No Concern For Conservation?

Readers may know of the West Lancashire Conservation Areas Advisory Panel, a Borough Council constituted body? 

It completes and publishes Annual Reports. It covers all 28 Conservation Areas in West Lancashire, and is supported and serviced by the WLBC Planning Department, particularly Mr Ian Bond the Borough Conservation Officer.

We have learned that “Unfortunately due to changes in staffing structures and priorities within the Planning Division a decision has been made to stop providing support to the CAAP. As a result yesterday’s meeting [September 12th] was the last one which will be supported by the Council. At the meeting there was a general discussion regarding continuing as an independent group, separate of the Local Authority. This would be free to comment on planning proposals in the same way other amenity groups do”.

This is bad news for every West Lancashire Conservation Area because every one of them is now under threat of fracking. In particular the proposed Aurora well pad is at Great Altcar. Initially for 2 wells, which may be doubled, the potential is for reaching under half of the properties in Formby and for more pads right across the Moss. The local geology suggests that there are numerous fault lines and nearby disused oil boreholes.

“Due to changes in staffing structures and priorities within the Planning Division” indicates there has been no thought whatsoever to the potential for fracking disaster. What authority will an independent group separate of the authority have? What about emergency services? Heavy vehicles with toxic loads mixing with ambulances travelling between Ormskirk and Southport Hospitals? Who is concerned that local agricultural produce may prove impossible to sell if it is thought to be contaminated by fracking activity?

The West Lancashire Conservation Areas Advisory Panel was set up in 1975. The Panel advises the Council on planning applications in Conservation Areas, and in respect of Listed Buildings. The Panel generally meets once a month, in the week immediately following the meeting of the West Lancashire Borough Council’s Planning Committee. This is to enable the Panel’s comments to be incorporated into a future Agenda for the Planning Committee. The Council’s Heritage & Environment Manager acts as Secretary, prepares the Agenda, presents the applications and takes the Minutes.

The official Annual 2016 minutes of the Panel included “There is a standing open invitation to all Councillors on the Planning Committee, and also to all Planning Officers, to observe the Panel at work. No councillors or Planning Officers attended during 2016 – this is regretted”. It’s shocking, actually!

Could there be a worse time to lessen the involvement of WLBC in its obligations to residents and council tax payers? The Moss Alliance is asking for funds to help them with expert Planning Consultants for reports on fracking objections etc. Some Parish Councils listed, Formby, Little Altcar, Great Altcar, Downholland, Lydiate, and Halsall, have been generous. We see no mention of the Aughton Parish Council with its vast cash resources. Perhaps it has donated? If not here is how its bean counters can do so, Sort Code 01 06 45, Account No 45755825.

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