Month: August 2018

WLBC New Local Plan

The WLBC  Planning Committee will discuss the proposed Preferred Options for its “bold Local Plan Review” on Thursday 6 September followed by more discussions at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday 11 September.

Cabinet members are being asked to approve the proposed Local Plan Preferred Options document for public consultation. If they do, the document, which features many exciting proposals, will be consulted upon in October and November, and local people will be able to have their say.

A Local Plan guides how the borough develops over a specific time period. It can cover everything from where new homes, employment sites and retail and leisure facilities should be situated, to policies on transport, local services, energy and the environment.

The proposed Preferred Options document suggests a Local Plan that will help deliver exciting new development to support the growth of the Borough until 2050, in particular around the Borough’s two largest towns of Skelmersdale and Ormskirk. The Local Plan proposals also allocate land for smaller opportunities for new developments in the rest of the Borough to meet local housing and employment needs.

The innovative proposed Preferred Options would provide new homes and employment space in and around Skelmersdale, including a bold initiative to create three new Garden Villages and a Logistics Park alongside the M58. This proposal would make a significant contribution to the business case for creating a Skelmersdale Rail Link, make development proposals in the Town Centre more attractive to businesses and create a wide range of new job opportunities in growing business sectors.

Within Ormskirk and Aughton, the proposed Preferred Options plan for new homes and the opportunity to create an impressive brand new Knowledge Park and Student Accommodation Village on St Helens Road to complement what is already offered at Edge Hill University . These proposals will attract new, hi-tech businesses to Ormskirk, provide much-needed purpose-built student accommodation to alleviate the demand for houses of multiple occupation. They will also enable university graduates to stay in West Lancashire by offering more of the right type of jobs and accommodation for young professionals to buy and rent, and support Ormskirk town centre businesses.

The proposed Preferred Options will also ensure that the rural areas of the Borough will continue to be strongly protected from inappropriate development (over 88% of West Lancashire will remain as Green Belt). This will allow the agricultural sector to continue making its significant contribution to UK food production and ensuring that the natural environment of the Borough will be protected and enhanced.

John Harrison, Director of Development and Regeneration, said “By planning so far into the future, the Local Plan gives greater certainty about where development will take place over the next 30 years. It will enable the Council to better manage new development in a way that creates more sustainable communities, provides homes for all parts of the community and takes advantage of opportunities emerging from the anticipated economic growth, including those stimulated by the expanded Port of Liverpool.

“Alongside this, a longer-term Local Plan can create the opportunities to deliver the infrastructure that new development will need and health and wellbeing benefits for the residents of West Lancashire. A robust Local Plan also means the Council will be in a better position to make planning decisions so they are done at a local level rather than being made by a national planning inspector”.

What do we learn from this? Well, we should buy shares in builders, as Redrow and Wainhomes to name just two will be back for Parrs Lane, and Skelmersdale will be forgotten again, because WLBC doesn’t build railway lines anywhere. 

Latest News Of The 9Hole Heap Of Rubbish At Beacon Park Golf Course

The incessant rebuttals by WLBC of enquiries and complaints made about the 9Hole landfill could fill a book, but instead they continue to allow WLR to publicize the wretched saga of sheer incompetence and greed by third rate developers and leisure services providers. Today we can report the official status confirmed from Director level to a local resident, of the 9Hole  course to be as follows.

“RE: 9 Hole Golf Course development at Beacon Park Thank you for your letter dated 10 August 2018 regarding the 9 hole Golf Course development at Beacon Park. I can confirm that the opening of this facility has been delayed due to a number of factors including growing cycles, the time required to complete the initial land profiling and latterly reviewing the drainage situation. When the development was initially completed it was necessary to wait to assess the drainage situation and consequently a number of improvements have been identified as being required. Upon completion of this work a further full growing cycle will be required which could result in the 9 hole course being open in summer 2019, however this will be determined by the completion of the drainage work and the weather conditions. We apologise for the delay, however the 9 hole course will be a permanent feature and we are committed to ensuring its satisfactory completion prior to opening”.

Can any reader of that letter imagine the level of incompetence disclosed in those few sentences? Between them, WLBC, Serco Leisure Operating Limited, Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd , and the West Lancashire Leisure Trust have dumped rubbish  there since, as officially stated “Contractors started on site in November 2013”. It’s taken almost five years to discover that these so called “golf course creators” had no idea if that heap would create a drainage problem. And it has! A “number of improvements have been identified as being required” rather than “We allowed developers to make a balls of the design of this heap of rubbish”.

Just to repeat the history, drawn in its entirety and quoted from the official responses of WLBC and its Head of Leisure and Cultural Services in August 2015 with 100% accuracy “Phase 3 of the development (formation of a 9 hole short course) has commenced with mounding and ridges being formed with inert infill and soil It is expected that the infill and profiling work will be completed by Sept 2015”…Council planning officers and officers from the Environment Agency both undertake monitoring functions in relation to the site. 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 Leisure Limited[Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd] for the importation of materials on to the site. I [John Nelson] 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”. These people marked out a tee   months ago without checking the true status of the course!

