Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 21, 2018

OWLs Fighting The Proposed New Local Plan

100+ people  were reported to have been in attendance at Tuesday nights OWL meeting for those wanting to fight the proposed Local Plan. The meeting was said to be a great success.

Led by OWL’s Cllr Owens , and accompanied by others  there was “a wide and varied discussion on the two possible ways we can change the ‘preferred options’ in the proposed Local Plan :
►Through the Inspectorate (highlighting the many flaws in the plan) and;
► Through the ballot box (voting in new Councillors who will reflect the will of residents).

“Organisation is happening quickly. We’ve got professionally qualified personnel, informal local groupings, fundraisers and many determined residents all lining up to fight these sweeping proposals that will change West Lancs forever – yet guarantee nothing in return. (with the likely exception of a swarm of developers and their legal teams.

“We have another meeting coming up next week at Skelmersdale Cricket Club for people concerned about the overwhelming development in Bickerstaffe and complete lack of any firm proposals for Skem. The group has made arrangements to meet again”.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 20, 2018

Tanhouse Ward Nominated Candidates

The Conservatives alone could not find a candidate who lives in Tanhouse Ward to represent them.  But what does it matter, you might wonder, as the new proposed Local Plan is sure to be mentioned in the election bumph and the usual claims for Skelmersdale improvements will be made and ultimately forgotten.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 15, 2018

Lease Beacon Park Golf Course For £1 A Year? Yes Please.

Were you to be offered an annual tenancy or lease of the fabulous Beacon Park Donald Steel-designed golf course located in the picturesque West Lancashire countryside , and knew that the first round was played, in the summer of 1982 when the course was opened, by Sir Michael Bonallack and renowned designer Steel himself, how much would you pay? What would you say to £1 a year “if demanded”? Would you be blown away?

After a considerable wait for WLBC to comply with an FoI2000 request for the lease we learn that “From a rental starting on 24 July 2000 and thereafter from 1 April 2002  to a lease” for 16 years, while the course had achieved a fantastic degree of maturity with excellent greens and striped, tree-lined fairways, the annual lease fee awarded to DCT Leisure Ltd and then apparently passed on to Serco Leisure Operating Ltd has been £1.

The 26 page document states “Driving Range Means the land and building laid out and constructed as a golf driving range shown shaded blue on the Plan”. Then imagine being given an opportunity to dump landfill sky high on said driving range to create a) a dubious BMX facility and then b) a bogus and unplayable footgolf course, all to rake in untold royalties that disappear into a series of companies of dubious reputation as VAT avoiders and the “commercial in confidence” banner so beloved of private profiteers.

It must be the bargain of a lifetime “Use for the provision of a golf club and golf driving range by the Tenant on behalf of the Landlord to be made available to the general public. Rent Commencement Date 24 July 2000 £1 (One Pound ) per year (if demanded)”.

References to “consent of the Landlord” or words to similar effect mean a consent in writing signed by or on behalf of the Landlord by the Executive Manager Leisure Culture and Arts Services or his successor and to “approve” and “authorise” or words to similar effect mean (as the case may be) approved or authorised in writing by or on behalf of the Landlord by the Executive Manager Leisure Culture and Arts Services or his successor”.

Serco receives revenue from WLBC. In the first year of operation this was £984,000 and further yearly subsidies, inflation protected, lead to Serco receiving approximately £15 million from taxpayers.

There are letters circulating between Rosie Cooper MP and Serco. I receive copies. One of them was from the Contracts Manager for WLCL, and it can be recognised as a virtual copy of the letter received from Steve Lawrence from Serco Leisure Operating Ltd.

The Contracts Manager has added one paragraph that “However I have reviewed the membership at the Beacon, both past and present, and note that Mr Lenton has never been a member of the course so am somewhat perplexed by his comments regarding the management and condition of the course”. Does the Contracts Manager live in West Lancashire and if so, as a WLBC council taxpayer does he really think that only members and not council tax payers have the right to criticise the state of the golf course? Has he not heard that “God has blessed you, because your eyes can see and your ears can hear”?

For the record, I walk the course regularly and when I see the state of it I wonder as ever why Serco is allowed anywhere near it. I missed a few days of walking it and was told by a member “The fairway machine is still not working as of Wednesday, people losing balls and it is a joke”. The members deserve better than this, and not only members but we council taxpayers also.

