Monthly Archives: December 2017

It seems that nobody from West Lancashire was worthy of a New Year honour, when surely there were candidates who should have been considered? We found three, and to acknowledge their service we have given them the local MBE, also known as the “My Best Effort” award.

First is Wally Westley.  In 2017 he lost the nomination for the LCC West Lancashire East seat to Paul Greenall, so instead, in May, he fought for the LCC Ormskirk seat, and was soundly beaten by Cllr Hennessy. His disastrous leadership of the local Tory party is regarded as a gift to the local Labour party.

Then we have Sam Currie.  In 2017 he came from nowhere to be nominated as the Tory Parliamentary candidate and remains nowhere as he gave Rosie Cooper her biggest ever majority in four general elections.

And who could ignore Paul Moon?  In 2017 he continued his twin council seating arrangement with, for the last six months, an attendance record at WLBC meetings of just 33% while on full council allowance.

From Monday 12 February Lancashire County Council will operate a new Service 315 between Ormskirk, Haskayne, Halsall and Shirdley Hill, restoring a public transport link to the Shirdley Hill area which has not had a bus since a commercial service was diverted away from there in 2014.

The new service to be run by Holmeswood Coaches will provide a bus every two hours linking the villages to Ormskirk and Southport. You can find out more about recently improved services by searching for ‘bus improvements’ at Timetables for the new services starting in 2018 will be published on the website as soon as they are finalised.

How often do we read about our appalling drainage system being unsustainable? Homes in Burscough, Halsall, Ormskirk, Skelmersdale, all suffer from it. In a response to a Granville Park development proposal a resident stated “It is widely conceded by the local inhabitants that the drainage system in the area is substandard. Continuous periods of rainfall commonly result in the drains overflowing in the area and this extension would only add to this the already troublesome situation”.

The problems of a proposed swimming pool without submission of a drainage statement has led to the statement above . WARD:- Aughton And Downholland PARISH:- Aughton-Application: 2017/0966/FUL Decision: Planning Permission REFUSED

Proposal: Double-storey rear extension to comprise of; new indoor swimming pool, new kitchen/diner, gym & utility room on ground floor. First floor extension to house, new bedroom complete with small inset balcony & walk in wardrobe. Replace existing brick gateway at the driveway opening of the property with new brick wall complete with solid timber gates. Location: 43 Granville Park West, Aughton, Ormskirk, Lancashire, L39 5HS.

In respect of application number 2017/0966/FUL received on 12 September 2017 and in pursuance of its powers under the above-mentioned Act and Order, West Lancashire Borough Council as Local Planning Authority, having considered your application, hereby refuses permission for: Double-storey rear extension to comprise of; new indoor swimming pool, new kitchen/diner, gym & utility room on ground floor. First floor extension to house new bedroom complete with small inset balcony & walk in wardrobe. Replace existing brick gateway at the driveway opening of the property with new brick wall complete with solid timber gates. at: 43 Granville Park West, Aughton, Ormskirk, Lancashire.

This is a substantial extension and I would expect to see some drainage proposals in the form of a plan or Drainage Statement. As far as I can determine neither has been submitted as part of the application. Therefore, I am therefore unable to comment on either the disposal of the surface water runoff or flood risk. Swimming Pools. A Permit may be required and it is recommended that the applicant contacts the EA to discuss the following drainage options/permit application. There are four options in order of preference:
1. The swimming pool water may be discharged to foul sewer with permission from United Utilities; or If the chemical content of the backwash water is reduced to zero, it could be discharged at an appropriate rate through a sewage treatment plant; or
2. If the chemical content of the backwash water is reduced to zero, it could be used to irrigate a suitable piece of land; or
3. The backwash water must be stored and tankered away for suitable disposal off site.
NB Regardless of the drainage option Swimming pool contents must be allowed to de-chlorinate by standing for at least two days prior to being discharged. NB The owner must ensure that the swimming pool drain down and backwash does not cause an environmental problem or pollution of inland freshwaters, coastal waters and territorial waters. The owner is responsible for the quality of the discharge of effluent associated with any disposal via a sewage treatment plant.

