Monthly Archives: August 2020

What Clancy Consulting Found Under Mart Lane

In 2007 Clancy Consulting

prepared a report for the development of Burscough Football Club. Lanes For Drains

inspected on behalf of Clancy, Using remotely-controlled camera systems and software, images are relayed to a mobile van unit, where a technician assesses the structural condition and integrity of the drain or sewer system.

Stored images of the Mart Lane sewers were published and enclosed in the Clancy report. They show a disturbing state of the sewers. Comments on 12 pictures shown below include “Sewer Deformed 1; Sewer Broken 4; Infiltration Running at Joint 2; Multiple Fractures 4; Hole in Sewer 1.

And that is what all of the older, Victorian, sewers in West Lancashire would look like if similar surveys were undertaken. Planners took no notice of evidence produced, in this case, for development in Burscough. And they would take no notice if more sewage surveys were undertaken in Ormskirk, Aughton, Halsall, Old Skelmersdale, and others. Is it any wonder people form local flooding groups to show the rotten state of what hides under West Lancashire? 

Flooding Of Aughton Town Green School

For a long time we have been publishing pictures of floods that start high up Parrs Lane,

which has numerous grids blocked by uncleared farm and road debris, and then flows down to Prescot Road,

and Town Green Lane, flooding the school gate areas,

the flooded Aughton Surgery entrance shown below

down to the Whalley Drive junction.

And nobody, no local or county elected member, has ever been remotely concerned. But now West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper has hit out at Lancashire County Council inaction in resolving flooding issues at Aughton Town Green Primary School.   

Headteacher Mr Nick Huxley initially contacted MP Rosie in February following Storm Ciara when the school was almost completely inaccessible due to a river of water running through it and stopping people entering through the school gates.  On that occasion, the school was forced to close at short notice leaving children without education and parents struggling to arrange childcare and alternative arrangements.    

Despite Mr Huxley meeting with LCC’s Highways Team, LCC’s Surveyor and the local LCC Councillor at the start of the year, there has been no progress on resolving the issue, as we repeat, starting in Parrs Lane.    

Rosie remains frustrated with Lancashire County Council’s failure to act and resolve this issue, with the school and surrounding area experiencing further flooding during Storm Kyle this month.    She said “It is unacceptable that Aughton Town Green School and local residents have to put up with this flooding despite Lancashire County Council having been fully aware of the flooding issues here since at least February, and Mr Huxley describing it as a ‘historic problem’.  Prescot Road/Town Green Lane junction flooded, below  

“The children are due back at school next week and not only have the investigations from the February floods not been completed and resolved but the school is still being flooded. Lancashire County Council are both the Local Lead Flood Authority and the Local Education Authority, this is for them to sort out, and they should sort it out quickly.   

“Expecting the school to be able to stump up thousands of pounds in flood surveys, investigations and defences is simply ridiculous. They have already spent over £10,000 trying to resolve this themselves – any money they spend must come from budgets which should be used for children and their education.   

“LCC tell me they believe there are issues upstream of the school so they need to get on and sort that out immediately.  The school meanwhile believes the problem may be further down Town Green Lane as the water appears to back up there all the way to the school exacerbating the situation – LCC and UU need to assess the gullies and sewer network here urgently.    

“I have written to both LCC and United Utilities demanding that this be resolved urgently as it beggars belief that these large publicly funded organisations can’t resolve this problem.  As we are approaching the start of the new school year for pupils and winter for local residents, it is vital that these issues are resolved once and for all to avoid my constituents having a wet cold winter and children having to miss more of their education. No more delays can be acceptable!” 

“Dear Rosie, you are up against a brick wall of official complacency, official ignorance, officials who couldn’t care less, official dereliction of duty, commercial interests, shareholders’ come first and the public taxpayers last. You can’t win. Simple! The floods will appear year after year in Aughton, Burscough, Halsall, and all over West Lancashire and you won’t find anyone, elected or paid, who gives a damn! You’ve met them, above, they’ve ignored you, and they always will. If you think LCC and UU are remotely interested, just ask the Burscough Flooding Group for a view of the passing the buck/blame game!”

Serco “Scrounge” Group Plc Has A Market Capitalization Of UK£1.8b

and paid its CEO Rupert Soames total annual “compensation” worth UK£4.5m over the year to December 2018 while scrounging its way around outsourced contracts.

On 4th August 2020 Derbyshire Dales District Council met to consider approval for extra funding, requested by Serco, in order to fully implement the new waste and recycling contract following the disruption of services since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

You’d think disruption of any council services by COVID-19 was one-sided, affecting only the council half of the contract. It seems not, as Derbyshire Dales agreed “Recommendation; To provide financial support to Serco to support the implementation of the new contract, due to the impact of delays in the process associated to contact challenge and COVID19. To cap the level of financial support to Serco to £101,185”. That’s peanuts to Serco!

As has been widely discussed and analysed, COVID-19 (or events and circumstances flowing from COVID-19) may, depending on the circumstances and the specific wording, provide force majeure relief to a party prevented (or hindered, impaired or adversely affected) from performing its obligations under a commercial contract. While force majeure provisions frequently do not carry any entitlement to additional monetary compensation (even though the contract may subsequently become more expensive to perform), commercial contracts often include a termination right where a force majeure event has subsisted for a prolonged continuous period of time or a series of force majeure events have occurred for an aggregate period of time.