The Contracts Manager also repeats what Steve Lawrence of Serco wrote “The meetings held between Serco and WLBC are not open public meetings and therefore it is not possible to open them to members of the course, however we will ensure that we communicate appropriately to all users of the course once we have an outcome from the meetings”. This frankly is an impossible limit on what is a public asset and as such is liable to WLBC due diligence and transparency. It is this secrecy that stops the destination of the landfill royalties being made known to us, the public, and golf club members. 

It is appalling. DCT and Serco, paying WLBC £1 a year for the “Use for the provision of a golf club and golf driving range by the Tenant on behalf of the Landlord to be made available to the general public. Rent Commencement Date Rent 24 July 2000 £1 (One Pound) per year (if demanded) and the driving range ruined.

“Driving Range Means the land and building laid out and constructed as .a golf driving range shown shaded blue on the Plan. References to “consent of the Landlord” or words to similar effect mean a consent in writing signed by or on behalf of the Landlord by the Executive Manager Leisure Culture and Arts Services or his successor and to “approve” and “authorise” or words to similar effect mean (as the case may be) approved or authorised in writing by or on behalf of the Landlord by the Executive Manager Leisure Culture and Arts Services or his successor”.

Today at Beacon Park Golf Course it was the Chairman’s Trophy major singles event. No fairways had been cut. 36 local golfers can give evidence to that effect. Following them were 40 golfers from another local society. Can you imagine the impression they had of this Serco managed facility? As for the social content, the lounge. It lost its Sky TV facility to save costs. So as fast as the golfers finish they all go to a pub, the nearby Prince William perhaps, to socialise and watch the match. It’s called the 19th hole up the road.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 15, 2018

Tanhouse Borough Council Candidates

The candidates for the upcoming election in Tanhouse are published as  Tory Alexander Lawrence Blundell, Labour Ronald Cooper, and presumably Independent, Aaron Robert Body. The election will be held on 11 October 2018.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 14, 2018

The New WLBC Management Structure Savings That Cost £337,351

West Lancashire Borough Council decided in January 2018 to “drive forward its ambitious agenda for the Borough, whilst saving the Council more than £100,000 a year”, but read on!

“From Thursday 1 February 2018 the number of directorates will be reduced from four to three with services that were provided by the Council’s Leisure and Wellbeing Service being moved into the other directorates. The three directorates will be:
• Development and Regeneration Services
• Housing and Inclusion Services, and
• Leisure and Environment Services

“The directorates will continue to be supported by Legal and Democratic, and Finance and Human Resources Services. The focus for the new directorates will be to deliver the Council’s priorities for the economy, environment and health and wellbeing of West Lancashire, whilst balancing the budget year on year.

Councillor Ian Moran  Leader of the Council said “The revised management structure will drive forward our priorities while also delivering much-needed savings in the face of continued government reductions to local authority funding. I look forward to working with the team to meet our ambitions for West Lancs and bring improvements for residents and businesses across the Borough”.

At its meeting on 18 October 2017, the Council agreed the new structure and the voluntary redundancy of Dave Tilleray, the Director of Leisure and Wellbeing. These moves mean that together with previously agreed measures, the Council will make a total of £267,000 in efficiency savings in 2018/19 from restructuring.

But the cost of the one voluntary redundancy is the highest for WLBC since Gill Rowe left with £386,116. The Annual Accounts include “Director of Leisure and Well Being (left by voluntary redundancy Jan 2018) Salary £66,239, Expenses £126, Compensation for loss of office £84,323, Totals before pension £150,688, Pension contribution £186,663, Total £337,351″.

Readers might wonder why a “voluntary redundancy” attracts “compensation for loss of office” of £84,323?

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 14, 2018

Official Minutes WLBC Cabinet Held Tuesday 11 September 2018

27 PUBLIC SPEAKING

Representations were received from two residents in relation to the following item:- Agenda item 6(e) – Local Plan Review – Proposed Local Plan Preferred Options Consultation

34 LOCAL PLAN REVIEW – PROPOSED LOCAL PLAN PREFERRED OPTIONS CONSULTATION

Councillor J Hodson introduced the report of the Director of Development and Regeneration which sought authorisation to consult the public on the Council’s Preferred Options for a new Local Plan.

Minute No. 49 of the Planning Committee meeting held on 6 September 2018 was circulated at the meeting and in relation to minute 49 (B), the Portfolio Holder confirmed that an additional event would be held in the South Eastern Parishes.

A motion from Councillor J Hodson was circulated at the meeting.

At the invitation of Councillor J Hodson, the Director of Development and Regeneration and the Strategic Planning & Implementation Manager addressed the meeting to provide an outline of the local plan process.

