Month: October 2018

Is Rich Liverpool City Region Begging For Housing In West Lancashire?

When you are considering how to react to the WLBC Local Plan Review that will provide housing for the Liverpool City Region  (LCR) you should be aware of how the LCR rich family will be taking from the poor WLBC relations.

LCR states on its website “From local, national and global organisations to internationally renowned sporting, leisure and tourism attractions based here, the Liverpool City Region is also a great place to live. Across the Liverpool City Region, you’ll find a fantastic variety of housing choices from luxury apartments, large family homes and historic buildings, to suit all requirements. Plus, there’s also a great choice of locations too, from city centre living to smaller towns and villages, as well as rural and coastal settings”.

While West Lancashire Borough Council is apparently struggling to provide statutory services, the ease with which the Liverpool City Region receives funding seems obscene by comparison. “In November 2015, the LCR secured a Devolution Agreement  with Government, securing £900m of funding leading to £3billion, along with the devolution of powers and responsibilities from Whitehall in London. Devolution is an important opportunity for our City Region to take control over our own future and prioritise the things that matter most to our area. This Agreement was further developed in March 2016, securing more powers and responsibilities for transport, piloting 100% business rates retention, as well as working with the Government to progress further devolution in areas including children’s services, health, housing and justice. The Devolution Agreement provides us with more resources, freedoms and flexibilities to deliver our strategic priorities around economic development, transport, strategic housing and employment and skills”.

Transforming Cities Funding

The Liverpool City Region has secured £134 million in capital grant from the Transforming Cities Fund for local transport investment over a 4-year period. The aim of the fund is to help transform sustainable transport connectivity in key commuter routes in major city regions. The funding forms part of the wider Strategic Investment Fund. The Combined Authority has agreed that the commissioning process, via Merseytravel, is commenced, focusing on the first year’s funding allocation only. This is to seek to commit and wherever possible, spend the £10 million of funding that is available in 2018/19.

Single Investment Fund

The SIF (Single Investment Fund) is the key funding tool for the Liverpool City Region, and will address the City Region’s strategic priorities. Just over £458 million is being invested in the City Region through to March 2021 as part of the City Region’s Devolution Agreement with the Government: this is made up from a number of sources including Local Growth Fund and the funding secured through the devolution agreement.

Enhancement of the Key Route Network. Merseytravel. The introduction of the Halton Curve is to provide direct rail services between North Wales/Chester and Liverpool. The scheme has been identified by Liverpool City Region in conjunction with the Welsh Government as one of the key projects within the region which is required to help revitalise the local and regional economy. £16,070,000.

The Sustainable Transport Enhancements Package (STEP) is an integrated programme of investment in sustainable transport in the Liverpool City Region. The programme has been designed to support the economic growth of the region and maximise the benefits for residents, visitors and businesses. £13,800,000.

The Windle Island improvements scheme seeks to address current severe congestion, safety and network resilience issue. The junction is a significant link in the Liverpool City Region road network given its central location and proximity to the M57, M58, M6 and M62 motorways. £3,850,000.

Knowsley Industrial Park has been identified as a key driver and catalyst for the renaissance of the Liverpool City Region economy. The scheme proposes a package of enhancements focusing on six individual intervention areas across thePark. Intervention at each area addresses a specific issue identified, collectively providing a stepchange in the accessibility and connectivity of the Park and kick-starting its redevelopment into an attractive location to work and invest. £5,600,000.

Our Big Brother LCR is a £billionaire+ enterprise. WLBC is a poor minnow that shows in its accounts for 2018-19 “we propose to spend a total of £84,206,000 on providing day to day services for the local community. This spending will be funded by £77,328,000 of income raised through grants, rents, interest, fees, charges and other sources resulting in a council tax requirement of £6.878,000”.

On being asked “Are the proposals meeting housing needs from Merseyside” WLBC states “As we look at development needs beyond 2027, it is clear that parts of the Liverpool City Region will start to struggle to meet all of their own development needs, in particular housing needs from the north of Sefton which has no more room for new development (being sandwiched between West Lancashire and the Irish Sea)”. If this goes ahead the LCR will add West Lancashire to its “fantastic variety of housing choices from luxury apartments, large family homes and historic buildings”.

Having Your Say On The New Local Plan Review

Will you be having your say on the WLBC Local Plan Review? The plan will change West Lancashire unbelievably, perhaps unacceptably, for the foreseeable future. The Council’s Cabinet claims it to be an innovative and ambitious long term strategic plan that will help deliver new development to support the growth of the Borough until 2050.

