Monthly Archives: July 2018

Where’s Tory Candidate Vernon?

Tory foot soldiers, plodding around Knowsley ward in the extreme heat we have experienced to support their candidate, will have been incensed to hear George Vernon, after coming third, didn’t even attend the election count.

Roger Blaxall of the QLocal  website reports Tory leader Westley citing the “after effects of the hot weather” for his absence. “Really,  perhaps the heat is on for local Conservatives after this disappointing display?”

The demise of the local Tory party is often mentioned. Who can forget the “glums”  from a few years ago? But a turnaround like this is, plain and simple, a leadership issue, and don’t ask “what leadership”!

Perhaps next time there won’t be any foot soldiers, people might say “I’m doing a George Vernon”!

Halsall Developers Screwed By Riparian Rights Of Home Owners

In a remarkable planning application case at WLBC  Planning Committee last night, developers L & C Developments (Southport) Ltd proposed a Variation of Condition No. 2 of planning permission 2017/0891/FUL relating to the layout of the development to allow for amended house types to incorporate garages and porches. The summary stated “This is an application to vary condition number 2 of planning permission 2017/0891/FUL relating to the layout of the development to allow for amended house types to incorporate garages and porches. The proposed design, layout and appearance is considered to be acceptable. Satisfactory interface distances have been achieved in order to protect neighbouring residential amenity and adequate parking has been provided. The proposed drainage details and landscaping proposals are considered to be acceptable. Therefore, I consider the proposal complies with the relevant policies of the Local Plan”. All cut and dried then? 

But the impact on drainage has always been a major issue. Nevertheless WLBC stated “The updated drainage strategy for this site has been assessed by the Council’s Drainage Engineer and he raises no objections and is of the opinion that it satisfies technical requirements. I am satisfied that the principle of an acceptable drainage scheme has been provided and subject to the imposition of a suitable condition, the proposed scheme complies with the requirements of Policy GN3 in the Local Plan”. 

The satisfaction of the Council Drainage Engineer did not last long when Halsall Parish Councillor Neil Campbell explained the Riparian Rights of local residents as owners of Sandy Brook who could, and would, deny developers any legal, illegal, licenced, or unlicenced connection for any additional surface water outflow for a housing development, other than “flood flow”.

Granting the change of planning conditions was seemingly pointless. What would have been a straight forward grant was torpedoed by HPC Cllr Campbell. The owner of land abutting a natural watercourse, be it a river, stream or ditch (a riparian owner), has the benefit of a number of additional rights which have been established over time at common law. Such rights may not appear on the Land Registry title to the land and will automatically pass on a conveyance of the land in question meaning that future owners will take the benefit of them without any need for express assignment of the right. In addition to obtaining the benefit of these riparian rights, a riparian owner also assumes certain responsibilities; including an obligation not to interfere with the riparian rights of other upstream and downstream land owners, who will have a right of action should their rights be interfered with.

It is reported that some people attending the meeting became pale and others a bit puce, as officers held hurried conversations, observed with a hand over the microphone to the left of the Chairs position. WLBC Cllr Nicola Pryce Roberts  is reported to have asked some specific targeted questions regarding the surface water issues on this site which doesn’t flow away naturally but needs pumping otherwise the area turns into a bog!

It was then disclosed that Riparian owners’ representative have been in contact with the Environment Agency and United Utilities regarding two surface water outfalls, one of which was polluting the brook with foul waste. Having been reported, investigations were ongoing with enforcement action authorised by the Riparian owners to act on their behalf.

Councillors and senior planning officials struggled to put the change of conditions vote on track but it was evident that the planning application had serious issues to overcome to achieve a successful completion. No doubt there will be some serious head scratching and discussion within various departments within West Lancashire Borough Council.

