Posted by: westlancashirerecord | March 9, 2018

Labour’s Great Land Grab Revealed?

Are we soon to see a Labour land grab, or are the Conservatives on West Lancs Borough Council claiming to be “up in arms about Labour’s secret plans for a massive release of land from the greenbelt for a new and unnecessary Local Plan” just for a political stunt? A Local Plan for a huge increase in the existing annual target for new homes and commercial use.

Most surprising of all, Labour apparently want to provide land to meet the housing and commercial needs of neighbouring councils. This news comes from that well known “expert on Local Plan stunts” the Conservative Leader Cllr David Westley .

Westley said on the Conservative website “The existing Adopted Local Plan still has 9 years to run yet Labour are clearly intent on producing a new Plan, one that will cover an unprecedented 30 years and need the release of hundreds of acres of prime agricultural land in our greenbelt.

“Labour also want to dispense with the present use of safeguarding potential future sites. This means the Council would abdicate its responsibility to manage the release of sites and allow developers or as they term it the “market” to decide which sites should be developed first. It would also mean all the sites needed for the next 30 years would be available for development from the 2020.

“Labour’s plans are irresponsible and if implemented would have hugely detrimental effect right across West Lancashire. Labour do not appreciate the importance of our greenbelt not understand that the Council should act as its custodian and all councillors should be determined to maintain it for future generations. The Conservative group are determined to oppose Labour’s reckless plans”.

A copy of Westley’s letter to the Labour Leader can be read here.

But all is not as Wally claims, as a quick check with Labour confirms the forthcoming Local Plan is at a stage where actual figures have yet to be determined and as such the Local Plan Cabinet Working Group are not in a position to comment on the ‘Preferred Options’ stage of the process. Indeed, Labour claims, there is an embargo placed on this until later in the year.

Labour further state that comments coming from the Conservatives whilst no surprise are an indication that despite the embargo being in place and minuted accordingly, are prepared to play fast and loose in order to try and purchase some ‘wriggle-room’ from their self imposed predicament arising from the current adopted Local Plan.

The Labour view is that for the Conservatives to start bandying around figures is both irresponsible and misleading, not mentioning that their own Government is currently cooking up further stratagems to wrest planning control away from local democracy in order to try and redress the housing crisis which is in no small part due to their craven adoption of matters such as the ‘Test of Viability’ following intense lobbying by…. yes the big Housing Developers themselves! You couldn’t make it up!

“Reflecting on Westley’s previous assurances over ‘Safeguarded Sites’ and how it was impossible that they would be prematurely released clearly demonstrates his lack of in depth knowledge of Planning policies when he couldn’t even foresee the loopholes created by his own Government ( para 49 of the NPPF for anyone interested) For him to comment on the issue of Safeguarding shows that he is hardly the master of his subject!” Well that’s no surprise in Aughton, as we all know!

Labour claim that David Cameron once said that the ‘next big scandal would be the exposure of the degree of lobbying by vested interests, a scandal waiting to be uncovered’ and clearly the Housing market would be the first place to look given the amount of monies donated to the Conservative Party by some of them? And “they are happy to debate any planning related issues with Westley et al. But they suggest that the Conservatives  refrain from running the risk of prematurely releasing information which may undermine the process of the forthcoming Local Plan”. 

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