But should the Council’s Cabinet be the arbiter of how 30 years will change the Borough? It will, if the residents of the Borough don’t let them know via the consultation what THEY feel about some aspects of the Review. This   is an example of what WLBC claims, that  “The protection afforded by Safeguarded Land is not what it used to be, and the pattern of “planning by appeal” that Safeguarded Land has attracted across England in recent years is not a sustainable way to plan. This has been seen in West Lancashire with three appeal inquiries on Safeguarded Land in the past few years. While the Council successfully defended these Inquiries (primarily because the Council could demonstrate a five-year housing land supply), they all have unnecessarily taken up Council resources on defending planning decisions on sites which, in previous years, would not even have generated an application such was the status of Safeguarded Land. For this reason, designating sites as safeguarded land provides no certainty for local residents concerned about when, and how, those sites may be developed. £81,248.35 unnecessarily spent! Yet they spent it!

Cllr John Hodson says “If people are objecting to a proposal, we would always encourage them to also set out how they would change the policy they are objecting to or what site they would suggest the Council should allocate instead of the one they are objecting to, and to give planning reasons for their objections. This will help the Council prepare the best possible Local Plan”.

To read the Local Plan Review Preferred Options document, and for more information on the Local Plan Review, please visit the Council’s website http://www.westlancs.gov.uk/lpr, where you can also give your views to be considered as part of the consultation. Printed copies of key consultation documents will also be available at libraries and the Council Customer Service Points (at the Council’s Derby Street offices in Ormskirk and at the Concourse Shopping Centre in Skelmersdale).

The easiest way to provide your comments will be online, through the consultation webpages, but a standard form can also be downloaded from the website or picked up from the above locations. Remaining dates and venues for the Local Plan consultation events are Wednesday 31 October – Skelmersdale Ecumenical Centre; Monday 5 November – Tarleton Cricket Club; Wednesday 7 November – Ormskirk Chapel Gallery; Tuesday 13 November – The Grove Youth and Community Centre, Station Approach, Burscough; Wednesday 14 November – Skelmersdale Ecumenical Centre; Thursday 15 November – Halsall Memorial Hall.

Communities already feeling disenfranchised by the events at the WLBC September  meeting might benefit from resident drops of the printed copies of the consultation documents around their areas, door to door. Every single submission to WLBC has participation value. Remember whose Borough this is, ours!

Two Weeks And Counting Down For Serco Breach Of Planning Notice

Two weeks today Serco Leisure Operating Ltd, already awarded the WLR “Golf Plans Down The Pan”    prize, will have either complied with the WLBC Breach of Condition Notice Reference E/2015/0223/BCN dated 16 May 2018 to remove all excess material off land specified [former driving range] at Beacon Park Golf Course, or they will face automatic conviction in the Magistrates Court and be fined up to £2,500 for the offence. 

Visitors to the golf course will see there is no change to the landfill heap  created by Serco/Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd. Unless some secret dealing is being done with WLBC to either extend the Breach of Condition Notice or to leave the excess material where it is and lower its level within the confines of the old driving range, remains to be seen?

There has been much bleating of innocence by the Serco Chief Executive about how hard they are working with WLBC to resolve the issue. It’s a pity they haven’t matched the hard work of dumping the excess landfill with an effort to comply with planning and spell out where the landfill royalty cash is now residing. They are also awarded the WLR Carbuncle Golf Course Design Cup for 2018and retrospectively for every year of their contract.

Aughton Residents Group To Welcome Cllr John Hodson To Aughton

Did you know that the WLBC Strategic Planning & Implementation Team is working closely with their peers in Merseyside, Lancashire and Greater Manchester in order to deliver “joined-up” cross-border planning on many issues that are not restricted by Local Authority boundaries. This also helps to fulfil the Duty to Co-operate introduced by the Localism Act 2011″. 

And, “The Strategic Planning & Implementation Team will also continue to liaise closely with a wide range of infrastructure providers to ensure that development is located where infrastructure is already provided or to consider how infrastructure can be provided over the Local Plan period to meet the needs created by development in the Local Plan”.  Oh yippee! 

The Aughton Residents Group 2012 (ARG) has published details of the impending Aughton Parish Council meeting on 12 November 2018 which WLBC Cllr John Hodson  (Planning Portfolio Holder) will attend.

