Monthly Archives: May 2018

Progress And Fiasco Or “No Progress And Total Fiasco” At Beacon Park Golf Course?

If progress at the Beacon Park Golf Course is measured by the total amount of landfill dumped there then there has been much of it. Planning permission was awarded by the then Tory controlled WLBC on the basis of “give it all to Serco” who were involved in West Lancashire leisure facilities from as long ago as September 2004. In the now infamous letter from Serco Leisure to the then Acting Leisure Services Manager John Nelson, Serco sought and received “Authority To Proceed” with the management and operation of all but the Beacon Park Golf Course. That came later!

As the Chief Executive of Serco Group plc Rupert Soames wrote to Rosie Cooper on 24 December 2015 “We were contacted in November 2011 asking if we would take on the management of the course as the previous management company had served notice of their intention to quit as they were losing money on the course. Owing to our positive working relationship with West Lancashire Borough Council, the Trust and Serco agreed to take on the management of the course in order to keep it open and preserve its legacy for West Lancashire”.

Some legacy! Serco gave us what they claimed to be “inheritance of the current land re-profiling agreement”. Mr Soames wrote that “The current land re-profiling has been underway for far longer than originally planned and has indeed had an adverse effect on the users of Beacon Park”. Having written this on 24 December 2015 and here we are in late May 2018 you might wonder what Mr Soames will be thinking when he is told his company is now in receipt of a Breach of Condition Notice .

As we now learn, Rosie Cooper wants to meet with Serco Directors to get to the bottom of what really has gone on. It’s fairly simple. Excessive dumping over and above the maximum height means more than the allowed 23,375 HGV loads to deliver 187,000 cubic metres of landfill has “gone on” and the “royalties” have increased commensurate with the uncontrolled dumping.

Perhaps when, and if, Rosie Cooper does meet Serco Directors she might remind them of another statement from Mr Soames that “At the end of the second phase we plan to install a foot-golf course (subject to planning consent). Therefore there are a small number of low usage ancillary areas that have been lost [the driving range!]. However, they have all been to further develop the facility and add a wider range of facilities for the wider populous”. You couldn’t make it up!

What was applied for in 2011? “Partial remodelling of existing golf course and driving range and creation of new nine hole short course”. What do we have? Total devastation of the driving range, and a new nine hole heap of rubbish with no recognisable topsoil and exposed bricks and concrete, all without health and safety features. WLBC monitoring of this once famous course has been pitiful.

The arrogance of WLBC in relation to this matter of what is now revealed, that “The breach of condition notice relates particularly to the profiling of a part of the course, whereby the maximum height allowed under the original planning consent has been exceeded, with the quantity of infill which should have been added over the whole site has been concentrated in one area” is appalling. In July 2017 I asked WLBC under Freedom of Information Act 2000 “In respect of “The conditions for planning application 2011/0787/FUL that included “Phase 3 Formation of a 9Hole short course on 3.7ha of land located to the west of Beacon Lane and to the north of Elmers Green Lane. This will be formed by the importation of 65,000m³ of inert soil with mounds and ridges to a maximum of 168mAOD”. Will West Lancashire Borough Council a) confirm by independent professional assessment that the existing uncompleted 9Hole short course referred to does not exceed the permitted 168mAOD (average height) of all its mounds and ridges and b) will West Lancashire Borough Council disclose the latest expected date for the 9Hole short course completion and use by the public?”

The reply 15 August 2017 “Thank you for your email of 26th July 2017 in which you made the following request for information; a) confirm by independent professional assessment that the existing uncompleted 9Hole short course referred to does not exceed the permitted 168mAOD (average height) of all its mounds and ridges and b) will West Lancashire Borough Council disclose the latest expected date for the 9Hole short course completion and use by the public? In response, I can confirm that a survey of the site has confirmed that the mounds and ridges of the 9 hole short hole course does not exceed 168m AOD. Weather permitting, the plan is still to open in spring/summer 2018, but as it involves the grass growing and being appropriately treated and conditioned this could change. The Council will endeavour to keep everyone informed of any changes, should there be any. If you have any queries concerning the information provided, please do not hesitate to contact me. Yours sincerely, John Harrison DipEnvP, MRTPI. Director of Development and Regeneration. West Lancashire Borough Council.