In reaching the decision below, Cabinet considered the minute of the Planning Committee, the motion from Councillor J Hodson, the representations of Minute 27 above, the comments of the officers (Director of Development and Regeneration & Strategic Planning & Implementation Manager) and the details as set out in the report before it and accepted the reasons contained therein.

RESOLVED (A) That the agreed comments of the Planning Committee be noted.

(B) That the Local Plan Preferred Options document provided at Appendix C be approved for a six week public consultation exercise, subject to the revision of paragraph 3.12 in order to provide further clarification of the calculation for the housing requirement for the local plan.

(C) That the Director of Development and Regeneration, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Planning, be authorised to finalise and make amendments, prior to public consultation, to the Local Plan Preferred Options following consideration of any agreed comments from the Executive Overview & Scrutiny Committee.

(D) That call-in is not appropriate for this item as the report is being considered at the next meeting of the Executive Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 27 September 2018.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 14, 2018

Sefton, Maghull, And Lydiate Land Development Wobble!

Cllr John Pugh is the Opposition Leader on Sefton Council .This is his press release following a Sefton Council Planning Committee ‘wobble’ regarding housing development sites in the Borough last week:-

“The decision last week by Sefton council to delay giving the final go-ahead to housing development in Southport could give hope to Maghull and Lydiate residents facing massive housing expansion in the area.

“A combination of people power and sound argument at last Wednesday’s planning committee prevented the usual rubber stamping of a planned housing development on farmland in Bankfield Lane Northern Southport. According to the Sefton Lib Dem opposition leader Cllr John Pugh, this represents a watershed moment.

“Until now the ruling party [Labour] has pushed all plans through, claiming that the government requires it and their hands are tied. Incursion into the green belt has been driven by housing target numbers with little regard to sustainability. However developers last week had no good answers when residents brought up the issue of drainage and flooding key issues in Maghull and Lydiate – and Sefton’s planning committee for once wobbled.”

“Its time now for Sefton to follow West Lancs and review its local plans. The huge numbers of dwellings supposedly needed are based on dubious projections from consultants’ reports. Those reports are a developer’s charter , a builder’s dream but not a sustainable blueprint for our future communities. Sefton’s plans are no longer consistent with the government’s recently released 25 year plan and have to be changed.

“The government now is insisting that development should result in “Net Environmental Gain “.
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/693158/25-year-environment-plan.pdf

“Last week Sefton wobbled. This week campaigners for the greenbelt and a more sustainable approach need to scale up their efforts to persuade”.

[Source Tony Robertson Sefton Focus]

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 14, 2018

Latest Financial Position At Lancashire County Council

The latest report into the financial position at Lancashire County Council  has shown that a slight revenue overspend is forecast for this financial year. Members of the Cabinet were told yesterday that a revenue overspend of £2.680m, equivalent to 0.35 per cent of the net revenue budget of £764.641m, was forecast.

However this figure is expected to reduce by the end of the financial year, with the areas reporting a possible overspend being reminded of the importance of achieving a balanced budget by next April. At present no formal additional spending controls have been put in place, but this will be reviewed in future months if the forecast position does not show improvement.

The report also shows the 4-year Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) funding gap has moved from the £144m previously reported to £135m by 2022/23. This is primarily a result of savings delivered due to a change in Minimum Revenue Provision policy, an improved council tax-base and a better collection fund position.

The impact in 2019/20 is a reduction in the previously reported forecast gap in 2019/20 from c£68m to £60m and in 2020/21 from c£118m to c£110m. As previously reported, the authority has already delivered £200m of savings over the last three years, with a further £130m agreed for delivery over the next four years.

In addition more savings are being sought to ensure a balanced budget can be set by 2020/21, without the need to rely on reserves. Councillor Driver, leader of the county council, said “Like all councils we are facing significant financial pressures, and we are continuing to work hard to ensure we can achieve a financially sustainable position. Our priority remains providing the best service possible to the people of Lancashire, particularly our older residents and children in need of our support and protection, but we do need to cut our cloth appropriately.

“We have been in a fortunate position that we have had a very healthy reserve pot of money to draw upon in recent years. However we cannot continue to rely on our reserves, which while still healthy are dwindling. Our aim is to achieve a balanced budget by 2020/21 and a great deal of work is taking place to identify savings across the board. There is also careful monitoring of day to day spending to help ensure our savings programme remains on track”.

