At an informal meeting of circa 70 Halsall residents and a few interlopers from Aughton on Saturday, there was a palpable atmosphere of displeasure as they gathered to discuss the WLBC proposed Local Plan Review. Led by the Chairman and vice-Chairman of the Parish Council , assisted by local resident Nicola Pryce-Roberts sharing her experience of planning gained as an elected member for Skelmersdale South, the enormity of the impact of further development on the local infrastructure became clear.
As we all know by now, WLBC claims that “By releasing enough land for development needs for 30+ years, the Council will be in a better position to refuse any applications for development not in line with the Local Plan”.
Some residents of the Borough, and in particular Aughton, look askance at any claim of the Council refusing applications for development after it appealed the Parrs Lane development, won it, and before the victory was fully enjoyed Parrs Lane is back in the local plan, at a cost (total loss) to council tax of £81,248.35.
As the Director of Planning told me “High Court decisions set no long-lasting precedent for the site, they simply quashed the original Planning Inspectors decisions related to the two appeals and required the appeals to be re-determined. The High Court decisions, and the re-determined appeal decisions, do not guarantee any longer term protection of the site for future development needs. The adopted Local Plan is what sets the policy that safeguards the site for future development needs, and so any new Local Plan may choose to allocate that safeguarded land because those future needs have been realised”. In which case why did WLBC fight for Parrs Lane in the knowledge of consideration of its inclusion in the Local Plan 2050?
And we can all “Submit your comments on the WLBC Local Plan from October 12th to December 13th 2018, to WLBC online using the new online portal at: https://westlancs.citizenspace.com/ (this is the easiest way to comment), or alternatively, proformas can be downloaded from the WLBC website at: https://www.westlancs.gov.uk/ or can be collected from local libraries; or the WLBC Customer Service Points in the Concourse, Skelmersdale; or at 52, Derby Street, Ormskirk and can be returned to WLBC by post using the address on the form”.
A quick look at the Strategic Housing and Employment Land Availability Assessment 2018 for Halsall shows Carr Moss Lane land “Site is designated Green Belt therefore it is parked. However, in the draft Local Plan Review Preferred Options document, this site is proposed as a housing allocation (WLLPR policy H2, site HW6). If this is carried forward, the site’s changed status will be reflected in future SHELAAs”. Other land at Carr Moss Lane is “Site is designated Green Belt therefore it is parked”.
Land to the east of St Cuthbert’s Primary School “Site is designated Green Belt therefore it is parked. However, in the draft Local Plan Review Preferred Options document, this site is marked as part of a proposed alternative housing option. If this is carried forward, the site’s changed status will be reflected in future SHELAAs”. And “Land to north of St Cuthberts Church Halsall. Essentially square site surrounded by trees. Site is designated Green Belt, on the edge of a conservation area and has a scheduled monument at the northernmost point. Therefore the site is parked”.
These sites are of great significance to Halsall. The Halsall School is Victorian, has no facility for more scholars, and newcomers in the new homes will face being bussed out of the area.
A feature of many of the 560 homes proposed is the peat bogs they would be built on, similar to Sefton’s peat bog sites. The Church Commissioners own large areas of the Western Parishes. It might be them, and other land owners, who will stop producing local grown food in the rush for land capital gains. How anyone might think affordable homes will be built on these sites is surely disillusioned?
The suspicion arises that WLBC is paying lip service to the rights of its residents to oppose homes for Sefton as “A statement of common ground is a written record of the progress made by strategic policy-making authorities during the process of planning for strategic cross-boundary matters. It documents where effective co-operation is and is not happening throughout the plan-making process, and is a way of demonstrating at examination that plans are deliverable over the plan period, and based on effective joint working across local authority boundaries. In the case of local planning authorities, it also forms part of the evidence required to demonstrate that they have complied with the duty to cooperate”. Residents should see it all!