Monthly Archives: 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!

The Thoughts Of Cllr Gail Hodson On Planning Matters In Tarleton

Where, you might ask, would WLBC Cllr Gail Hodson seek expert advice on planning matters? Pillow talk? Possibly, as planning could be bread and butter, and night time reading too, in the Hodson household.

As it happens planning, master planning, is the hot topic in Tarleton, attracting letters to the Champion from interested parties, such as Cllr Baron, the subject of the Cllr Gail Hodson reply today . She reminds Cllr Baron of the pledge of councillors to represent all residents in the borough. She highlights the limits of consultation by the exclusion of press and public from a meeting that might affect Tarleton for the next 30 years.

And, as important as ever, she mentions the myth “that needs dispelling that councillors cannot express opinions on planning applications”. The threshold for pre-determination is high. Regarding candidate and elected member pledges, there is case law to say that politicians can discuss issues in campaigns and still be open minded when making a decision R (Lewis) v Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council [2010]‘[Councillors] can properly take part in the debates which lead to planning applications made by the Council itself. It is common ground that in the case of some applications they are likely to have, and are entitled to have, a disposition in favour of granting permission’.

As for Tarleton , you are “Welcomed to the website for the people and friends of the parish of Tarleton. It is administered by the Parish Council but has more to offer than just Parish Council matters. It also tells you about Tarleton and allows you to tell your elected representatives what concerns you have”.

It states “The Lilford Estate and Tarleton Parish Council are collectively working together to prepare a Masterplan which sets out a sustainable vision for Tarleton and its neighbouring villages over the next 30 years. Details are available by clicking here, which takes you to a separate dedicated website.

“How do I find out more? Both the Lilford Estate, through its appointed Agent, Acland Bracewell Surveyors Limited and Tarleton Parish Council would like to seek the views of the local community on the proposals to assist West Lancashire Borough Council in preparing their Local Plan Review.

“To provide more details of our proposals for Tarleton, we are holding a Public Exhibition: What Happens Next? Following the public exhibition, both the Lilford Estate and Tarleton Parish Council will review all of your comments. Your views will then inform the overall Tarleton Masterplan, which will then be submitted to West Lancashire Borough Council, as part of their consultation process on the Local Plan Review.

“Have Your Say. If you would like to have your say on the Tarleton Masterplan, please download the Feedback Form by clicking on the link below. Consultation will close on Wednesday 1st August 2018”.

In 2013 the Secretary of State wrote “Under the last Administration, the Standards Board regime undermined freedom of speech in local government. This was compounded by a further gold-plating of pre-determination rules, fuelled by misconceptions about the flawed regime, going far beyond what was reasonable or legally necessary.

“The Localism Act 2011 has abolished the Standards Board regime, and has also clarified the position with regard to pre-determination and bias. Section 25 clarifies that a councillor is not to be regarded as being unable to act fairly or without bias if they participate in a decision on a matter simply because they have previously expressed a view or campaigned on it. The effect is that councillors may campaign and represent their constituents – and then speak and vote on those issues – without fear of breaking the rules on pre-determination.

“In this context, I feel that blanket advice which states that councillors cannot participate in a meeting purely because there is merely a ‘perception of bias’ or ‘risk of bias’ is potentially wrong. It will, of course, depend on the individual circumstances, but the flexibilities and freedoms laid out in Section 25 may apply.

“It is worth drawing a distinction between pre- determination and pre-disposition. Councillors should not have a closed mind when they make a decision, as decisions taken by those with pre-determined views are vulnerable to successful legal challenge”.

The subject has been proved to be soporific, as we recall  this delightful scene in a recent WLBC “planning training for councillors” event. As one Aughton Park resident said “She represents us? Dream on”. And so she does.

Was DCT Leisure Services Ltd Skating On Thin Ice?

Readers will know of the “merry-go-round” connecting Beacon Park Golf Course, WLBC, West Lancashire Leisure Trust, DCT Leisure Limited, Serco Leisure Operating Limited, and Oakland Golf and Leisure Limited, to which we can now add Altrincham Leisure Limited (Formerly Altrincham Ice Rink (Trafford) Limited).

Ongoing investigations into the historical murky waters of how the Beacon Park Golf Course became the destination of so much landfill continue to throw up more questions than answers. Through the common directorships of Mark Prosser for DCT Leisure Limited and Altrincham Leisure Ltd the Beacon Park Golf course was the registered address for both companies .