In summary, the “Collective Riparian owners of the watercourse drainage ditch known as Sandy Brook, starting at No 2, New Cut Close, Halsall, and running behind properties of Guildford Road, Birkdale, Sefton, have formally refused any individual, developer, or company any rights of access or permission to allow any additional surface water discharge from any adjacent land or dwellings to flow through their section of said brook; that no permission shall be granted for any licenced, unlicensed or unauthorised connection of any surface water drain or similar type of outfall connection; that furthermore, any breech or failure to adhere to this collective refusal shall be reported to the Environment Agency, LLFA (Lancashire County Council), United Utilities, and the full support of the joint Riparian owners shall be given to all involved agencies, in the pursuit of legal enforcement action or any other measures required to protect this section of Sandy Brook.

“The collective Riparian owners’ wish to point out two water outlet connections which we believe have no permission nor are licensed with the Environment Agency, UU or the LLFA. First is a connection at the start of Sandy Brook, which is to the side of the property of No 2 New Cut Close. During heavy rainfall, raw sewerage, paper and wet wipes flow into the Brook and subsequently pollutes the watercourse. This has been reported to the Environment Agency on the 14th July 2018 (EA ref No 1632698) and United Utilities. Similar sewerage pollution issues have been reported to United Utilities over the last few months.

“The second suspected illegal watercourse outlet connection is situated to the rear of No 321 / 323 Guildford Road and No 2 New Cut Close on the far side of the Brook. It is suspected this is an unauthorised and or unlicensed outlet connection to the x10 dwelling development at No 14A New Cut Lane, Halsall.

“The collective of Riparian owners have serious concerns of the water quality and potential pollution risks, health, wildlife, environment and our risk management responsibilities under the Flood Water Management Act 2010 in association with the Water Framework Directive. The Riparian owners’ have no knowledge of who may have created these connections, give no authority and deny permission to these connections to Sandy Brook nor give any permission to discharge additional water flow through their respective Riparian sections.

“We as a collective, give the Environment Agency, the LLFA (Lancashire County Council) and United Utilities our full permission to investigate the sources of the suspected illegal connections and take the appropriate enforcement action to either remove or block off any water outlet that is or has the potential to discharge into Sandy Brook to prevent further localised flooding or additional water pollution”.

You can’t get much more screwed than that?

NB Cllr John Hodson wishes it to be known that “For clarification, this is not an unusual situation, it being a matter of differentiating between Planning Law and Civil Law. It is regularly the case that something which is allowed under Planning Law subsequently has to reach an agreement between interested parties in order to be able to proceed, as is the case in this example. The drainage issue was not in any way under consideration at Planning Committee, the application being one to vary the Conditions laid previously. Planning Committee Members have a duty to consider the application before them, judged on its own merits in Planning terms. This the Committee did.

Cllr. JE Hodson. Portfolio for Planning WLBC”

Labour Retains Knowsley Ward After Amazing OWLs Voting Increase

OWLS  had a massive increase in support for Kate Mitchell at Knowsley Ward. The result:

LAB: 41.3% (-9.6)
OWL: 35.2% (+19.9)
CON: 23.5% (-10.3)

Labour HOLD. Turnout: 34.5%. Another blow for Conservatives, clearly being led into oblivion!

Gareth Dowling Labour 641

Kate Mitchell Our West Lancashire 567

Jeffrey Vernon Conservative 364

May 2018

Michelle Aldridge Labour 1014

Jeffrey Vernon Conservative 673

Kate Mitchell Our West Lancashire 306

Time was when the Conservative Party won Knowsley ward seats. Lea 2008, Hopley 2010, Bailey 2011, but Oliver was a Labour win in 2012, followed by Dowling 2014, Hennessy 2015, Yates 2016.

But today, dumped down to third, Conservatives see their leader embroiled in a spat reported on the Champion front page. Not a major policy issue, just who claims credit for the Labour “U-Turn” on waste collection blue bins .

Readers might remember when the Conservatives led the way in local politics. Now, reduced to trying to pick up crumbs and scraping the barrel for positive news to report, their slide towards oblivion in Ormskirk must concern the membership?

In its Spring Newsletter Westley stated “The second task is the Election Campaign for West Lancashire Borough Council on the 3rd May 2018. The planning and organisation required to run an effective campaign for the local elections is considerable but I am pleased to say everything is well in hand including the approval and selection of our candidates”.