Reason(s) for Refusal
1. The proposed development conflicts with Policies GN3 and EN4 of the adopted West Lancashire Local Plan and Conservation Area Design Guide in that the size, design and position of the proposed brick wall and solid timber gates would be detrimental to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area.
2. The proposal conflicts with Policies EN2 and GN3 of the adopted West Lancashire Local Plan in that insufficient information has been provided to demonstrate no long term harm would result to the trees as a result of this proposal.
3. The proposed development conflicts with Policy GN3 of the West Lancashire Local Plan in that it would result in a significant loss of light and poor outlook to residents residing at 37 Granville Park due to its siting, scale and bulk.

When will the necessary investments be made to improve and modernise the nation’s Victorian drains, instead of wasting £billions for people to spend 20 minutes or less on a train journey?

Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles, and is found in spades among the Aughton Residents group (2012) and its supporters who campaigned to keep Parrs Lane land in the greenbelt. This is in direct contrast to the Aughton & Downholland elected representative Tory David Westley whose admitted view of the campaign at the Aughton Parish Council meeting in December 2013 as publicly reported was “It was a disaster, lies were told door to door and the campaign was a waste of time” after which he walked out to jeers of derision . Mind you, we didn’t feel so bad after learning that Westley referred to one of his senior Council colleagues as being “snide” in an email!

So here we are, four years on, still no evidence from Westley of a single lie told, and far from the campaign being a waste of time as ARG pledges its full support to the borough council in opposing yet another appeal by Redrow Homes and Wainhomes to develop plans for 400 homes on the agricultural land at Parrs Lane/Prescot Road. The Labour WLBC has earned the gratitude of those Aughton residents who oppose what Westley claimed. It is they who have stated the proposal was contrary to Local Plan policies, which will be robustly defended.

As ARG chairman Colin Atkinson says “The WLBC councillors and their officers have been steadfast in their defence of big business…trying to usurp local democracy in the pursuit of profit”. Talking of which, only in May this year it was reported that huge sums of money were paid by developers to the Tory party. And in June the property industry admitted that 37% of all donations to the Tory party came from them.

The new Public Inquiry is to start on 30 January 2018 at the Council Cabinet Room, Derby Street .

On 25 November we wrote about Tory Cllr Moon, that “in bizarre circumstances Moon, as a councillor landlord in Preesall was able to speak about landlord housing matters in West Lancashire while six West Lancashire councillor landlords were denied that right”. You can refresh your memory of it here

Within 4 days, on 29 November, of our article Moon “refreshed” his Wyre Notification of Disclosable Pecuniary and Other Interests with the following details  . Nothing alters the fact of an original newspaper poll that 88% of residents responding called on Moon to resign his West Lancashire seat.

We also noticed a twitter entry by WLBC Cllr Currie that says “You know those two faced people who tell two people two completely different things to make both people like them?” and, on the subject of people being two faced such as policies on green bin charges, we think this picture expresses things rather well?

“Two meetings have taken place including representatives from West Lancashire Borough Council and Serco. At these meetings the need to carry out further work on both the 9 hole and Foot Golf courses was agreed, which includes re profiling the Foot Golf course. As a consequence, dates for public use have yet to be established”.

With these three sentences above, from the Deputy Director of Leisure & Wellbeing, West Lancashire Borough Council a few days ago, in response to my Freedom of Information Act 2000 request, we have vindication of campaigners against the disgraceful state of the so called 9Hole golf course    and the “Himalayas” 80+ feet high “Foot Golf” course, now deemed to be too dangerous to allow people to enter  .

It is public confirmation of how “authorised land drainage” at the now ”officially vandalised” Beacon Park Golf Course became “unlimited landfill” for sheer greed. Hopefully the indifference shown to the BPGC and its members by the WLBC and its councillors will now be turned into something positive for the borough.

We only have to walk there and look at the dreadful mess inflicted on it by these cowboy “golf landscapers” to see the effects of what happened in secret after the Cabinet and Council decisions of November/December 2011 “That there be an exemption from the requirement to seek quotations/tenders (Contract Procedure Rules 6 and 7) to allow the arrangements to be put in place…” hiding the apparent double dealing and deception caused by the lack of WLBC’s exercise of due diligence the public were entitled to expect.

While DCT Leisure Limited, favoured leaseholders and managers of the Beacon Park Golf Course, carried on trading while defrauding HMRC of £55,000 of unpaid VAT, incurring £11,551 of unpaid liability for a Former Employee Tribunal Claim, and a further £4,515 for Employee Redundancy, it seems that WLBC was in blissful ignorance of it all even though the DCT 2009 company accounts showed an abysmal state of affairs.

