Cllr John Hodson has resigned from the WLBC cabinet with dignity
Seen above in 2015 with Labour colleagues who disputed Tory claims they were protecting the greenbelt.
‘”Ever since I made the decision back in 2009 to re-enter the political arena of West Lancs, my sole political aim was to see the return of a Labour administration and to help work towards a dynamic period of improvement to our Borough through Regeneration.
“It was a fortunate turn of events which saw the implementation of ‘Operation Red Rose’ which marked a turning point in the campaigning techniques which resulted in Labour taking 5 seats from the Conservatives in 2012 alone, a result I believe unparalleled in West Lancs.
“It was well known at that time that the then Labour group was not operating as effectively as it could have been shall we say, which meant it looked like they could be in opposition for many years but by a new strategy of campaigning discipline it culminated in Labour wins in Wards throughout the borough previously considered ‘no-go’ areas for Labour.
Labour takes control
“Following Labour’s continued successes up to 2015 when we finally took control, I was especially proud to be invited to become Cabinet Member for Planning, a topic which I had followed for many years and have devoted a significant amount of personal time in studying and believe by doing so I have achieved considerable expertise.
“The Regeneration of the Borough and in particular of Skelmersdale was and still is a formidable task under the present ideological application of the austerity program; it demands a determined, informed and principled administration to build the on the solid foundations of an ambitious Local Plan- the only framework capable of providing the road map to achieving Regeneration.
“I truly believe that the only effective way of achieving this is through a long term Local Plan as it demonstrates to the wider agencies and strategic players that we have a long term vision for regeneration and will demonstrate the need for road infrastructure, schools GP practices etc., and the bigger projects.
Short term political expediency
“Sadly, recent developments have demonstrated that the short term political expediency has overtaken the necessary Strategic overview. With all due respect, I believe the Labour Group’s recent decision against this vision, in my considered opinion, is the wrong move.
“By their very nature Local Plans are controversial and always contested. Everyone is in agreement that we need to provide houses and employment for future generations and it is natural and understandable that there will be objections to not in my back yard but we have to accommodate this growth and development as we have legal targets to meet. As the greenest borough in the Country, we have 91% green belt land and so we have no choice but to release greenbelt as has been done in all previous local plans.
“I am however, also a democrat and I respect the will of the Group in their decision, it is a matter of political judgement and this is where our beliefs diverge.
“I totally refute allegations that the review has been conducted ‘in secrecy’ or ‘behind closed doors’ as some in opposition claim, the parts of the process which are conducted confidentially are in regard to matters of Land designation which of course are extremely commercially sensitive.
The integrity of Officers
and members of the Local Plan Cabinet Working Group are of a very high standard and I would like to thank them all for their hard and difficult work. Whilst it is always important to listen to the views of the residents of West Lancs., it should be realised that only 1% of the population of West Lancs. responded in total and not all of them critically so. It is my firm opinion that you cannot produce an effective, strategic and ambitious Local Plan by playing to populist political opinion.
“My position is, I now feel, to be untenable and it is with deep regret that I give notice of my resignation as Cabinet Member for Planning and also my withdrawal from candidature for the forthcoming local elections for Scott Ward.
“It is with much deepest regret that I have come to this decision with the realisation that the ambitious programme for West Lancs. is now at risk, I fought like I have never fought for anything in politics for this Plan and if I had to go through the process again which I have steered for the last three years, hand on heart I would have wanted to produce a Local Plan which in its latest (unpublished) iteration would have been a game changer for West Lancashire.
No Brownfield sites left
“At the end of the day, you cannot get away from the housing numbers requirement and with all of the Brownfield sites already taken into account within the current Local Plan you simply have to release some Greenbelt somewhere due to the fact that we have such a high percentage.
“This will make the task of my successor extremely difficult as you simply move the issue around the Borough.All that will happen now is that the numbers will remain the same but arranged in a slightly different way but still around the main settlements and also over a much shorter time frame.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my involvement with the process and my only regret is that all the good work that the Officers carried out will not now produce the Regeneration of the Borough in the ambitious way that we envisioned.
“I would like to close by thanking all those fellow members who shared that vision and supported the programme, and would also like to thank all the residents of West Lancs. of which I have served for the past two terms of office and wish everyone the best for the future”.
Cllr. JE Hodson