Policing of Cuadrilla Shale

So, Cuadrilla has received final hydraulic fracture consent from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for its first horizontal shale gas exploration well at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire. All other relevant planning and permits required were already secured. The company is now in the process of preparing to apply for consent to carry out hydraulic fracturing operations for its second horizontal shale gas exploration well at the same site. It is, they claim, a win for Lancashire, which has already benefited directly from over £10m of investment as a result of our exploration works at Preston New Road to date.

And the council taxpayers of Lancashire are paying over £5.6million for policing and Cuadrilla security. Where’s the justice, you might ask, when the so-called investment benefit is actually lost, not gained. And before we know where we are there will be sites all over Lancashire. So what can we look forward to? Scenes like this, , people creating this , this  and this  all from the USA, the price of progress! 

Nine Weeks And Counting For Serco

Another two weeks have passed, seemingly without any effort by Serco Leisure Operating Ltd to comply with the order to re-profile the landfill on Beacon Park Golf Course former driving range. Curious readers and golfers want to know when it will happen. It relates to the “Breach of Notice Reference E/2015/0223/BCN that was issued to Serco Leisure Operating Limited by the Borough Solicitor dated 16 May 2018. The relevant planning permission relates to 2016/0040/FUL for the “Variation of Condition 7 imposed on planning permission 2011/0787/FUL to read ”The development shall take place in accordance with the Coal Mining Risk Assessment Addendum Report produced by WSP dated November 2015” Condition 1 (A map). “The WLBC Solicitor requires Serco Operating Leisure Limited to “Remove all excess material placed on the land hatched black on Attached Plan 2 dated 11 May 2018 to provide the land profile as defined by Sections M-M, N-N, and O-O and contoured site plan all shown on plan reference 1115.14 received by the Local Planning Authority on 13 July 2011”.

Our curious readers might wonder why WLBC won’t agree to supply details of what the excess material level actually is. This was the driving range on 13 July 2011  and when landfill finished this  is our artistic view of it today. Having asked WLBC to offer pictorial evidence of what the completed level might be the answer is “Thank you for your e-mail of 11 July 2018 requesting the annotating of photographs of the Beacon Park Golf Course taken in 2011. Noting that under both the Environmental Information Regulations and the Freedom of Information Act there is no requirement for public authorities to create information that is not already held by that authority, in all the circumstances officers are unable to assist you further with this request”.

The problem with that reply is it does not disclose by how much landfill DID Serco Leisure Operating Ltd/Oakland Golf & Leisure Ltd exceed their authority. Lines on a “land profile” and or a contoured site plan are no help at all to those who want to know what tonnage of landfill will be re-profiled, and what is the destination of the removed landfill. 

It’s worth noting yet again that the then WLBC Head of Leisure and Cultural Services stated in writing “The Borough Council does not have a direct contractual agreement with Serco Leisure Operating Limited for the operation of the Beacon Golf Course. West Lancashire Community Leisure Ltd is a not for profit company trust organisation (Non Profit Distributing Organisation – NPDO). They have an operating partner, Serco Leisure Operating Limited who manage the day today operations of the golf course”. But the “commercial in confidence” card has been played endlessly by Serco and WLBC to avoid disclosure of “royalties” for landfill. 

The same officer stated “The planning officers in relation to the general conditions under the planning approval and the Environment Agency in relation to the permit and licence for Oaklands [Golf and] Leisure Limited for the importation of materials on to the site. I also have a responsibility as the land falls under the leisure provision for the Council. Although the facilities are leased to West Lancashire Community Leisure the land and buildings belong to the Borough Council”. And “I can confirm that driving range will close prior to the phase 2 works and before a new play area is to be installed. It is not the intention of the operator to manage this area as a driving range in the future. I have agreed to this change in use and I am waiting for detailed proposals as to how this area will be used in the future. Depending on the proposals this may require separate planning permission”.