Same day, 15 August 2017 I asked “Dear Harrison, John, Please publish the detailed site survey including the date undertaken and was the surveyor independent of WLBC or an employee of WLBC? Yours sincerely, Alan Lenton”.

21 August 2017 “Dear Mr Lenton, Thank you for your email of the 15th August. The survey was undertaken on behalf of the Council in June 2017 by Survey Operations, which is a local independent survey company. The Council does not propose to “publish” the survey drawing as there is no requirement to do so. I have however attached for your information a PDF copy of the survey drawing which details spot heights across the site . If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and should be addressed to Kim Webber, Chief Executive. Regards. John Harrison DipEnvP, MRTPI. Director of Development and Regeneration. West Lancashire Borough Council”.

21 August 2017 “Dear Harrison, John, Thank you for your reply and the attachment. Unfortunately your reference to the attachment as a “survey drawing which details spot heights across the site” is of little help to me or possibly any other West Lancashire resident who is interested in “real” heights the Planning Statement documents referred to. There has been no mention in the planning application that “spot heights” will form part of any report. By stating that “The Council does not propose to “publish” the survey drawing as there is no requirement to do so” demeans the requirement for transparency that WLBC has set itself. Please reconsider your response. Yours sincerely, Alan Lenton

22 September 2017 “Dear Harrison, John, Your response to my request for a sight of the survey drawing, that you then claim is not a council requirement, is frankly uncalled for. A spot height survey is not something residents like me can relate to in terms of massive landfill on a golf course. This course is a public asset, not one reserved to officers for responses such as yours. In the light of your refusal I ask for an internal review by the Chief Executive. Yours sincerely, Alan Lenton”.

17 October 2017 “Dear Mr Lenton. Thank you for your email dated 22 September 2017 in which you requested that I carry out an internal review of the Council’s response to your Freedom of Information request dated 15 August 2017. The Decision-On 15 August 2017 you asked the Council “to publish the detailed site survey including the date undertaken” and asked if the surveyor was independent of WLBC. In response to that request, Mr Harrison confirmed that the survey was carried out by an independent survey company in June 2017. He informed you that the Council does not propose to publish the survey as there is no requirement to do so, but to assist you he provided a copy of the survey to you. Outcome of my Review. I have now conducted a review of the Council’s decision and I can find no fault with this. Mr Harrison explained that although the Council did not intend to publish the survey, he would provide you with a copy of it, and did so, for your information. Next Steps. If you are not content with the outcome of an internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications. Yours sincerely Kim Webber BSc (Hons) MSc Chief Executive West Lancashire Borough Council”.

As it now happens, the value of the “spot heights across the site survey” is irrelevant. What matters is that WLBC, under a legal liability not to mislead the public, has done so and has been found out. What will be the total loss Rosie Cooper refers to as she stated “I will continue to pursue this matter as there should be proper accountability by those who made these poor decisions which I believe led to a loss of revenue to WLBC and its council taxpayers from both the course and the proceeds from the amount of rubble and waste materials which have been dumped”. The FoI details can be found here

The Serco Beacon Park Golf Course Scandal

The ongoing scandal of the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill by WLBC/Serco/Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd has come to a head as West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper is pleased to report she has had confirmation from West Lancashire Borough Council that they have served a ‘Breach of Condition Notice’ on the management at Beacon Park Golf Course, Serco .

The breach of condition notice relates particularly to the profiling of a part of the course, whereby the maximum height allowed under the original planning consent has been exceeded for the old driving range , with the quantity of infill which should have been added over the whole site has been concentrated in one area . It is blindingly obvious that the heights created by landfill dumped there are excessive, as we have shown time and again. 

This notice is the latest in a long-running five year saga at the course since Serco took on the management of the facility but outsourced the work to Oaklands Leisure [Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd] which has caused local residents to complain that there was little scrutiny or oversight of the type or quantity of the materials being dumped at the course, nor the money being made by subcontractors.

MP Rosie has raised these issues with both WLBC and Serco Chiefs on many occasions previously, and most recently met with Council Deputy Directors of Leisure, and Housing & Inclusion. 