They write “You should have seen articles in the Local Newspapers regarding our Group’s opposition to the Emerging Local Plan Preferred options paper. As part of our previously outlined strategy and prior to our submitting Group representations, it is our Committee’s intention to attend the Aughton Parish Council meeting at the Village Hall , Winifred Lane, Aughton on Monday 12 November 2018.

“WLBC Cllr John Hodson (Planning Portfolio Holder) has accepted an invitation to attend the meeting and will be available to answer questions regarding the local plan during an extended Public Question Time. This might be your best or only chance to hear at first hand what WLBC plans for the future of Aughton and help you formulate any representations for the consultation process.

“There is a limited seating capacity at the hall so we suggest you get there in good time for the meeting which opens at 7.15pm for a 7.30pm start”.

Colin Atkinson seen speaking in a previous local plan meeting, the Chairman of the Aughton Residents Group (2012), has said that the group feel they have been misled and betrayed after West Lancashire Borough Council announced it is looking to bring in a new local Plan stretching to 2050. The Group are still finding it hard to come to terms with the fact that whilst they were celebrating the Borough Councils successful rebuttal of developers’ attempts to usurp the current Local Plan, it has now become clear that behind the closed doors of the Borough’s Planning Department, key politicians and Senior Planning Officers were colluding to deliver housing developers a bonanza beyond their wildest expectations.

Throughout the last few years developers have tried to get around the Local Plan and build houses on the agricultural land to the north of Parrs Lane Aughton. The local residents were delighted when the Council decided to fight these unwarranted challenges. A great deal of time, effort, resources and yes, money was spent fighting the developers through appeals, Planning Inspectors’ Hearings and even in the Civil Courts. Aughton Residents Group themselves supported the council at each of these stages. Finally on 22 March 2018, following the latest hearing, the Planning Inspectorate found in favour of WLBC and dismissed the two Developers’ Appeals.

With the Council fending off these two ‘rogue’ Appeals, the residents were led to believe that this ‘best and most versatile’ farm land was safe from further attempts at development for at least another 5 -10 years. Just to remind people the developers wanted to build around four hundred houses.

What residents did not know was that at the same time the Council was fighting against the developers applications they were planning to hand over an area of agricultural land about four times larger than the Parrs Lane ‘sites’. The new proposals earmarked the farm land running between Prescot Road/ Parrs Lane/Scarth Hill Lane and the railway line for 2,000 dwellings.

On top of this there is to be a 1,000 student campus and a ‘Technology Park’ alongside St. Helens Road. The scale of these plans alone should signal to everyone that this is no longer just about a few thousand people in Aughton feeling their area is being ruined. This will effect not just Aughton but also Ormskirk and the wider area. Furthermore everyone living in West Lancashire should sit up and pay attention to what the Borough Council is planning for our wider area.

The proposed new Local Plan projects a total housing commitment of around 16,000 houses to be built in the Borough, most of it on farm land. In addition further large sections of farm land has been earmarked for ‘employment’ developments. The 16,000 houses target is not intended to meet the housing needs of the Borough, the council’s housing and population growth projections are much lower, and the current plan does that.

But it is to attract in massive additional people from outside the area, such as Sefton and Liverpool. To put this into perspective, 16,000 new homes will not only use up a lot of our best and most versatile agricultural land, it will bring in massive additional pressures on our roads, our services and the infrastructure in general.

Some rough estimates of what 16,000 new homes could mean: Around 20-30 thousand more adults needing doctors, dentists, NHS and Welfare services. Around 15-25 thousand more young people needing schools and NHS services Around 20-30 thousand more vehicles, many ‘commuting’ along our already congested main roads and creating even more ‘rat runs’.

The council’s current Local Plan runs until 2027 and has been demonstrated at various stages, including formal review points, Appeal Hearings and even in the Civil Courts, to be meeting the housing needs of the Borough. You only have to drive around the Borough and see various large scale developments are well on the way to delivering the housing targets. So you have to ask why the council has decided to introduce a new 30 year plan less than half way through an effective plan.

Monday 12 November 2018, 7.15pm, Village Hall Winifred Lane, Aughton, be there!

New Homes In Ormskirk

WLBC has announced its project to bring new homes for sale in the heart of Ormskirk is close to selling property reservations. The new homes are being built by Cruden Construction .

“Building works are progressing well on the Walmsley Drive development, on the former Westec House site close in Derby Street near the centre of Ormskirk.

“Reservations of 19 new homes which will be up for sale have opened with leading property firm Bradley Hall  appointed as the marketing agent. Four homes have already been reserved. People interested in buying a property can come and take a look around the show home, which will be launched at an open weekend on Saturday 10 November and Sunday 11 November between 9am and 1pm. People can drop in at any time on either day.