And “Contractors started on site in November 2013. The first sections of topsoil were moved back and deliveries of the inert materials commenced at the end of November 2013. The information regarding number of deliveries is not available. Footgolf is one of the proposals for the Beacon, the course operator was looking at incorporating this into the redevelopment work for the driving range and not the 18 hole or 9 hole course. WLBC is not a shareholder, the operation of the course and the facilities provided are for the course operator to determine. The Council will benefit from a split of one third of any operating surplus”. WLBC do not have a contract with Oaklands [Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd] and would not be part of any verification or competency assessment of the company. This assessment was undertaken by Serco Leisure Operating Limited”.

He stated “The Borough Council are not party to the agreement with Oaklands [Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd] to deliver the scheme and are not part of the monitoring of the contract. The Council’s legal department were not involved or provided advice regarding the agreement between Oaklands and West Lancashire Community Leisure/Serco. The information regarding the number of HGV deliveries has not been made available directly to the Borough Council. The monitoring of the loads is undertaken by Oaklands, each load is recorded and this information is monitored by the Environment Agency. Royalties to the Leisure Trust are paid per cubic meter and not per load, The Leisure Trust/Serco receive information regarding the volume/cubic meters delivered to site”. 

What is of exceptional interest is that he stated, in 2016, that “In regards to the area previously used as a driving range, the delivery of inert landfill has now ceased in this area and the “shaper” is liaising with the greens team in order to shape the footgolf course in the most appropriate manner. This will commence after the Christmas break, dependent upon weather, and is expected to be complete in the new year and should be seeded in March 2017. The operator will have to allow the area to grow and mature for one full season before it can be considered as a usable area. In respect of footgolf the trust has engaged with UK footgolf and have worked closely with them to produce an appropriate area for this new facility”. Which brings us back to the requirement now for Serco Leisure Operating Ltd to remove all excess material placed on the land. On being asked about footgolf expertise he replied “In respect of footgolf the trust has engaged with UK footgolf and have worked closely with them to produce an appropriate area for this new facility” and thereafter stated “I do not hold any correspondence with UK Footgolf”.

The same officer, now retired from WLBC, is, from 25th January 2018, a Director [unpaid] of the West Lancashire Community Leisure Limited where his knowledge of the Beacon Park Golf Course development will be invaluable as Serco Leisure Operating Ltd is held to account for its breach of conditions.


The More We Pay LCC The Less We Receive

We all know how much more council tax we pay for poorer council services. The Lancashire Evening Post  reports that Lancashire County Council has rejected a claim that it can take up to three years to replace missing signs identifying public footpaths. Independent County Councillor Paul Greenall  told a meeting of the full council that the absence of a Rights of Way Officer in some parts of the county meant the problem of damaged fingerpost signs was going unresolved.

But deputy leader of the Conservative-run authority Albert Atkinson insisted that inspection and maintenance was being carried out at least every year. “Signs are replaced on a district-by-district basis, not as [each] one falls down” County Cllr Atkinson said “We repair footpaths during the summer when we can get onto them and the [repair of] signs is worked into that. It saves time and money and we’re saving a lot more than by doing it your way end of story”.

Speaking after the meeting, County Cllr Greenall, who represents West Lancashire (East), said he felt that the rate of repair work was not going in the right direction.“I was advised that it would take 2 to 3 years to fix a sign back onto a post ” he said. “People go out walking in the area I represent, [they] pay their council tax and part of that should be maintaining some basic services. A sign pointing in the direction of a public footpath is probably about as basic as it gets”.

There are around 18,000 public rights of way in Lancashire and concern about the condition of the paths themselves was raised by the Ramblers’ Association late last year. Questioned about whether the issue of signage had an impact on the majority of people in the county, County Cllr Greenall who defected from the ruling Conservative group 12 months ago said “You do see people walking around here with their rucksacks on. In my area, signs are falling off their posts they are so rusty. I don’t expect the council to drop everything and have it done first thing in the morning. I just think 2 to 3 years is a little bit excessive”.

To be blunt about it, LCC will be bankrupt within a couple of years and footpath signs will be the least of our worries! It might occur to LCC that all those special allowances paid to the elected members would pay for repairs to signs…no, I’m asking too much of them!