DCT Leisure Limited eventually gave notice and relinquished its lease for the management of Beacon Park Golf Course on 31st December 2011 although official records show WLBC, Serco, and the West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust had been “busy interpreting the new contract proposal and its impact to the new current contract” for the previous twelve months. Following reports to WLBC Cabinet (15th November 2011) and Council (14th December 2011) interim arrangements were put in place with West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust and the trust partners Serco Leisure Operating Limited to undertake temporary arrangement for the management of the golf course.

What follows here is a reminder of the origins of the mess we see today. “An assessment undertaken by Serco indicated that the finance position of the golf course would improve under a trust arrangement, providing savings for rates (NNDR) and improvement towards VAT payments. However the underlying trend of reduced memberships would need to be reversed together with improvement across casual income lines in order to ensure long term viability.

“The arrangements previously negotiated by DCT for the land drainage work with  Oaklands leisure [Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd] provided an opportunity to improve facilities, retain or increase future membership and increase income. Serco have now concluded their discussions with Oaklands Leisure and have been able to project a positive financial position in future years. However the initial years of the improvement works will require Serco to cover operating losses.

“Serco have proposed a surplus income share arrangement. They have not included any management fees in the cost of the operation and have agreed to absorb any losses incurred within the golf course arrangement during the contract period. The surplus income share is based on 1/3rds (thirds) distributed equally to West Lancashire Borough Council, West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust, and Serco Leisure Operating Limited.

“The proposal includes investment into the golf course and facilities; reshaping of the landform to enhance existing golf holes and practice facilities and create a new 9 hole short course; remodelled driving range outfield and target greens; provision to enhance internal facilities in the golf club house and entrance area. The work is to be phased in over two years 2013-15 and has an estimated investment/enhancement value for the golf course of approximately £500,000”.

Perhaps those among you who walk yourselves and your dogs in response to Christmas holiday food extravagance might venture to the Beacon Park Golf Course and see these amazing creations yourselves, while wondering, like me, about the full contents of the minutes of the two meetings, and an outline of the timescale for the work required on the 9hole course, which as far as I have seen was recently being marked out for holes etc? As for the re-profiling of the Foot Golf Course, it will be an enormous project given the extreme height of it and we need to know where the landfill will be removed to and at whose expense? Does this proposed re-profiling need a variation of the existing planning permission? The original Foot Golf landfill was undertaken by Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd as the planning permission holder. Is it the case that they will now re-profile it and what is the timescale?

But above all else, where is the money, where are the “royalties”, and what use has been made of them, that were the incentive for such a desecration of this borough asset?

Today we can follow the serial exchanges between Brexitiers and Remainers in the Champion letters. Answering Mike Fawcett are Stan King of Aughton and James McGregor by email .

Mr King argues a failure by Mr Fawcett to use facts to bolster HIS argument relies on speculation and misinformation. He needs no-one to apologise for him trying to prevent our country being federalized by an organization led by a Franco-German alliance that is self-serving and lacks competency. Mr McGregor, who has good friends in both camps, is concerned how family feuds, fractured friendships, and an insurgence of intra-national intolerance were created.

In my case I am under-whelmed by remainers like the 23 MPs who yesterday sought a second referendum in Parliament. They, 9 Libdems, 9 Labour, 4 Plaid Cymru, 1 Green, accepted democratic election to Parliament but deny our democratic majority choice to leave the EU. Tory veteran remainer Kenneth Clarke surprisingly voted with the government against a second referendum.

I am also under-whelmed by the EU representation of its positions. Negotiator Barnier is quoted as dating his passion for Europe to the picture he saw, as a child, of General de Gaulle and the German chancellor Adenauer clutching hands to symbolize the reconciliation between their two countries. My intense aversion to the EU is based on the price we paid for war with Germany. I can best describe it by including this copy of a letter to a newspaper  and if it shows my intolerance towards the EU it is well written. 

As for the UK courts paying due regard to ECJ decisions on a permanent basis, which may end the direct jurisdiction of the EJ Court, it is a disgrace to me that our Supreme Court might not be sovereign. Barnier apparently claimed that “There is no reason for our [EU] values and principles to be damaged as a result of brexit”. Perhaps the Greek people might wonder what the “EU principles” are as they apply to Greece?