The new homes that are available for sale comprise of: Three two-bedroom terraced houses; Eight two-bedroom semi-detached houses; Six three bedroom semi-detached houses; One three-bedroom detached house; One two-bedroom terraced house available for shared ownership.

Councillor Jenny Forshaw , West Lancashire Borough Council portfolio holder for Housing and Landlord Services, said “The area is going through an impressive transformation and will become an attractive residential area which will provide quality homes for local people”.

As well as providing these new homes, the scheme will have an extra benefit of bringing in much needed funds for the Council. Like many other authorities across the country, the Council is facing financial challenges, and needs to become self-financing by 2020. The funds raised from the sale of homes will go towards supporting the Council’s capital programme and helping to meet its priorities.

Bradley Hall’s director of estate agency Matt Hoy said “We are delighted to be working with West Lancashire Borough Council in bringing these fantastic new homes to market.”

How Landfill Greed At Beacon Park Golf Course Started

Having been asked again how the landfill, here now overgrown, neglected, and an illegal breach of planning condition  almost  hiding the course sign, of the Beacon Park Golf Course came about, you can read below the originating email from the then course leaseholder Mark Prosser of DCT Leisure Ltd, who described it as “creating infill”.

Course News

“We are right now exploring the viability of making some improvements to the facilities here at Beacon Park For some time now we have been in discussion with WLBC regarding the development of a new 9 hole Junior Academy par 3 course on the spare land on the site which used to be the old driving range, and that will be one phase in the proposed development. That will provide a fantastic added amenity and provide a superb facility not just for the established golfer for short game practice but also for those new to the game, both young and old, to come and get involved in the game of golf.

“We are also looking to develop our driving range which is currently really just a field by providing a far more attractive facility with raised greens, perimeter mounding and improved targets, so that’s exciting too. This means we can improve the security to the range as well as the safety issues with regard to perimeter fencing, which I believe needs to be addressed.

“On the course, there are just a couple of areas that need attention: The “first” is a recurring nightmare as at the foot of the hill just in front of the green there is a natural “sump” that constantly holds water. The green also suffers from lack of sunlight as the trees all around have developed. Raising that green will be massively beneficial, not just because we can drain under, but also by bringing it more into the natural sunlight. The green itself is not in the greatest condition after prolonged vandalism, so to have a new purpose built green will be fantastic. At the moment as well, the big hitters who get the ball over the brow of the hill often end up on the green as the hill adds extra yards. By leveling this out that “advantage” will be eliminated providing a more equitable situation with everyone required to hit a second into the green. The second tee will be raised and completely rebuilt with additional winter tee and tee options. This work should mean that the quagmire we live with every winter in that area will be eliminated to a distant memory .

“The “sixth” hole is considered by many to be “unfair” as it penalizes a good tee shot due to the severity of the slope from left to right. To provide a level landing zone just makes great sense so we can address this as part of the overall project.

“We will also be looking to remodel the “fifth” slightly. Again being at the bottom of the hill this will help with drainage issues, but we will also enhance the visual impact of the hole and introduce strategic hazards to cause those who wish to “go for the green in one”, to have to consider the “risk”/ “reward” balance.

“The 13th and 14th are just crying out for some remodeling, they are currently pretty bland and again being at the foot of the hill suffer from the torrents of water that flow down to that area. By raising strategically not only can we drain under, but also dramatically improve their visual impact. I envisage a new raised green for the 13th possibly with a little additional length, there is spare land at the back of the green, with sculpting of both fairways. I do not envisage any changes to the 14th green.

“Whilst the project is under way and we have the resources available we will also be enhancing existing tee zones and building much needed winter tees where-ever necessary, and the 16th will be at the top of that list. We are totally cognizant of the concerns of all parties and of course have commissioned all the relevant consultations with regard to Flora, Fauna and Ecology and Traffic Management and will of course be working hand in glove with WLBC on all matters arising.

“I’m really excited about this project, the costs are massive and in the normal course it is unlikely that DCT or WLBC would allocate the necessary funding. However it was brought to my attention last year that when developers are excavating a site pre build, they need to find somewhere to put what they dig up, and are prepared to pay someone to take it. Well all of a sudden what would otherwise have been impossible was suddenly possible – what is a nuisance to them is exactly what we need to create the infill. [Cue the entry of Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd ]

“It’s very early days yet, the initial planning applications are with WLBC so we’ll see where that takes us. I’ve worked out a way to manage the works so we can play 18 holes throughout the project, so I am happy with that and if the project gets the go ahead it will be scheduled for minimum disruption to start October time so the bulk of the heavy work is completed over the winter months whilst the course is at its quietest.