We haven’t yet been told if, when, or how all those Special Duty Allowances paid to 37 members of the Tory party will be included in a cloth cutting exercise! Will we ever?

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 14, 2018

Cllr Owens “Labour Resorting To Smearing Me” Claim

While the row about the Cabinet Local Plan  meeting rumbles on, a particular matter that would be a major factor in any planned development, the underground large gas mains pipelines that run under much of the land indicated for development in Bickerstaffe, was apparently excluded from consultation documentation.

Also not apparent is the clear WLBC circumvention of the “Appeal Ref: APP/P2365/W/15/3132596 Land to the north west of Parrs Lane, Aughton, Lancashire, that “This decision supersedes that issued on 9 December 2016 which was quashed by order of the High Court”. Council can demonstrate a five year supply of deliverable housing sites. Relevant policies in the Local Plan are not out of date in terms of paragraph 49 of the NPPF or for any other reason. Under these circumstances the presumption in favour of sustainable development contained in paragraph 14 of the NPPF does not apply. Material considerations do not provide a justification for granting planning permission. For the above reasons and taking account of other matters raised I conclude that the appeal should be dismissed”. These considerations should continue to apply even for the duration of the current Local Plan and beyond.

Meanwhile, Councillor Adrian Owens has said “Labour are resorting to completely untrue smears about me and completely distorting the meeting. We have placed a video of the meeting on our Facebook Page and people can form their own opinion. In the meantime, OWL councillors will be pursuing the questions from residents that went unanswered in the coming days with council officers”.

A Bickerstaffe resident Ian Rigby who posed questions of the councillors said “It was clear that the events of Tuesday evening only arose out of the anger felt at the cabinet’s disregard of the concerns raised, even when confirmed by their officers. It is another nail in the coffin of our democratic process when we have elected members failing to take seriously the concerns of those that elected them”.

OWLs claim “Council can’t answer resident questions over Local Plan Consultation as local police called to Meeting . Labour resort to complete fabrications to distract attention from the fact that they can’t answer resident questions about new local plan consultation.

“West Lancashire Labour have resorted to complete fabrication say Council Independents to distract attention from the fact that they failed to properly address legitimate questions from residents about the forthcoming local plan consultation at Tuesday’s Cabinet Meeting. They then compounded matters by calling the police when many of the 150 or so residents  present reacted angrily to the council Leader shutting down discussion on the matter.

Our West Lancashire Councillor Ian Davis said “I was appalled at the attitude of senior cabinet members. Residents asked how a proper consultation could be held when the newspaper the Council intends to use isn’t circulated in areas such as Bickerstaffe and Appley Bridge where significant housing developments are proposed, no answer was forthcoming. Residents asked how the councillors could put the draft local plan out to consultation when they hadn’t seen many of the evidence papers that supposedly support the council’s thinking, again no answer was forthcoming and the same when residents asked why the consultation document makes no mention of the underground large gas mains pipelines that run under much of the land indicated for development in Bickerstaffe”.

No doubt there will be repercussions within WLBC of the claims and counter claims of who was responsible for the shambolic meeting and the management of it. We are left wondering why a highly paid Chief Executive and her senior managers lost it. We should be told.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | September 13, 2018

Affordable Housing To Meet Local Need

The West Lancashire Labour Election Manifesto 2018 I received committed them to “HOUSING- provide affordable housing to meet local need” . That commitment was given while the proposed new Local Plan was being drafted. “We undertook consultation on the Issues and Options papers between March 16 and April 28 2017”. The Borough Council described the new plan as “innovative” with “exciting proposals”. The proposed Preferred Options will also ensure that the rural areas of the Borough will continue to be strongly protected from inappropriate development (over 88% of West Lancashire will remain as Green Belt). This will allow the agricultural sector to continue making its significant contribution to UK food production and ensuring that the natural environment of the Borough will be protected and enhanced”.

There is a WLBC topic paper which covers the legal Duty to Co-operate that the Council are required to demonstrate compliance with as they prepare a new Local Plan. This involves co-operating with neighbouring authorities and a series of key stakeholders to prepare the Local Plan. The paper states that the number of people in the Borough is increasing relatively slowly. The affordability of housing is an issue for West Lancashire, the median house price being almost seven times the median earnings.

Option C is approximately based on the SHELMA’s Economic Growth scenario for housing plus an assumption that West Lancashire would have to meet an unmet housing need from the Liverpool City Region or other surrounding authorities of 100 extra dwellings a year if those areas are unable to meet all of their own housing needs.

