Monthly Archives: March 2018

What Do Our Councillors Actually Do?

Mr Graham Walker of Up Holland asks the question in the Champion . He wants us, the silent majority, to be advised on a regular basis what our councillors actually do. He might wish he had never asked the question. But he goes further, he claims a “mandatory four reports a year to be submitted by each councillor about their portfolios and activities would be good”. And on where and how our money is used he claims “It is not shown in the annual financial report…a masterpiece of obfuscation”.

He won’t be surprised to be told everything financial IS shown in the annual financial report, and as for what our councillors are being paid and the amount of expenses claimed that is also shown, on the WLBC website

As for those “four reports a year” he wants, in 2015 one councillor, Doreen Stephenson, submitted a “Parish Annual Report” that referred to Downholland rather than Halsall. It proved to be a copy of the report made by Westley for his ward, and provided proof if that were needed of her apparent disdain for her role and the electorate of Halsall. Perish the thought she might do that four times a year for the Aughton Park electorate whose misfortune it is that she represents them, at least until 3 May?

Carl Eaton Trolled Out Of Council Bid

How sad it is to read about Carl Eaton being trolled into dropping his bid to become a borough councillor for Moorside. Carl, the founder and manager of Skem Men-Aces Disability Football Club, was the first individual to be granted the Freedom of the Borough of West Lancashire, having been given the award as recognition of his contribution to the community .

So who better to represent Moorside on the council than Carl, who was born with spina bifida and is a right leg amputee and who created the football club because of the lack of sports activities available for people with learning disabilities in Skelmersdale.

The club, which has more than 50 members, provides new experiences and opportunities for its members in order to give them the chance to be able to do things that they wouldn’t otherwise do .

Councillor Neil Furey, Mayor of West Lancashire, said at the time of the award “Carl has done an incredible amount of work for the Skem Menaces and thoroughly deserves this honour. I was very proud to be able to present the award to him, as I have visited the club on several occasions and seen what a difference it makes to the lives of its members”.

It’s reported that online abuse was “atrocious, repulsive and repugnant” and it drove him into withdrawing his intention to stand as the independent candidate he thought Moorside needed.

Perhaps all the people, 23,000, who signed the petition to save the 3G football pitch might now combine to persuade Mr Eaton to change his mind and provide the platform he, and Moorside, need for that community? And if he doesn’t, perhaps on election day Moorside voters might write his name on the ballot paper to register their disgust at how he has been treated?

One Man’s Fake News

As we all know, anything that comes “free” from the Council is nothing of the kind, it comes from taxes. So the annual WLBC “free tree scheme” is a gift from us all. A fruit tree will cost circa £10 but buying in bulk, say 400, will probably save 20%? And the WLBC scheme is now at the heart of a political spat.

The OWLs wrote about “Mighty oaks, from little acorns grow…or apples in this case”. Both main parties have so far failed to commit to the West Lancs “free tree” scheme that gave out over 400 trees in the Borough last year. OWL allowed for the scheme in our proposals. Pictured below is one apple tree, planted in the 80s, that has provided apple pie for five generations of one family . The long term benefits of trees are well established…let your councillor know how you feel”.

Enter Ian Moran, Labour and Council Leader…Ian Moran to Adrian Owens….”the free tree scheme is in our (the Labour) budget that was agreed last month, you (the owl’s) never presented a budget along with your former colleagues the conservatives. So the only party that is committed is mine….your getting worst than trump with all this fake news sir”.

The reply from Adrian Owens “Ian, the scheme is only funded for this year though and we have a three year capital programme. You had the option of securing it for 2019/20 and 2020/21 but didn’t take it. We had a fully costed budget including continuing the funding the Free Tree scheme as it has been for the past ten years. As our budget included reducing the cost of councillors which had been rejected earlier in the evening we chose not to present it. We do occasionally have some good ideas, e.g. Wheatsheaf Walks. We want the council to succeed, so we’d be delighted if you continued the Free Tree scheme beyond this year and took up our idea of turning empty student houses into family council homes”.