But again, reporting with 100% accuracy, the WLBC Head of Leisure and Cultural Services stated on 21 August 2015 “The royalties for the materials being brought to site and currently used to re-profile an area of the golf course for a new 9 hole par 3 course are paid to West Lancashire Community Leisure. Details of the royalties and payments are commercially confidential. Serco Leisure Operating Limited are responsible for monitoring the contracted works and are responsible to ensure that the finished work provides the new 9 hole facility and that any royalties received are spent on the Beacon Golf Course, including the club house and associated facilities. Serco Leisure Operating Limited is not able to take any of the royalties as a profit or to charge any management fee for the supervision of the contacted works. All the royalties received are to be spent directly on the golf course and associated facilities”.

Started in November 2013, unfit for use and awaiting remedial action in the last days of August 2018, when will someone take full responsibility for this loss of proposed income for council tax payers under the claim that “The surplus provision allows for one third shares, one third to the Borough Council, one third to West Lancashire Community Leisure and one third to Serco Leisure Operating Limited…The operation of the golf course is subject to the scrutiny of the board of Trustees for West Lancashire Community Leisure. The remodelling works which are supported by the planning application were part of a business plan from Serco Leisure Operating Limited and the assessment for the Trustees in taking on the responsibility for the golf course. The operation of the golf course has to be sustainable as the Borough Council does not provide any revenue or capital subsidy to the operation. The new 9 hole par 3 course will generate additional income and importantly bring more junior golfers to the club”.

Isn’t there just one reliable professional expert on golf course creation who can be hired by WLBC to bring an acceptable opinion on this waste of space undertaken solely to line the pockets of developers? Every golf course is unique, having its own planning issues, but WLBC allowed height of landfill to dictate the construction of what no elected member of WLBC will comment on. Enforcement is underway at the footgolf heap, although no progress is being made there, with time running out before prosecution commences. Will the 9Hole heap repeat that disaster?

 

Burscough FC Development Application

2018/0837/FUL is an interesting application at the Burscough AFC Victoria Park Mart Lane Burscough  for the “Demolition of existing football ground, social club and associated buildings. Erection of 52 new dwellings including; 11no. 2-bed houses for affordable rent, 4no. 2-bed houses for shared ownership, 21no. 3-bed houses for shared ownership, 6no 4-bedhouses for shared ownership and 10no. 2-bed apartments for affordable rent for those over 55 years old”.  

The application Statement includes “Draft Burscough Neighbourhood Plan 5.6 Burscough Parish Council is progressing the preparation of a Neighbourhood Plan to cover the period 2015 – 2027. The Parish Council undertook public consultation on a pre-submission (Regulation 14) draft of the Neighbourhood Plan between 11 August and 6 October 2017. Following this the Plan is likely to be amended and then submitted to the Sectary of State followed by the holding of a referendum. Given the current status of the Plan it cannot be afforded weight in the determination of this planning application”. Really?

Gavin Rattray writes “Unfortunately, the neighbourhood plan which supports the retention of Victoria Park, and therefore the wishes of the vast majority of residents, is still draft years after writing it commenced.

“One of the reasons for the delay was the unfortunate frequent run of absences from meetings by the then chair of the neighbourhood planning group Councillor Roger Bell. Another Councillor described it as the “disappearance of Roger Bell”.

“You couldn’t make it up”.

Show Us The Minutes

Those of us who don’t attend WLBC meetings but are interested in the council’s business as it affects us rely on minutes of meetings for decisions. Try to find the minutes of the last Full Council Meeting, but you won’t. This, below, is what’s shown on the WLBC website today.
Agenda. Council
Wednesday, 18th July, 2018 7.30 pm
• Attendance details
• Agenda frontsheet PDF 463 KB
• Agenda reports pack
• Late papers PDF 315 KB
• Amendment – Surplus Student HMOs in Ormskirk – Motion PDF 107 KB
• Questions and Responses PDF 189 KB

As also happens there are two items of news today, the first that the Leader of the Council Ian Moran tells us in the Champion  how important the views of people living in West Lancashire are and he wants us to let Council know if we want to speak at five meetings listed. But that invitation won’t extend to what Council keeps secret under “commercial in confidence” to let slippery service suppliers like Serco Leisure Operating Ltd keep schtum about the Beacon Park Golf Course royalties scandal. 

The second item is that OWL Councillor Adrian Owens  has complained publicly that there are no minutes of the meeting referred to above. He writes “No way to run a public authority. The last full Council meeting took place on 18 July 2018 – 42 days or 6 weeks ago and yet no minutes of the council meeting have been published to date. I cannot recall such a long delay in the past. In fact, for cabinet meetings, the council must publish minutes within 3 days. It’s a pity it’s not more efficient with the minutes of full council.