Rosie is well aware of this   and she has said “What has been going on with Beacon Park Golf Course over many years has been a disgrace and it is timely that action is at last being taken to rectify the situation but this doesn’t end the matter.

“I will continue to pursue this matter as there should be proper accountability by those who made these poor decisions which I believe led to a loss of revenue to WLBC and its council taxpayers from both the course and the proceeds from the amount of rubble and waste materials which have been dumped.

“Serco will now have six months to comply with the breach of condition notice and remove material from the area around the driving range and the foot golf area. I have asked to meet with Serco Directors to get to the bottom of what really has gone on”. 

Good luck with that Rosie, since when did Serco ever comply with the planning conditions and when did WLBC itself ever accept what this website published that proved landfill made huge profits from this once wonderful leisure facility? Where are the landfill royalties? In the deep pockets of profiteering privatised company directors!

WLBC should now hold a public inquiry into how so much control over this facility was given to Serco and Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd, where the landfill fees are, and will Serco be allowed to continue the extended contract it was awarded. Three extra years? It is outrageous!

Extended Deadline To Order Bins, Great News For “Some” Residents?

It seems that following an overwhelming response, West Lancashire Borough Council has announced that the deadline to order bins has been extended until 16 July to give residents more time to request the wheeled bins they need to recycle their waste. Those residents that have already received their new bins can start using them from 4th June. This is “great news for residents” but not all residents will agree.

Residents who previously signed up to the garden waste service will receive the same number of brown bins, which will now be used for garden waste, free of charge if they sign up again for the same number, before the extended deadline. One green bin can then be used for paper and cardboard recycling.

For residents who don’t have gardens and never received a free green bin, which is now needed for paper and cardboard recycling, one will be available free of charge if requested before the extended deadline of 16th July; after which the normal charges for replacement bins will apply.

Whilst is it acknowledged that a number of years ago, residents were given an option to retain their blue box, the service provision is now changing so that the Council can work towards meeting its recycling target of 50% by 2020. Blue boxes  will only be retained and collected from premises that are unable to have a blue bin on site due to their design or if there are vehicle access issues to the location.

All other properties will receive a standard wheeled bin  collection service for each waste stream and therefore any residents who need a blue bin will need to order one at the normal charges.

The new bin system has been introduced to make it easier for residents and provide greater capacity for them to recycle as much as possible to help the Council reach its recycling target. It will also help contain the material better, keeping streets cleaner and helping to make collection rounds safer and more efficient.

Councillor Kevin Wilkie, portfolio holder for Street Scene said “This is great news for residents. If you have already placed an order for a bin you do not need to get in touch again as this will be processed as soon as possible and residents can continue to use their existing containers until the new bins are delivered”.

Deliveries of the new bins will continue into the summer and then the old spare green bins will be collected. Residents who had more than one green bin for garden waste do not need to contact the Council regarding the collection of their old bins but are asked where possible to leave them in an accessible place and they will be collected after the brown bins have been rolled out.

Historic Women Score Labour 16 Tory 6

Local Labour believes it is fitting that in 2018, the centenary of the first women winning the right to vote in the UK, the recent local elections have delivered historic victories for women councillors across the Borough.

After West Lancashire Labour took seats in Burscough and North Meols, and retained seats in Ormskirk and Skelmersdale with women candidates, the balance of the West Lancashire Labour Group is now almost fifty percent women to men. Of the thirty three seats on the council held by the ruling Labour Group, sixteen are now held by women. All five new Labour Councillors are women, which has led to a significant improvement in the gender balance of the council.

Deputy Leader of the council, Cllr Yvonne Gagen  believes “This is a fantastic result for all women across the borough of West Lancashire, as it brings a greater representative balance to the council. Each of our new councillors went through a rigorous selection process and were chosen by their local residents as outstanding candidates for their wards.

“They all went on to fight a determined campaign, just like the women who fought for our right to vote 100 years ago. The Labour Party is committed to gender equality in politics and we are immensely proud that West Lancashire is leading the way locally in achieving this”.

The new Labour Councillors elected on 3 May are: Burscough East Ward Cllr Sue Evans, Burscough West Ward Cllr Cynthia Dereli, Ormskirk Knowsley Ward Cllr Michelle Aldridge, North Meols Ward Cllr Kath Lockie, and Skelmersdale South Ward Cllr Vickie Cummins. 