United Utilities Unites With Halsall Residents

In a long awaited development, residents of New Cut Lane Halsall are seeing a response from United Utilities (UU) about local flooding problems. Since the lively Halsall New Cut Lane residents’ meeting just over a week ago, UU have shown they listened to the residents and are acting upon the local flooding issues raised with them.

After an abundance of photographic and written evidence was provided by affected residents New Cut Lane has been a hive of activity as several UU engineering teams have been on site all week  knocking on doors explaining their intentions to provide a detailed drainage survey to all homes. This is the proactive response the residents wanted .

UU are cleaning and jetting sewerage pipes, then conducting detailed CCTV inspections to find any faults and the root causes of the drainage system inadequacies.

They are also tracing older drains which may not be mapped, or thought to be redundant, which can then be passed on to the various authorities in order to fully understand the surface and foul water infrastructure and commit to a proper plan of action.

In addition, UU are also inspecting and reporting surface road and gully systems and unkempt brooks as part of a fully robust study into the flood issues which has plagued residents due to poor maintenance and lack of investment for nearly forty years !

The residents look forward to the Environment Agency and Lancashire County Council Highways department being similarly proactive in the very near future and await their reports and findings.

Not So Champion Front Page?

The Champion front page this week makes a bold statement of “residents and council celebrating victory in Aughton homes row”. Hardly a row, more a war to match any seen in local government versus greedy bullying developers? And its picture of the wrong field does it no credit. 

“Victory in a three year battle” is in reality a victory in a much longer war. Colin Atkinson of Aughton Residents Group (2012) told the Visiter in March 2015 “Our group has been contesting the development on this land for the past three years and warned residents some time ago to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ and to be aware of the developers’ intentions to eventually turn this beautiful area into a giant housing estate. These proposals are unwarranted, totally out of order and nothing more than aggressive marketing and bully boy tactics by the developers who obviously consider themselves above having to comply with the Local Plan”. 

The campaign against development started in 2011, leading to the creation of ARG in 2012 and eventually to the scenes in the Aughton Parish Council meeting of 9 December 2013 reported by Danielle Thompson Calls for councillor to quit after the ‘waste of time’ slur “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.

There is no doubt of the resilience and professionalism of the WLBC planners, nor that of the legal representation. What has always been in doubt, due to the Westley accusations, is the party political stance of Aughton’s own parish and ward councillors. It was their Local Plan, their accusations, their Plan B for Parrs Lane, and when they took on Aughton itself they have lost.

Hopefully the remarks reported in the Champion that Redrow “will review the Inspector’s findings” are more hot air. Meanwhile we suggest the Champion corrects its picture published as “The land at Parrs Lane that was under threat of development” which is not so!

Redrow  reported recently “The Group added 5,419 plots with planning permission to our owned and contracted land bank in the year. This more than replaced the record 5,319 legal completions (excluding JV) and we ended the year with 26,100 plots in our owned and contracted land bank. This was a small increase on the very strong closing position in the previous year and represents about five years output and a Gross Development Value, based on our 2017 average selling price, of £8.2bn. Forward land again made a significant contribution, comprising over 60% of the 5,419 additions in the year across 22 sites. This included the important strategic ‘Plasdŵr’ site – Cardiff’s new Garden City. Despite transferring 3,356 plots to the owned and contracted land bank, we still increased our forward land bank by a net 766 plots to 26,400 plots. Over 40% of these plots are allocated for housing in Local Authority Plans”.

Scarth Hill Lane, As Bad As It Gets?

Paul Greenall, the Independent County Councillor for West Lancashire (East) writes today “I have been advised today that Scarth Hill Lane in Aughton, has been inspected by Highways Officials and the defects are scheduled to be fixed within the next 10 working days” in response to his report of it on 25 March. If it isn’t fixed before then it might require complete resurfacing, it is atrocious, as his own picture shows . And that is the story all over neglected West Lancashire.