“This is no way to run a public authority. It might be seen as a tedious administrative detail, but minutes perform important functions in an efficient organisation: 1. Meeting minutes offer legal protection and clarity 2. Meeting minutes provide structure. They describe how Council members arrived at reasonable decisions. They record who attended and who was absent along with declarations of interest. 3. Meeting minutes drive action. Good meeting minutes help drive a plan of action for the Council’s senior officers. They clarify how, when, why, and by whom decisions were made. They map out a plan for the action items (which helps get the work done) and they later provide valuable information to those who aren’t able to attend the meeting. 4. Meeting minutes act as a measuring stick. Minutes record meeting decisions, which makes them a useful review document when it comes time to measure progress. They also act as an accountability tool because they make it clear whose duty it was to perform which action. The delay in publication of the minutes is symptomatic of a council that is not firing on all cylinders”.

It might also be symptomatic of highly paid, some say overpaid, senior staff whose eyes aren’t on the ball.

Tanhouse Ward Vacancy

WEST LANCASHIRE BOROUGH COUNCIL
TANHOUSE WARD
LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1972 SECTION 87(2)

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that ONE casual vacancy has arisen in the Office of Councillor for the TANHOUSE WARD in the borough of West Lancashire due to the resignation of Councillor Robert Pendleton .

An election to fill the vacancy will be held within 35 working days after notice has been given in writing by two local government electors requesting that an election be held.

Any such notice shall be given to the Proper Officer, Kim Webber, 52 Derby Street, Ormskirk, L39 2DF.

Local Council Cars

Visitors to the Ormskirk MotorFest 2018 today will see some very expensive privately owned cars, and who can forget a few years ago when it seemed the Mayor was being offered the chance to race off on this machine ?

On Tuesday the Taxpayers’ Alliance published a new report detailing spending by local councils on cars for mayoral use. Authored by its policy analyst Duncan Simpson, the report shows that “local authorities across the country have spent over £4.5 million  since 2015.

Mayors and council chairmen and women often fulfil ceremonial duties and serve as the ‘first citizen’. These are generally mundane and little cared-for functions that do not require purchasing or leasing of luxury vehicles. Three local authorities (Cheshire West and Chester, Cheshire East, and Kensington & Chelsea) own a Bentley Continental Flying Spur . Other luxury vehicles used by UK councils included the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Jaguar XJ, Mercedes S Class and Lexus RX. 

“Local authorities should encourage civic leaders to use their own method of transport and sell-off surplus vehicles. Almost 40 per cent of all councils did not own or lease a mayoral car over the last three years. 9 councils spent taxpayers’ money on personalised number plates”.

Should We Avoid Two Saints Car Park?

Perhaps we might, after reading the letter to the Champion that describes a recent experience there of an elderly disabled person who is “Angry and upset”. It’s Parking Eye again, having placed a charge notice for £100 on a car displaying a blue disabled driver badge .

ParkingEye Limited  was until recently a privately owned “arrangement” inasmuch as it had been acquired by Capita, not so fondly named “Crapita” by some who are unfortunate enough to suffer from their services. But on 12 July 2018 it announced “Capita announces today that it has reached an agreement to sell its parking management business, ParkingEye, to a vehicle owned by Macquarie and funds advised by MML Capital Partners for a cash consideration of £235m. The transaction is expected to close later this year. The transaction is in line with Capita’s strategy of simplifying the business, focusing on growth markets and disposing of non-core businesses”.

ParkingEye’s underlying revenue and operating profit were £40m and £14m respectively in the year to 31 December 2017  and the business had gross assets of £22m. In Capita’s half year results, ParkingEye will be reported as a business exit in non-underlying items. The cash proceeds will be used to reduce net indebtedness. Jon Lewis, Chief Executive Officer, Capita, said “This transaction marks a further step in executing the strategy announced in April aimed at simplifying and strengthening the business to deliver future success”.

Notwithstanding all of that, ParkingEye claims it can provide no cost parking solutions that can help private land owners and managing agents dramatically increase parking compliance and space availability, as well as: – Reducing abuse, over-stays and unwanted parking; Improving the income potential of your car park; Deterring anti-social behaviour and improving parking safety; Decreasing the costs of operating your car park; Dramatically improving the customer experience. Our dedicated teams currently provide tailored solutions to over 3500 sites nationwide. All installation, management and on-going maintenance can be completely free of charge and once installed your account managers will run the site for you as if it was their own. It’s as simple as that”.

“Angry and upset” might be disappointed to read that “Know Your Parking Rights ” states “Parking on private land…There are no statutory concessions for Blue Badge holders on private land, or in local authority car parks, but most car park operators will provide spaces for them. They may be charged for so always check local rules and signs”. It’s big business, as the figures above prove. Sadly for “Angry and upset” he fell foul of the invalid appeal email address, so his appeal went unheeded and he paid £60 to avoid paying £100. As ParkingEye states “It’s as simple as that” to lose your money!