Derbyshire Dales wrote “The Council’s waste & recycling collection contract is significant in terms of value and because it affects all Dales residents. During 2019/20 this contract has been subject to a competitive tendering process and a new contract (for 8 years with the option of a further 8 year extension) was awarded to the incumbent contractor, Serco, in December 2019. To allow a period of mobilisation, the new contract will commence in August 2020. While the expiring contract cost is around £2.1m per year, the new contract will cost over £3m a year. It is planned to offset some of the additional costs by introducing a chargeable garden waste service from April 2021 (forecast annual income is around £0.7m). The contract also allows for the possible introduction of three weekly residual waste collections, should that be necessary in the future.

“Members are already aware of the support that had to be given to Serco to ensure the garden waste collection service could recommence on 1st June (Emergency Committee 21 May 2020). The Council temporarily supported Serco’s additional operational costs. It accepted a reduction in recycling collections for a month, and reduced/no Food and Garden Waste collection for four months, accepting in excess of 450,000 missed collections whilst continuing to pay Serco the full monthly contract fee. The Council also accommodated Bulky Waste collection cessation, and performed 3,051 bin deliveries that should normally be carried out by Serco. Taken together, it is estimated that the combined value of these supplier reliefs and Council contributions during the Covid-19 pandemic to date exceed £250,000″.

“The new contract transitioned seamlessly on 2 August, but there are financial implications associated with this. These are due to delays in delivering the new refuse collection vehicles, and the consequent need for the existing (old) vehicles to be kept going for some months longer than intended. Part of this delay may be attributable to the Council issuing its “Letter of Intent to Purchase” vehicles on 23 January 2020, which was up to two weeks later than anticipated; this was due to clarification/challenge from the other bidder at this time and was unforeseen by Serco and the Council. Serco inform us that this 1-2 week delay caused a 1-3 month slippage in vehicle delivery slots from the supplier”.

Council tax payers in Derbyshire Dales must be boiling with rage at the generosity of officers and elected members to Serco of “exceeding £250,000”. 

Watching Wainhomes?

Parrs Lane Aughton watchers will note with some concern that developer Wainhomes (North-West) has won a High Court case against the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government over housebuilding in the area of South Ribble Borough Council.

Wainhomes in December 2018 applied for outline planning permission for up to 100 homes at Chain House Lane, Whitestake. South Ribble refused this and Wainhomes appealed. And following a public inquiry the planning inspector also rejected Wainhomes’ case.

In Wainhomes (North-West) Ltd v Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government [2020] EWHC 2294 Mr Justice Dove noted at the outset of the case that although the appeal before him had a number of grounds, the Secretary of State had already conceded that the inspector’s decision should be quashed on one ground [Ground 5] – that use of the standard method for the distributional consequences which would arise across the Central Lancashire housing market area would render a policy in South Ribble’s local plan out of date.

Wainhomes also argued that the inspector fell into error in concluding there had not been a review of the rate of housing delivery and that her reasoning was unclear over the council’s core strategy.It also contended that the inspector was guilty of a clear misinterpretation of planning policy guidance when she concluded that it covered a situation where an existing plan figure was found significantly above the housing requirement generated using the standard method to identify local housing need.

The borough council supported the decision which was made by the inspector, and contended that on all grounds the claim should be dismissed.

Dove J said “Drawing the threads together it is clear to me that this claim must be allowed, and the decision quashed in relation to the claimant’s contentions in ground 5 [the point conceded by the Secretary of State.”

The judge also said he was satisfied that in ground 1, the Inspector’s reasons for concluding that the MOU and the SHMA process leading up to it did not properly constitute a footnote 37 review were not legally adequate, and that her conclusions were affected by illegality in the form of an error of fact.

Mr Justice Dove said he was satisfied that the conclusion the inspector reached that there had been a significant change pursuant to the PPG arising from the introduction of the standard method, was a planning judgment reasonably open to her based upon a correct interpretation of the PPG (“albeit other conclusions might reasonably be reached by other Inspectors”), and therefore she was entitled to conclude that Core Strategy Policy 4(a) was out of date.

Housebuilding Algorithm Unfair To Towns And Cities?

What is an algorithm? An algorithm is a set of instructions that describes how to get something done.  They can be designed using pseudocode and flow charts. They are written using statements and expressions.

Has it dawned on the elite in our councils that if a master algorithm was written for planning applications and decisions we could wipe out the whole planning department apart from one officer with a computer and one finance officer to take payments for the planning fees?

Boris Johnson has been warned that an algorithm at the heart of his planning reforms is at risk of “levelling down” city and town centres. Under the changes to planning laws, local discretion over the rate of house-building will be removed and central government will “distribute” an annual target, at present 337,000 a year, among local councils. They will then be required to designate enough land to meet the target.

Analysis by Lichfields, a planning consultancy, has suggested that outside London much of the new housing will be concentrated in Conservative local authority areas in the suburbs and the shires, rather than in town centres.

So here in West Lancashire, not a “shire”, we would have just our brownfield land and no other capacity to take more housing. It seems strange when planning to “level up”, to be levelling down, housing targets to rates even lower than they have been delivering. It would be quite difficult to explain to Conservative voters why they should take more housing in their areas to allow large Labour-run cities nearby to continue to stagnate rather than regenerate.”

The analysis suggested that under the algorithm for new housing will be built predominantly in London and the South East. The number of homes built in London would nearly treble, to 93,532, and the number in the South East would increase by 57 per cent, to 61,000.

The North East, North West, and Yorkshire and the Humber would all have lower overall numbers of homes built than the present three-year average. The North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber would all have lower overall numbers of homes built than the present three-year average.

There are significant disparities within regions under the new model. In Liverpool the number of new homes would fall by 59 per cent.

Mr Johnson has promised to rejuvenate the economy with a “build, build, build” strategy. Councils are to be given up to three and half years to designate areas for growth, renewal or protection. Once agreed, however, local politicians will have little or no say over specific applications that fit the rules. So we could get rid of the excess local politicians then?