Tory “Forum For The Future” Cancelled

In its “Future Events” report the local West Lancashire Conservative Association had announced two events for today. It seems that the first event, a “Walk and meal” 28th March 2018 3pm. Wrightington, Upholland and Skelmersdale branch are holding a walk at 3pm and meal at 5pm. Walk along the Leeds to Liverpool Canal. Cost £15. Contact Cllr Carolyn Evans”  might have knackered the members and so the later event “Forum for the Future also 28th March 2018 7pm for 7:30pm Meal with glass of wine £10. Briars Hall , Briars Lane, Lathom, Ormskirk is now EVENT CANCELLED. Or maybe £25 is too much for the pleasure? 

Rosie Cooper Welcomes Locals’ Parrs Lane Victory

West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper has welcomed the decision by the Planning Inspectorate to dismiss the appeal by developers to build on the Parrs Lane site in Aughton.

She said “This is a fantastic win for those residents who have campaigned for so many years initially against the site’s inclusion in the Local Plan and continued the fight through the planning application and appeal stages.

“We don’t often see such wins for local democracy but I am pleased that the Planning Inspectorate has taken on board the valid views of Aughton residents and West Lancashire Borough Council in turning down this appeal to develop land at the Parrs Lane site .

“It is important to build houses to provide for young and first time buyers but such development should always be in appropriate settings and developers can’t be left to cherry pick where they wish to build based on profits, housing should be built based on where there is a need and not based on where the greatest profits are”.

Wirral Council Planning Cock-up Six Years Ago!

Planning permission issued in error by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council  six years ago has been quashed by the High Court. Mr Justice Kerr said exceptional circumstances meant a challenge could be brought long after the normal time limit for judicial review.

The case of Thornton Hall Hotel Ltd, R (On the Application Of) v Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council [2018] EWHC 560 (Admin) was brought by the Thornton Hall Hotel against Wirral, with its business rival Thornton Holdings as an interested party.

Thornton Hall Hotel, and Thornton Holdings’ nearby Thornton Manor, are competitors for hosting weddings and functions. In December 2011, Wirral granted unconditional planning permission for three marquees in the grounds of Thornton Manor, without any time limit.

Wirral and Thornton Hall Hotel argued that this was an error that should be rectified as the council’s planning committee had intended permission should depend on several conditions, one of which was that it would lapse in December 2016. However, the document formally granting the permission erroneously omitted all the conditions.

The marquees therefore remained in place after December 2016 with bookings continuing to be taken. The judge said “I am satisfied that the decision notice did not faithfully reproduce the decision made by the planning committee and that the cause of the error is likely to have been, at least, human failing”.

He said he would allow the case out of time as Thornton Manor “bears considerable responsibility for the lateness of the claim because it knew of the error and chose to remain silent about it”, adding “In my judgment, the court should now exercise its power to rectify the error by quashing the permission”. This was because “the planning permission that was issued is not as it should be” because they are in Green Belt and were intended to be permitted only because hiring fees would pay for restoration of the adjacent gardens.

The judge added “The interested party ran its commercial operation at Thornton Manor from 22 December 2011 knowing that the presence of the marquees after 19 December 2016 would be, at the very least, a matter of possible controversy and possible legal challenge. It was not, in my judgment, realistic to rely on expiry of the three month limitation period without also bringing the issue into the open, which the interested party decided not to do.”

He said “Given the failure of the interested party to draw the LPA’s attention to the apparent error, it is unattractive then to assert that the claimant and the LPA bear responsibility for the delay in the matter coming to light”, and he rejected the argument that Thornton Manor had marquee bookings to honour until 2020 since it enjoyed planning permission for this only by “keeping silent about the obvious error that had been made”.