sites (SR4.47 and SR4.48). These sites would be released from the Green Belt and, in the long-term, would likely be developed. The release of this land from the Green Belt would close the strategic Green Belt gap between Maghull / Lydiate and Aughton / Holt Green. The village of Holt Green to the south of Aughton is only 1.5 km from the existing built up area of Maghull/ Lydiate. The release of these sites from the Green Belt would reduce this gap to less than 1 km. The gap to the main built-up area of Aughton would be reduced to 2 km. As such, given the potential impact on the purposes of including land within the Green Belt (in particular that of preventing neighbouring towns from merging into one another), West Lancashire Borough Council would ask Sefton Council to reconsider the allocation of these sites and review whether alternative sites would have less of an impact on the purposes of the Green Belt, for example, sites on the western side of Maghull which do not form part of a strategic gap and are partially contained by the existing built-up area. It is West Lancashire Borough Council’s view that the release of sites SR4.47 and SR4.48 would be better considered as part of a cross-boundary strategic Green Belt review given that it affects a strategic gap between two settlements in separate authorities.”

Now, does this or does it not indicate a lack of detailed joint working? I think I know the answer as will other environmental campaigners.

With regard to points being made by West Lancs Council a couple are fascinating. Regarding their 2nd point i.e. ‘Improved access to Southport from the east’. Why on earth does that need spelling out to West Lancs? Are they really saying that they have not heard of the project to reconnect the Southport/Wigan and Ormskirk/Preston railway lines at Burscough or the long talked about Ormskirk road by-pass! And on their 3rd point they clearly have concerns about the two ‘reserved’ development sites in Lydiate and the effect that building on these sites will have because it could well ‘close the strategic Green Belt gap between Maghull / Lydiate and Aughton’.

My fears about Sefton not working closely with West Lancs over the Local Plan seem to be coming true but bearing in mind the ridiculous Merseyside Joint Authority proposals, which do not include West Lancashire (see my guest posting from Cllr. Nigel Ashton of yesterday), should I be surprised? We seem to have an invisible ‘Berlin Wall’ being built around Merseyside and it will be to the detriment of both Sefton and West Lancashire’s communities.