“Once we get approval I will get the members involved with the Course Architect so we can all agree the way we would like the re developed holes to look and what hazards (Bunkering etc) would add maximum value to ensure that we have a challenging and fair enhanced course.

“I hope that gives you an overview of what we are setting out to achieve and if any one has any queries, please do not hesitate to call in for a chat. Your support is fundamental to this project and I am hopeful that by working together we might even retain a budget for some strategically placed perimeter fencing, however we will review that at a later stage.

“I will keep you up to speed as things develop”.

Best Wishes, Mark Prosser

Permission was granted, including this comment from WLBC that “Characteristics of the Potential Impacts-Whilst the proposed development exceeds the indicative threshold set out in Annex A to Circular 02/99 for such urban development projects, I consider the development of this site is not of significantly greater scale than surrounding land uses. Neither the site nor the surrounding land is significantly environmentally sensitive and the proposal will not result in any appreciable increase in traffic, emissions or noise, other than in the short term whilst inert soil is imported to the site and the site is remodelled.

“It is considered that in view of the scale, location and form of the development, its impact will be no more than local. The proposal is not considered to have impacts of substantial extent, magnitude or complexity and construction impact will be short lived”. Really? 5 years is short lived? The course facing ruin for competition golf?

Tosh? That’s Rubbish, Nonsense!

In response to WLR “The Historical Political Contrast Of Local Plans” published on 25 October, Cllr John Hodson commented “What a load of tosh! I attended and contributed to the Planning Commission held in Cunard Buildings, Liverpool on Thursday last, a Meeting Chaired by Roberta Blackam Woods MP, Shadow Minister for Planning where the Commission are gathering evidence in preparation for possible Planning reform. My input was directly consistent with my views in 2013 with the added experience of the last 5 years and especially the last 3 when Labour took control of the Council after 13 long years of Tory administration. The new Local Plan seeks a different approach which is more Planning led development rather than Developer led Planning”.

Roberta Blackman-Woods MP  is the Member of Parliament for the City of Durham. She wrote “I was recently invited to speak at the Planning for Housing Conference, and was very glad to be able to talk about Labour’s proposals for housing and land supply.

“This is one of the topics that will be looked at by Labour’s Planning Commission, a group that will meet over the coming year to examine the issues local communities are facing with the planning system, and help Labour design a planning system that will be fit not only for the 21st century, but the 22nd century as well.

“As part of its remit, the Planning Commission will look at how we get land into the system- not just for development, but for redevelopment and the regeneration of brownfield land.

“I spoke  about how the Planning Commission will be looking at this and other planning issues and how we must have a better system of capturing land value uplift, especially one that is focused more on delivering the infrastructure our communities need to be sustainable and successful in the future”.

The press release stated “At the 2018 Party Conference in Liverpool, Labour has launched its new Planning Commission. The Planning Commission, comprised of planning experts, councillors, and representatives from industry, has been set up as part of Labour’s agenda to re-engage with communities across the country that have been increasingly marginalised by the current planning system.

“At present, planning is not reflecting the needs of communities across the UK, with Government deregulation meaning residents have less say in the type of development they see, and much new development is not underpinned by the necessary infrastructure. Also, there is a housing crisis in the UK because not enough homes are being built, including genuinely affordable housing for social rent. Labour believes that it is time for a root and branch review of the planning system, and the Commission will examine how to put local people back at the centre of planning.

“To ensure that Labour can deliver a planning system that works for everyone, the Planning Commission will be meeting in different regions of the UK over the coming year, and will seek the views of planning leads, developers, councillors and residents from across the country.

“The planning system needs to rediscover its vision, and once again reflect the needs of communities, help revive neighbourhoods and town centres in decline and address the urgent need for better infrastructure and more housing. The Commission will help form the basis of a series of planning policies based on tackling inequality and promoting social justice, providing a high-quality built and natural environment for everyone, and that are able to encourage renewable energy and tackle climate change. Labour also seeks to explore how modern methods of construction can be used that are better for the environment and more energy efficient”.

Read that again…“The planning system needs to rediscover its vision, and once again reflect the needs of communities, help revive neighbourhoods and town centres in decline and address the urgent need for better infrastructure and more housing”. ?