Revised National Planning Policy Framework Applied In West Lancashire Already

The Agenda Items for the Planning Committee tomorrow are already affected by the new NPPF. The Director of Development and Regeneration  (Planning to you and me) has written in one case “Subsequent to the publication of the agenda the revised National Planning Policy Framework was published on 24th July by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. It is a material consideration in the assessment of planning applications. I have taken into account the revised NPPF and am satisfied that it raises no further relevant matters than previously considered under the former NPPF (2012)”.

But in another case he writes “Subsequent to the publication of the agenda the revised National Planning Policy Framework was published on 24 July by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. It is a material consideration in the assessment of planning applications. I have taken into account the revised NPPF and am satisfied that it raises no further relevant matters than previously considered under the former NPPF (2012). Paragraph 10.4 of the agenda report refers to paragraph 17 in the former NPPF. This reference is no longer relevant and paragraph 10.4 is revised to read as follows: 10.4 “Policy GN3 in the West Lancashire Local Plan 2012-27 seeks to ensure that developments provide a good standard of amenity for existing and future residents. I am satisfied that the development will provide suitable accommodation for future occupants of the application site without compromising the amenity of occupants of neighbouring properties”.

In another case he writes “The Revised National Planning Policy Framework was issued on 24 July 2018 subsequent to publishing the planning committee report. It now needs to be taken into account and given considerable weight during the decision making process. I have reviewed the proposed development in light of the revised NPPF and do not consider that it alters the recommendation given in the original Planning Committee Report, there are however some amendments that should be made to the report, these are as follows”. 

We might all be asking “what’s the rush?”

New Planning For Homes To Provide More Explicit Protection For Green Belt

Communities face “punishment” if developers fail to build enough homes in their areas, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned after the Government published a revised version of the National Planning Policy Framework. Housing and Communities Secretary James Brokenshire  said the new NPPF would make it easier for councils to challenge poor quality and unattractive development, and “give communities a greater voice about how developments should look and feel”.

But the LGA’s Conservative chair Lord Porter said “It is hugely disappointing that the Government has not listened to our concerns about nationally set housing targets, and will introduce a delivery test that punishes communities for homes not built by private developers. Councils work hard with communities to get support for good quality housing development locally, and there is a risk these reforms will lead to locally agreed plans being bypassed by national targets.”

Brokenshire said the revised NPPF would promote high quality design of new homes and places, give better environmental protection, secure “the right number of homes in the right places” and put greater responsibility and accountability for housing delivery on councils and developers. It also gives a new method for councils to calculate housing need and from November 2018 imposes the housing delivery test to which the LGA objects. This will penalise councils in areas where insufficient homes are built.

Lord Porter said “Planning is not a barrier to housebuilding, and councils are approving nine out of 10 applications. To boost the supply of homes and affordability, it is vital to give councils powers to ensure homes with permission are built, enable all councils to borrow to build, keep 100 per cent of Right to Buy receipts and set discounts locally”. Other major changes from the original NPPF include making it easier for councils to refuse permission for developments on grounds of poor design, and a more explicit protection for green belts.

Royal Town Planning Institute  president John Acres welcomed clearer definitions of concepts like ‘sustainable development’ but warned about “the significant pressure the new NPPF requirements will put on local authority planning teams”. Acres added that “It is imperative that chief executives, council leaders and politicians resource planning departments sufficiently, particularly as they will now be held more accountable for delivery under the housing delivery test and are expected to carry out more regular reviews of their plans”.

Your Chance To Make A Difference!

WLBC  has a vacancy, a “Fixed Term Leisure Project Development Manager” to be based at the Robert Hodge Centre, Skelmersdale, WN8 8EE. The salary will be £41,846 to £44,697 per annum. It is a full time post for two years. The closing date is 23.59 hours BST on Friday 27 July 2018. It is “Your chance to make a difference!”

The bumph states “West Lancashire lies at the heart of the North West of England, located within easy reach of major conurbations such as Manchester and Liverpool. With a growing economy, it is home to a top-class university and benefits from a mix of vibrant towns, picturesque villages and some of the most beautiful and productive countryside in the UK.