By contrast the local Tory party has a mere 6 women and 13 men including their Wyre two-hatter, as oblivion beckons election by election.

Scruffy Neglected Aughton, Again!

Once again it appears that Aughton, no doubt like other parts of the borough, is suffering from neglect. This is the pavement  on Granville Park  at the entrance to the Co-op car park. Mind how you go!

Here is the foot bridge  with its wrecked fence .

And here  is the wreckage of the wall near the station approach from opposite Granville Park, as I observed it being hit by an Arriva bus reversing out of Granville Park at 07.20 this morning. The driver may have turned into Granville Park by mistaking it for Winifred Lane, which is where his bus disappeared without him stopping to observe his damaged bus or the wall. Should have gone to Specsavers?

Some Are Born Great

…some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em’. As has Councillor Noel Delaney  who has taken over the chains of office as Mayor of West Lancashire and is looking forward to his new role. During his year as Mayor he will perform many important duties including representing the Borough at civic events and raising money for Twinkle House in Skelmersdale and the scouts and guides groups at St Anne’s RC Church, Ormskirk. The Mayoress will be Mrs Ann Stubbert and Councillor Delaney’s Chaplain while he is Mayor will be Father Godric Timney from St. Anne’s RC Church.

Councillor Delaney has served a long apprenticeship before starting the top civic role, as he has held a number of titles since 2015. First he was Deputy Mayor’s consort, then Mayor’s Consort and for the last 12 months he has been Deputy Mayor, prior to being appointed as Mayor on 16 May.

Councillor Delaney said “Having left school without any formal qualifications I feel very proud and humble to be Mayor of West Lancashire. I want to promote West Lancashire as it is a great place to live and work. I hadn’t planned to be Mayor when I started being Deputy Mayor’s Consort, but when I was nominated to be Deputy Mayor I felt I had covered a lot of duties and I ‘knew the ropes’, so now I am really looking forward to being Mayor. There have already been a lot of highlights for me in civic roles and I even got to meet Prince Harry when he came to ‘Cast North West’ in Newburgh. I have met a lot of great people from voluntary organisations and I am looking forward to meeting more”.

The second youngest of five brothers, Councillor Delaney moved to West Lancashire from Dublin in Ireland with his parents when he was 11. After going to a Catholic school in Burscough he was one of the first cohort of pupils at St Bede’s High School, Ormskirk when it first opened. After leaving school his first job was working at ‘Southport Cakes’ in Burscough and from there he joined another firm called ‘Superwoods’, which among other things made crates for beer bottles. He played a role in helping to build Skelmersdale new town, working for the North West Gas Board as a service layer for 15 years.

Then it was back to St Bede’s RC High School 1978 for a six-year stint as caretaker before he got a job working as a porter at Lancashire County Council’s education buildings in Ormskirk.

While many people look to put their feet up when they retire Councillor Delaney wanted to serve the community by becoming a Councillor, representing Scott Ward since 2010. During his time with the Council he has served as Chairman of the Licensing and Gambling Committee and Vice-Chairman of the Licensing and Appeals Committee.

In his spare time Councillor Delaney is a keen horse racing fan and actually part owns two racehorses, one called Mulligatawny and another called Elusive Heights shown here.

The new Deputy Mayor is Councillor Gaynar Owen  from Up Holland Ward, who has been on the Council since 2012 and is currently Chairman of the Licensing and Appeals Committee and Vice-Chairman of the Licensing and Gambling Committee. Anyone fancy a bet on Elusive Heights?

Wyre Cllr Moon In Touch

It’s been two weeks since Wyre/WLBC two hatter Cllr Moon wrote that “his Hesketh Bank seat was…only a very temporary arrangement” as he’s “Preesall through and through” and “you won’t be losing me to anyone let alone WL. All it has been is a helping hand to that area but it is due to come to an end very soon”…”It’s long standing news Clement, it was only a very temporary arrangement”.