West Lancashire Borough Council announced how sorry it was to hear about the closure of the Dove Mill Outlet shop, but “unfortunately the company did not contact the authority to say it was having difficulties. The only contact that has been made with the Council was regarding a property search in 2015 which staff helped them with. The Council offers a variety of support to local business and has contacted Ormskirk businesses over a number of initiatives, including several in the last 12 months.

‘In February 2017 Council staff hand delivered invites to town centre businesses for a stakeholder event. This gave businesses the chance to find out about the Ormskirk Town Centre Management Group, and those who attended were given information about town centre events and the Ormskirk Business Action Group.

‘Over the summer the Council has hand delivered ‘keep in touch’ cards to local businesses so they could be sent information about town centre matters and added to the Discover Ormskirk mailing list. It has also publicised the launch of the Discover Ormskirk website, telling firms how they can be features on the new website.

‘Dove Mill outlet did not engage in either of the above initiatives to support local businesses nor did they take the opportunity to feature the business on Discover Ormskirk. The Council welcomes businesses getting in touch and would be more than happy to pay a visit to their premises to discuss how they can get involved in town centre initiatives and events. We can also put them in touch with Ormskirk Business Action Group who represent town centre businesses”.

But now a response, published on the QLocal  website suggests otherwise. Local cafe owner John Reed wrote with this “enlightening and thought provoking” letter. I have just read the article regarding Dove Outlet on Church Street, Ormskirk, and I am astounded with the council’s reply. As far as the business groups invite, yes, I received one, but it was held in business hours so I couldn’t attend.

“I contacted the Council regarding what markets were being held over Christmas, and I was given the wrong phone number, they gave me the number for Chapel Gallery. I telephoned the number I was given by Chapel Gallery and was told there were no extra markets. We found out that the Christmas lights were getting switched on the day it happened.

“It appears that the only thing that the council are concerned with is anything that raises revenue. Planning is a joke! Once again a retail shop is closing and a number of bar/restaurants are waiting for planning. The old Home Bargain on Moor Street has not yet got planning permission, but it has scaffolding up, I wonder why?

“What the council are doing is what is the best for the council, not what is best for Ormskirk and its future. If the council do not halt the number of drink and food outlets in the town, there will be nothing left but food and drink related businesses; the council will receive the planning fee and the business rates and we will have a ghost town.

“If the council takes no notice of the residents and business owners maybe the problem is the elected bodies that control the council, after all that is what they are elected for”.

Elsewhere we read about how “The buoyancy of the local property market is a manifestation of wider economic trends. Though some of these trends may be outside of our control there are a number of factors that can be influenced locally. This strategy must analyse Ormskirk’s ability to compete with similar neighbouring centres and work to position Ormskirk town centre to be as vibrant and attractive as possible.

“The UK retail sector is undergoing a fundamental change and this change can be seen in all high streets across the Country, including Ormskirk. The type of retailers in the town centre has changed reflecting national trends. Whilst the Council welcomes opportunities for vacant units to be brought back into use, it will be important to ensure that Ormskirk maintains a varied mix of units providing a mix of retail and non-retail units.

“Council records showed that in October 2015 vacancy rates for ground floor commercial units in the wider Ormskirk town centre area were 4.5%. Given the current economic climate this was an extremely positive figure and showed that the Ormskirk town centre property market was buoyant. According to Springboard UK (which is a market analysis company) in October 2015 the average vacancy levels were 12.3% for the North West and 9.1% for the national average. Source: Springboard, October 15, Vacancy Rates Survey.

“However, there may still be opportunities to improve the buoyancy of the local property market, reducing vacancy rates further and even improving the types of units that are available providing a greater offer than presently exists. Although in real terms vacancy rates may be low, the perception may be higher, given the prominence of some of the units that are currently vacant”.

In August 2016 Love Ormskirk ceased trading due to a lack of volunteers and funding. For the past four years the organisation had helped businesses and has worked with other partners to try and change the town. Love Ormskirk was independent from the council and was given funding in 2012 and 2013 from the High Street Innovation Fund which was a central government initiative and which West Lancashire Borough Council helped to administer. The money was provided to assist Love Ormskirk in putting on events during this time, buy branded merchandise, carry out advertising, and market the town .

But from 2014 the organisation was given no further funding and since then they have been using the income from their members to enable them to pay for the running of the website, social media platforms and the running costs of the business. Unfortunately, with the business members diminishing to only 23 members this year, the decision had to be made to end as it was no longer financially viable.