As we have reported, the official background is that at its meeting on 25th January 2000 the WLDC “Transportation and Amenities Committee authorised the Director of Development and Amenities to select a private sector partner, and to negotiate and enter into a contractual arrangement for the provision of golfing services at Beacon Country Park. This was undertaken and DCT Leisure was chosen. A lease was agreed which included a 5 year partnership for the Golf Course, Driving Range, Pro Shop and Beacon Centre Catering with DCT having responsibility for the delivery of these services and capital investment improvements. The terms also included an obligation for DCT to meet the requirements of a management agreement and an option for a renewal for a further period of 5 years.

“DCT Leisure commenced the partnership at the Beacon on 24th July 2000. Capital investment in the course and centre over the first 5 years has totalled approximately £120,000. The District Council has relinquished all operating costs for the facilities, with the exception of structural maintenance to the buildings, and presently receives fees from DCT Leisure of approximately £25,000 per annum. This contrasts with an operating deficit of £106,000 in the year prior to DCT Leisure being engaged”. The WLBC bean counters were happy.

What comes to light is the fact of DCT Leisure Limited having an “Ultimate parent company”, as stated in official company notes “The ultimate parent company throughout the current and previous year was Altrincham Leisure Limited (formerly Altrincham Ice Rink (Trafford) Limited. The ultimate controlling party is considered to be Mr and Mrs D C Thompson as trustees of a settlement of which M Visinoni is principal beneficiary”. The notes go on to state “Going Concern” The company’s [DCT Leisure Ltd] ability to continue as a going concern is dependent on the continued support of its ultimate parent company Altrincham Leisure Limited (formerly Altrincham Ice Rink (Trafford) Limited. Altrincham Leisure Limited has no intention of withdrawing its support from the company in the future”. Did WLBC know this?

Moving on, it became clear DCT Leisure Limited faced financial difficulties. Perhaps Altrincham Leisure Limited did too? Mark Orde Prosser, the operator of the BPGC lease has also been a director of Altrincham Leisure Limited . The original Altrincham Ice Rink was situated on Devonshire Road. Opened in 1960, the rink was home to the Altrincham Aces and original Trafford Metros Ice Hockey teams, as well as figure and speed skaters. The rink was closed in March 2003, after 43 years, when it was sold by the owners to a property developer. A housing estate now stands on the site of the former rink.

67. BEACON GOLF COURSE
COUNCIL HELD: 14 DECEMBER 2011
Consideration was given to the report of the Assistant Director Community Services, as contained on pages 503 to 517 of the Book of Reports, which detailed the decision of Cabinet on 15 November 2011 in relation to DCT Leisure Ltd’s intention to relinquish its lease of Beacon Park Golf Course and provided an update. RESOLVED: That the following decision of Cabinet on 15 November 2011 (Minute 87), be endorsed: “A. That the Assistant Director Community Services, in consultation with the Leader and relevant portfolio holder, be authorised to develop and implement proposals for the long term operation of the Beacon Park Golf Course and negotiate and conclude all arrangements (to include the obtaining of all necessary consents, providing for all requisite notices and the entering into all necessary licences, leases and agreements/documentation) to give effect to that proposal.

B. That in addition to the delegation at A. above the Assistant Director Community Services, in consultation with the Leader and relevant portfolio holder, be authorised to develop and implement proposals for the interim operation of the Beacon Park Golf Course and negotiate and conclude all arrangements (to include the obtaining of all necessary consents, providing for all requisite notices and the entering into all necessary licences, leases and agreements/documentation) to give effect to that proposal.

C. That there be an exemption from the requirement to seek quotations/tenders (Contract Procedure Rules 6 and 7) to allow the arrangements to be put in place in accordance with A. and/or B. above for the reasons set out in the report”.

Coincidental or not, but Altrincham Leisure Limited was dissolved on 28 March 2013 and DCT Leisure Ltd was dissolved on 9 August 2013. All the above information is available via Companies House and/or West Lancashire Borough Council.

One Connect Fraud Probe Has Been Submitted To CPS

The LEP reports that “Prosecutors are today considering evidence compiled by police in a long running council fraud probe. The leader of Lancashire County Council  Geoff Driver, has again been re-bailed by police as part of the long-running Operation Sheridan investigation into activities surrounding One Connect, the now defunct partnership between LCC and telecom giants BT. Cllr Driver and three other men have been on bail since they were arrested in May last year on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation. The other three are former County Hall chief executive Phil Halsall, the former chief executive of Liverpool City Council Ged Fitzgerald, and David McElhinney who was employed as chief executive of One Connect. All four reported to police yesterday and had their bail extended.

“Today a Lancashire Police spokesman said “In September 2013 Lancashire County Council referred to Lancashire Constabulary some allegations of financial irregularity. An investigation was launched and following a complex and lengthy enquiry a file of evidence has now been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration. The investigative bail period has now been suspended as a result of the file being submitted”.