While still wondering just how temporary it was , and how soon is it coming to an end, we note that he is active in publicising his planning duties as shown here today on facebook Paul Moon. 30 mins ago. Hi there folks. If it’s ok with admin I hope it’s ok to let people know about the planning committee meetings at Wyre Council. They are held every first Wednesday of each month at the Civic Center, Poulton let Fylde and start at 2pm. The agenda is always published on the web site the week before. Planning isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it does impact on us all one way of the other. So if you’re ever at a loose end please feel free and have a listen to the debate. If an application affects you there is always the opportunity to have you say in the public speaking section of each application. Everyone is made welcome”.

Funnily enough the Full Council at West Lancashire Borough Council impacts on us all one way or the other, including the electorate of Hesketh-with Becconsall he represents, an expression we use lightly as he didn’t represent them due to his absence on 16 May. 

Blue Boxes Or Blue Wheelie Bins, If You Wished?

On Thursday, 28 February, 2013 the WLBC controlling Tory group made a public commitment about the public having an option of either a blue bin or a blue box, with no mention or question of payment over choice either then or in the future.

It stated “Conservative controlled West Lancs Borough Council is investing in new blue recycling bins for residents and improvements to public open spaces in Burscough and Skelmersdale. The Conservative Group budget, announced last night, paved the way for residents to have the option of having their blue recycling box replaced with a wheelie bin if they wish. The budget also announced investment in Burscough’s Richmond Park, improvements in Skelmersdale, and funding for a graduate trainee. £100,000 has also been set aside to deal with issues at the playing fields in Abbey Lane. Council Tax was also frozen for the fourth year in a row. The Labour Group refused to support these measures, and instead abstained on the budget. This investment comes hot on the heels of investment announced last year for improvements in Ormskirk and the expansion of CCTV across West Lancashire.

“Conservative Group finance spokesman Cllr David Westley said “Unlike Labour, we have been financially prudent and this has enabled us to invest despite tough times. Had we followed Labour’s suggestions, we would have had no money to invest in frontline service improvements because it would have been blown on bureaucracy and waste. This is a good news budget from the Conservative Group”.

“Conservative Group leader Cllr Ian Grant  said “The council’s waste and recycling collection service is perhaps one of the most visible frontline services as it is the one which residents see every week. Our recycling rates have increased since the Conservative Group introduced kerbside recycling around 10 years ago. With residents now having the option of having a blue bin, if they wish, we are hopeful it will lead to increased satisfaction with the service”.

“Cllr David Sudworth , Conservative spokesman for leisure, welcomed the investment in Burscough and Skelmersdale “I am pleased this Conservative council is continuing to invest in public open spaces. Richmond Park has a new Friends of the Park Group, instigated by this Conservative council, and I hope that, coupled with this boost, it will open up a new chapter for the park. I am also pleased we are allocating £100,000 to tackle the ongoing issues at Abbey Lane. For Skelmersdale, we are looking to regenerate the area behind the library and install new seating to make it more attractive, as well as undertaking some necessary repairs. I am sure residents will be puzzled as to why Labour could not bring themselves to vote for these proposals”. Burscough Conservative Cllr Ruth Melling welcomed the investment locally “This shows that despite tough times, Conservatives are working hard and delivering investment into Burscough. It is a shame Labour refused to support this”.

On Monday, March 10, 2014 WLBC stated “Free blue wheelie bins are proving popular with residents in West Lancashire as the Council moves ahead with its scheme to make it easier for people to recycle household waste. New blue wheelie bins encourage residents to go green and recycle even more waste…Each property receives a leaflet explaining the new system two weeks before the bins are delivered. The leaflet includes a yellow sticker, and any resident who wishes to continue to use a blue box rather than a bin can follow the instructions on the leaflet to put the sticker on their blue box.

“Residents who feel strongly that they want to continue to use a blue box are able to do so. People who do this are advised that they will not be able to present for collection any extra glass, plastic or cans that do not fit into the blue box. The Council will only empty one blue box per household. If the box gets damaged or lost it will not be replaced with another box, but with a blue wheelie bin”.

Again, no costs are mentioned, not even for a replacement bin. Many people still have the boxes, undamaged. For them to be told now that blue boxes won’t be emptied, pay £25 to keep on recycling, is an insult and penalises those whose waste is so little as to only need the small blue box. This policy demeans the council. It is beneath dignity and should be changed.

