Month: March 2018

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”.

Work And Pensions Staff Bonuses

  Rosie Cooper MP Labour, West Lancashire
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much was awarded to staff of her Department in bonuses in each of the last three financial years.

 Kit Malthouse MP Conservative, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
In 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17 DWP headcount was 89805, 84698 and 83851 respectively. In addition to annual salaries our staff were paid an annual, non-consolidated, performance-related bonus. For the majority of our most junior grades, AA to EO, the amounts were, on average in each year, £463. Total payments were: 2014/2015 £42,132,346; 2015/2016 £40,074,154; 2016/2017 £41,359,617.

Rosie Cooper didn’t mention junior grades in her question. We can only wonder how much the higher graded higher paid staff received in bonuses…we should be told!

No More Politics By Facebook?

As the Facebook data privacy scandal grows ever worse, will it have an effect on local politics? Locally, OWLs use Facebook more than Labour who use it more than Conservatives. Perhaps a $50billions loss of its share price might soon end any market and community value?

But meantime the OWLs raised the issue of “Planning – did you know WLBC officers are considering more than 250 possible housing development sites in West Lancashire? Further, Labour and Conservative councillors are meeting regularly behind closed doors  in a cabinet working group (OWL councillors are excluded) that is drawing up a local plan that aims to build many thousands of new homes in our area and release further green belt. Main party councillors will probably follow instructions and policies laid down by HQ. Independent OWLs vote for their residents’ interests only.

“A new local plan is a long process. The first votes for councillors will take place in the autumn but there will be plenty of other opportunities to help residents make their voices heard loud and clearly. The more councillors we have that are Independent of party whips and free to vote to represent the interests of the residents who elect them the better. There is still time for more Independent candidates in the local elections in a few weeks”.

Cllr John Hodson responded “Cllr Owens either doesn’t understand the Local Plan Review process or is pretending he doesn’t. The Local Plan Cabinet Working Group is just that, a working Group which has to consider ALL inputs into the process before making a recommendation to Cabinet. It is not “secret” [Definition-something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others!] it is confidential [Definition-intended to be kept secret!], for good reason as land values can be drastically altered by designate on for development and so needs to be treated impartially and free from influence. I chair the LPCWG and have not received a single instruction from HQ. It’s not often the OWLs get anything right and on this one they are wrong again!” Ouch!

Landmark Chambers Reports Aughton Success

Inspector dismisses re-determined appeals in West Lancashire. DATE: 23 Mar 2018

An Inspector (Kevin Ward BA (Hons) MRTPI) has dismissed two re-determined appeals by Redrow Homes Ltd and Wainhomes Developments Ltd for in total 400 houses in Aughton, West Lancashire.

On 19 August 2016 Wainhomes’ appeal had been allowed by the previous Inspector but this was quashed by the High Court, see: in R (West Lancashire Borough Council) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2017] EWHC 3451. On 9 December 2016 the previous Inspector had refused Redrow’s appeal. This decision was quashed by the High Court by consent.

Both appeals fell to be re-determined and a re-opened conjoined inquiry was held on 30 – 31 January and 1 – 2 February 2018. The Inspector concluded that West Lancashire had a 5 year supply of land. He also concluded that in calculating completions of housing it was not appropriate to take account of losses of C3 uses (dwelling houses) to C4 uses (HMOs). The debate between the parties on this issue concerned the definition of communal establishments by the Office for National Statistics and in the 2011 census.

James Maurici QC 

acted for the successful local planning authority, West Lancashire Borough Council.

Cycling Funds Abused?

Our local councils, WLBC and LCC, have abysmal records on cycling and road safety. But the non-use, or abuse, of available funding for cycling safety has become the subject of a challenge from OWL  member Cllr Adrian Owens .

He writes about “The saga of the long delayed cycle route from the town centre to Edge Hill”

“As a result of development at Edge Hill, Edge Hill had to provide monies (known technically as Section 106 monies) to mitigate the impacts of development that could not be mitigated through conditions on the development itself. One of these is the impact on roads of travel to and from the University and so monies sit in the Borough Council’s bank to provide a cycle route between the stations in Ormskirk Town centre and the University.

“The County Council (I get a sinking feeling now simply typing those words) is responsible for coming up with a scheme to spend this money. Their West Lancashire Transport Masterplan promised the cycle route would be complete by March 2017. Throughout the period 2015-2017, County Council Officers responsible for this scheme came and went, portfolio holders changed and I and Borough Council officers became increasingly frustrated and yet nothing progressed.

“The County Council came up with a scheme that was elaborate and hundreds of thousands of pounds greater than the budget available and so was shelved. Therefore, last year, working with one dedicated local resident from Ruff Lane, we drew up an alternative, fully-costed scheme which was checked by Quantity Surveyors from a large Civil Engineering company. This would not only have provided a safe route from the bus/rail stations to Edge Hill, but also have provided quality speed calming measures on Ruff Lane.

“That speed calming is important. What student or other cyclist  is going to take their lives in their hands by using two wheeled transport with the speeds witnessed on our roads? The 20 mph signs are simply not sufficient. The scheme we costed came well within the amount of monies provided by Edge Hill, yet the County Council rejected it without much consideration because it utilised Knowsley Road which was deemed “too narrow”. Given that Knowsley Road is part of the A570 arterial road and no detailed rationale for this statement about it being “too narrow” being given, I remain of the view that this route should be seriously considered.

“In the meantime we have money sat in the bank; a scheme that is already two years late; no plan in place; no speed calming on Ruff Lane; nor the improved facilities for students and others to cycle. When local residents and councillors take the time and trouble they have, then the County Council needs to adopt a more cooperative and energetic approach. Then perhaps Ormskirk might see at least ONE transport improvement”.

The WLBC list of infrastructure projects is a requirement of CIL Regulation 123. It is therefore known as a ‘Regulation 123 list’, or ‘R123 list’ for short. The WLBC R123 includes “Strategic transport and highways improvements or provision to include: cycle network provision and improvements”.

Can anyone hold out hopes of us being told how much S106 (R123) is available to provide relief of the frustration caused?