In the light of various comments made to this website, I have visited the Labour West Lancashire Facebook. Some are so interesting I have copied them here. Draw your own conclusions.

Maggi Huyton I was at the meeting and have no particular affiliation to either side, though I am a member of the national Labour Party – I will read everything for myself and form my own view. I join a variety of groups to ensure that I get a balanced picture. I went to the meeting to find out what was happening. HOWEVER – I can categorically say that the version represented in the post above, is NOT a fair representation of what happened. There was a large but initially polite and orderly crowd, who listened in silence to what was said, with an occasional ‘hear hear’, and who then listened quietly to the ‘answer’ (I use that term very loosely, since it answered none of the questions asked). It was the arrogance and dismissive nature of councillors towards the public, which caused outrage amongst them, with some councillors even laughing at the members of the public. Many people asked for proper answers and this was loud, due to numbers of people. However, at NO time was the crowd aggressive. There was certainly NO incident of spitting in the chamber, and I was talking to police and then a friend outside until after the leader left. At no time did I see any spitting. There were no threats and no fighting. Police were called because the councillors had decided not to engage with the public. They did not answer the questions asked and at no time was process or procedure explained to them, so most did not know what was expected. Councillors ignored those there, seeming to try and pretend they did not exist. They then called police. I spoke to a policeman who told me that the report they had was of an unruly crowd who were aggressive, shouting and fighting. Hence 3 riot vans and 3 cars were sent. The police officer himself could see that the situation they were called to did not exist. This, in my opinion, was a complete and profligate waste of police time and resource by an arrogant councillor and was an action guaranteed to stir up antagonism, rather than calm a situation. I cannot agree with the version given above, which is misrepresentative at best and untrue at worst, (I cannot comment on OWL’s motives – though they seem to be more open in their dealings with the public), and if this is the way a Labour council behaves, I will seriously have to consider my affiliation. I will bring this to the attention of my own MP.

Liz Leadbetter I was there did not see any violence what so ever, I didn’t see anyone spit either, yes the people were angry, but what do you expect when we wanted our questions answered, it was an utter disgrace, the councillors walked out on us, then most sat there and discussed the situation between themselves, at no time was anyone in any danger.

Maggi Huyton I have commented at length on this page, with a different view to that expressed above – from my own perspective, having been at the meeting, (which I also recorded, so I have evidence to support my comment), and apparently my comments are being hidden from view by page administrators. Hardly a democratic or fair action from a group who have nothing to hide. I will continue to post. I am ashamed of this Labour group.

Kevin Wright  As a Cabinet Member and locally elected Councillor I am appalled at the conduct of some residents and your denial now. Council officers were screamed at with abuse and threats, Councillor including me were threatened and the leader was spat at. This isn’t democracy, threats and abuse have no part in our democratic process. A sad day for democracy in West Lancashire.

Ryan Ballard I wonder how long it will be before you all finally realise that we have had enough of being rough shod over. Skelmersdale has been abandoned by both parties for all my life (37) and it’s another 30 year plan. I have grew up travelling out of my hometown for everything, no entertainment, poor shopping, awful transport links and too read yet another plan that is all about building more houses ramming more people into an area that offers nothing to its current population under the guise of at least we will have more council tax funds. This is not what is needed in this town, more social housing, a train station, a proper shopping complex instead of the extortionate rent concourse, fit for purpose factories owned by the council rather than hedge funds from timbuck too with zero interest or concern for the local population. This town has been failed over and over again, and that’s why the independents are coming forward. And unless you listen too your electorate you are going too find more and more independents and a loss of seats for both Labour and conservative as folks are sick of the blame him blame them mentality instead of fixing the problems at hand. Regards from a long time Labour voter.

Neil Russell What’s the point? You can protest all you want to this council and nothing gets done. My mums still waiting for her bus/rail pass enabling to travel across west lancs and Merseyside without incurring charges. Gordon Brown gave funding to West Lancs council years ago. We’re still waiting to hear where that money went to? Also how many houses being built or have been are actually affordable? Fact none.

Annette Finnigan I was one of the concerned residents who was able to gain access to the meeting last night. The meeting did become rowdy but I did not witness ANY spitting or violence. Whilst I, and many other concerned residents may not be aware of ‘council protocol’ I personally feel we were treated with contempt by the councillors, who acted with total arrogance towards the very people they’re there to represent! Absolutely NO NEED to have Police riot vans and several Police cars called. Disgusting, yes! But not the residents!!!

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