“This Is All A Load Of Rubbish!”

In what is turning out to be one of the council’s worst public relations exercises ever, Roger Blaxall of QLocal  was on the ball, or perhaps we should say “on the bin” at WLBC as he writes “This was the scene at the busy Borough Council office earlier this week as pensioners queued  to try to make sense of the authority’s controversial new bin scheme. Cue the obvious quip by one “This is all a load of rubbish!”

And so it is. Some among us, old and living alone with no need of huge wheelie bins stacked like statues, would like to keep the old blue box. But WLBC wants them all not only to stop the box but pay 25 quid for the privilege. In other words it’s all about money. There is seemingly no respect for differing circumstances by this local council.

Roger Blaxall continued “And cue the WLBC PR spin ‘West Lancashire Borough Council has welcomed the overwhelming response from residents to order their wheeled bin requirements before 4 June. In a bid to reach its recycling target of 50% by 2020, the Council has made a number of changes to the bins residents need for their recycling.

“Brown bins are being introduced only to those residents that sign up to the garden waste service, green bins will be used for paper and cardboard recycling and blue bins will be used for plastic bottles, glass and cans recycling. While Council staff are working hard to deal with telephone enquiries the quickest and easiest way for residents to find out more about the changes to the recycling services, order a new wheeled bin and sign up to the Council’s garden waste collection service is to go to the website and follow the relevant links. You can also access a host of other Council services through the website”.

Councillor Ian Moran, Leader of West Lancashire Borough Council, said “It has been an extremely busy time with the Council’s Customers Services team receiving an unprecedented number of calls regarding changes to the refuse and recycling service. We acknowledge it has been frustrating for some residents trying to get through to the Council and I would like to apologise for this. We are now making good progress processing all the requests for new bins.

“The Council would like to reassure residents that when they place their order online for a replacement or new wheeled bin or subscribe to the garden waste service that their request is being processed and there is no need to contact the authority to confirm this. Delivery of wheeled bins is taking place daily, including Saturdays in the lead up to the 4 June launch”.

WLBC leaflet states “Blue boxes will only be collected from those properties that have to remain on a box collection due to their design or vehicle access issues. For all other properties we will collect your recyclable waste from the blue bin and will no longer collect from the blue box. You can either use the box for storage or dispose of it at the household recycling centre”.

As Roger says “Perhaps the Council forgot that many older folk have an innate distrust of the internet, or simply can’t access it – or even know how to use it…”

But thankfully they can still descend en masse at the council office their council tax pays for and make it known they are being shafted! There could be this many  next week!

Has A Tory ‘Old Guard’ Been Swept Aside Tonight?

No, not in West Lancashire. The Lancashire Post  carries news that “A troubled council could see a seismic shift in power tonight if the “old guard” are swept aside following a power struggle within the ruling Conservative group. South Ribble Borough Council could see a new leader, a new cabinet and a new committee line-up voted in at the authority’s first business meeting of the municipal year. Former Mayor Coun Mary Green, who won a leadership contest within the Tory group recently, is expected to be elected to head the council, replacing Coun Peter Mullineaux who announced last month he would be standing down after less than two years.

Coun Caroline Moon was voted in as her deputy and she is expected to figure in a younger cabinet which could also feature Councillors Warren Bennett and Michael Green, the leader’s son. A council member, who asked not to be named, welcomed the shake-up saying “It’s long overdue. Changes are sure to be good for the council because we a change of direction. “Bringing in younger people with new ideas and a new energy is much-needed, especially after the events of the past couple of years or so. We’ve just been going round in circles”. New committee appointments have already been announced, with less than half the chairs retaining their roles. The shake-up is the latest upheaval for the council following the taxi licensing scandal and follows bitter in-fighting within the Conservative group.

When Coun Green was voted in as group leader last month she pledged to heal the wounds which have torn apart the Tories over the past two years. “We want change, we want fresh ideas” she said. “My main aim is to unite the (Tory) group I think that’s vital. It’s about teamwork now. It’s not been a team for a while”.

So what’s the betting on more revelations and more shake-ups around Conservative groups in Lancashire?