“West Lancashire Borough Council is ambitious for West Lancashire and this is at the heart of everything we do. We deliver a wide range of services to the local community, including refuse and recycling, leisure and recreation, planning and housing.

“We are developing plans to introduce two new Leisure Centres for the Borough. To support this work we are seeking to appoint an experienced Leisure Project Development Manager, providing project management support to the Deputy Director of Leisure & Wellbeing.

“If you already have the necessary qualifications, skills and experience in the development of leisure projects and are looking for the chance to make a difference, then we would like to hear from you!

“As a Leisure Project Development Manager, the main purpose of your role will be to support the procurement of significant capital and revenue projects, securing external grants and partnership funding to meet the priorities and key actions identified in the Council’s Leisure Strategy. In support of the Deputy Director of Leisure & Wellbeing, you will deliver the Council’s strategic aims and objectives by ensuring leisure services are delivered which create, enhance and promote opportunity for involvement in sport, recreation and physical activity by all sections of the West Lancashire community.

“The successful candidate will have a degree or equivalent level qualification in a relevant subject area (significant relevant experience may satisfy this requirement), evidence of continued professional development, experience of working in partnership to develop and deliver services, and experience of carrying out major funding applications and public and stakeholder consultation exercises. To fulfil this role you will need excellent verbal, presentation and written communication skills and the ability to motivate, influence and negotiate with both internal and external partners. This is a fixed term opportunity for up to two years”.

Hopefully the “Council’s strategic aims and objectives by ensuring leisure services are delivered which create, enhance and promote opportunity for involvement in sport, recreation and physical activity by all sections of the West Lancashire community” referred to above will soon include the Beacon Park Golf Course and its facilities for local golfers?

OWLs Bid For Knowsley?

The latest OWL  news comes just in time for its bid to win the Knowsley Ward by-election. They report that “Blue bins will be provided free of charge to new users as finally the Labour council relents. We explain how to get one. Plus positive progress on new swim & leisure centres in Ormskirk and Skelmersdale; we’re asking questions of the Council Leader and useful information to help you recycle more plastics.

Fairness restored as sustained pressure prompts council rethink. Fairness has been restored for thousands of residents as a result of the Borough Council reversing its unjust attempt to charge £25 for a blue bin to residents who have continued to use a blue box: a move warmly welcomed by the councillor who first raised the matter.

Our West Lancashire’s Adrian Owens  said “It was when we asked more than 1,800 local residents for their feedback on the changes to the garden waste service [through this email newsletter] that this blue box injustice came to light with many residents contacting us and saying it was unfair.

“We immediately took the matter up with the council. Firstly, they had to admit that the advice they were providing to residents was incorrect and to change it, yet for several weeks, residents were complaining to us that they were getting no replies whatsoever from senior Labour councillors including the portfolio holder for waste collection.

“Eventually, with the number of questions mounting and the damaging media coverage, the Council Leader made a U-turn. Our West Lancashire were delighted that the council meeting ratified this policy reversal last week. Now, residents who kept a blue box in 2013 when blue bins were introduced will be treated equitably and receive a blue bin without charge up until the end of October”.

If you have used a blue box up to now, to order a blue bin online free of charge visit before 31 October 2018. The same web page can be used to request a free green bin for cardboard and paper if you did not have a green bin in the past because you had little or no garden waste. The council say that those who have recently paid £25 for a blue bin will automatically be refunded. This is yet another example of the influence and achievements possible with an Independent voice on the Council.

In October 2015, the Labour Council approved a draft Leisure Strategy which suggested Park Pool be considered for closure. Our near 1000-name petition prompted a screeching U-turn and subsequent work has shown the strong financial position of the pool.

Now, the council with the strong support of Our West Lancashire councillors has approved feasibility for a replacement pool and leisure centre for Ormskirk (and one for Skelmersdale too) to move to the detailed phase. A new swimming centre with additional facilities looks increasingly likely by 2022/23. We’ve come a long way since October 2015 but that wouldn’t have been possible without our campaign and the incredible support you as local residents gave it. Thank you. We remain the only political group in their financial plans to have committed £4 million of identified council funding towards the new pools.