Ian Moran, Leader of West Lancashire Borough Council and portfolio holder for Economic Regeneration, said at the time “We are sorry to hear that Love Ormskirk has ceased trading. The Council has provided as much support as it could to Love Ormskirk’s activities to promote Ormskirk, and will continue to work with businesses and other partners through the Ormskirk Town Centre Strategy to ensure the town has an even more vibrant future. Actions in the strategy will ensure that Love Ormskirk’s work to promote the town will continue”. And there’s that “vibrant” description again, perhaps used flippantly?

What was such a secret about a green light to build new homes on the former Westec House site? A landmark decision has been made by the Council (held in secret) to approve a scheme that will see the authority build houses specifically to be sold for the first time. This exciting project to build 27 new homes on the former Westec House site , close to the Council offices in Derby Street, in the heart of Ormskirk, was agreed at the Council meeting on Wednesday 13 December. The site was formerly occupied by Westec House, a Council office base which was demolished in 2014.

With planning permission already granted for the development and a preferred contractor established, the Council hopes to confirm a start date for the construction shortly. The Council hopes to have more exciting projects in the future as it is looking to form a new development company to help it achieve its ambitions for development across the Borough.

Of the 27 homes that are to be built on the former Westec House site, 18 will be houses to be put on the open market for sale. These will comprise of: Three two-bedroom terraced houses; Eight two-bedroom semi-detached houses; Six three-bedroom semi-detached houses; One three-bedroom detached house. Another two-bedroom terraced house will be available for shared ownership. The other eight homes will be one-bedroom apartments to be retained by the Council and rented on an affordable basis.

The project will be funded from a combination of sources, including prudent borrowing and the Housing Revenue Account. Councillor Ian Moran Leader of West Lancashire Borough Council, said “This is a really exciting project for the Borough that will realise the potential for this site with the building of new homes. As well as providing 27 new homes, the scheme will have an extra benefit of bringing in much needed funds for the Council. Like many other authorities across the country, we are facing difficult financial challenges, and also have to become self-financing by 2020. The funds raised from the sale of homes will go towards supporting the Council’s capital programme and helping to meet our priorities”.

Many local councils have formed business partnerships with developers to start building affordable homes. Sheffield and Keepmoat is a classic case of such an arrangement with many homes now built. 11 councils have created a company or are about to do so, including Bournemouth, South Northamptonshire, and Wolverhampton, and yet another 40+ making arrangements. Croydon council created Brick by Brick last year, an independent development company that plans to build 1,100 homes in the next two years, half of which will be affordable. Profits from homes built and sold, as well as income from rents, will go to the council, as 100% shareholder in the company. WLBC should do the same!

Redrow and Wainhomes applications to develop agricultural land at Parrs Lane are the subject of a Public Inquiry by order of the High Court that will be heard on 30 January 2018 at the WLBC office 52 Derby Street. Members of the public may attend . This is the land which gave rise to the infamous and wholly untrue Cllr D Westley claim of lies being told door to door by Aughton’s campaigners against  the inclusion of the land in the Local Plan.

The brilliant reporting of the incident by Danielle Thompson in the Champion newspaper in December 2013 is a matter of public record. “Aughton residents are calling for Councillor David Westley to resign after he called the two-year campaign to keep Parrs Lane in the greenbelt ‘a waste of time’ and alleged that door to door campaigners had told lies.

“After Colin Atkinson, chairman for the Aughton Residents Group (2012) raised the issue of the formulation of the neighbourhood plan to discuss the future of Aughton at public question time at the Aughton Parish Council meeting on Monday December 9, Lancashire County Councillor Westley, who represents Aughton and Downholland told Colin Atkinson that campaigners had wasted two years talking to the Borough Council.

“He said “The campaign was a disaster, lies were told door to door and the campaign was a waste of time”. He then walked out of the meeting at Aughton Village Hall amid shouts that the campaigners had not lied, jeers and calls for his resignation. Colin Atkinson described his behaviour as childish and unprofessional and said that he expects an apology from Councillor Westley for his “unwarranted” remarks”.

Undeterred by this appalling Westley misrepresentation of Aughton’s decent and honest residents, the Aughton Residents Group 2012 is still opposing the development. As Colin Atkinson said at the time”He took exception to me mentioning that it could be just four years until Parrs Lane could be built upon and I expect an apology for his unprofessional behaviour”. And here we are, four years on, Westley still leading his party into oblivion, and the defence of Parrs Lane in the hands of ARG2012 and WLBC!