Posted by: westlancashirerecord | October 12, 2018

Dismal Tory By-Election Result For Tanhouse

Labour  held Tanhouse at the By-Election yesterday with Ron Cooper receiving 464 votes, in which the Conservative candidate A L Blundell was dumped on, with only 49 votes! The Independent candidate Aaron Body received 129 votes.

The local Tory slide towards oblivion continues. Is 49 votes the lowest ever for any candidate in West Lancashire? No, also in Tanhouse July 1997, Tory 45 votes! Also, Tanhouse 2001, Tory 49 votes! 

Meanwhile, the OWLs  are reporting that “Scrutiny is important…which is why it is sad that the local Conservatives didn’t even bother with last night’s meeting of the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny committee. This is where questions can be asked regarding the Council’s officers and external providers and their performance. There are real challenges for West Lancs right now, and the so-called opposition are consistently and repeatedly falling way short – or not even bothering at all”.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | October 12, 2018

Burscough Calls On WLBC To Defer Development

On 1 October WLR drew attention to the appointment of Jacobs  (as the authority’s framework consultancy) to undertake a study which will consider the catchment and surface water flood risk in Burscough. The commitment was welcomed by MP Rosie Cooper.

In view of the study, Burscough Parish Council has written to West Lancashire Borough Council “To John Harrison and copies to Kim Webber and Cllr John Hodson-:

“Dear Mr. Harrison,

“As you may be aware the Lead Local Flood Authority have commissioned drainage consultants Jacobs to survey and report on flooding problems in Burscough, through funding from DEFRA.

“In light of this we would ask that decisions on current applications in Burscough, with particular reference to 2018/0837/FUL Victoria Park, are deferred until the results of the survey are known! Our concerns with this application, as per our response, is that the proposed attenuation is not sufficient to prevent further flooding in the Crabtree Lane area, contrary to NPPF.

“A further consideration is that the results could impact on both the current and future SFRA’s plus the proposed replacement Local Plan, due shortly to go out to consultation.

“Yours Burscough Parish Council”

Jacobs is renowned for its world-wide  high class consultancy record.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | October 11, 2018

County Community Transport Budget Cut Confirmation

Wasn’t it just a few days ago the Leader of LCC was claiming the county budget could soon be balanced? Now, it looks as though it is being achieved at cost to vulnerable people. Lancashire County Council’s  cabinet has confirmed a reduction to the budget which supports community transport services, following a public consultation.

The consultation was launched after it was proposed to reduce the financial support for community transport operators by £175,000 over two years to contribute to savings needed to meet a forecasted council funding gap of £135m by 2022/23.

Community transport in Lancashire is provided for people who are not able to use mainstream public transport and includes Dial-a-Ride , group transport, and community car schemes.

County Councillor Keith Iddon, cabinet member for Highways and Transport, said “As a council we have to make some very difficult decisions to balance the books and make savings in almost every area of the council’s work. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to let us know how they use these services, and how they may be affected by any changes. Following this decision we will look to minimise the impact of this budget reduction as much as possible for those who use community transport”.

This is a shameful decision, but not unexpected. No cuts for special allowances for almost all of the party politicians in control of the County, just the easy targets! “Savings in almost every area” doesn’t reach the special ones!

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | October 10, 2018

Is There A Housing Crisis Or A Population Crisis?

Anyone with an interest in the proposal by West Lancashire Borough Council to build “the exciting vision for an ambitious West Lancashire”, (or should that be an ambitious developers’ charter for West Lancashire?), will be aware of the new Local Plan proposals with its included Table 4a; Housing and Employment Land Requirement by Plan Period that discloses Option E for 2012-2037 Option of 15,000 dwellings, or its 2012-2050 Option 22,800 dwellings.

There being no apparent population crisis in West Lancashire we then notice the apparent influence of the Liverpool City Region as the SHELMA seeks to identify the Objectively-Assessed Need (OAN) for West Lancashire and for the Liverpool City Region as a whole.

In fact many comments have been made at some public meetings already, and MP Rosie Cooper has said that she does “not believe that West Lancashire Borough Council should build houses for Merseyside’”. She wrote Thank you for contacting my office recently to raise your concerns over the proposed local plan and the impact it will have on habitats, farmer’s livelihoods, road congestion, power and water supplies, and sewage treatment. My advice to any resident who is unhappy with the draft local plan is to fully engage with the consultation process and give their views on plan through the formal channels, addressing each issue and explaining in detail why it is an issue.

“I have heard the figure of 16,000 houses being mentioned which I believe is very high and I do not believe that West Lancashire Borough council should build houses for Merseyside. I do not support continued development on the green belt but only so much as is necessary to meet the needs of West Lancashire residents. As you will be aware, I do not have any decision-making power over what the council chooses to do, including the development of thelr local plan. I will continue to represent residents and ensure the council are fully aware of the views of my West Lancashire constituents.

“I have brought your concerns to the attention of John Harrison Director of Development and Regeneration Services for West Lancashire Borough Council, and asked that this matter be investigated. I will contact you again once l have received a reply”.

But it isn’t just Merseyside (Liverpool, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens, Wigan). The list of local authorities included in the “Duty To Co-operate Statement” also includes Chorley Borough Council, South Ribble Borough Council, and Fylde Borough Council.

So is there a housing crisis or a population crisis in West Lancashire, and if there is evidence for it, what housing might that be? By WLBC’s own admission there is no brown field land available, so all new housing will be on green belt land, sold by farmers at 10 times the price of land for agriculture, that price then to be reflected in house prices.

By chance a letter was published in the Times a day or two ago . It questions an opinion of the National Housing Federation that if we build 340,000 homes each year until 2033 we will avert the (current) housing crisis by supplying enough houses to satisfy demand (current). But “the population of England will have increased by 5.5million by 2033…the ability of the population to expand at a rate that exceeds the capacity of the services (only one of which is housing) that sustain it should be self evident”.

We know all about that, capacity of services, ie infrastructure, so poor in West Lancashire as to be described in some cases as pitiful. Will it change? Not a chance!

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | October 8, 2018

Nil Spend On Flood Defences? Whoops!

In a recent Freedom of Information request to West Lancashire Borough Council the resident asked “I would like to know how much has been spent on flood defences over the last 5 years. In addition, I would also like to find out how much the council has spent repairing flood damages”.

WLBC has embarrassed itself by replying “Thank you for your e-mail of 1 October where you requested information about spend on flood defences and repairs within West Lancashire over the past 5 years. I am writing to advise you that, following a search of our paper and electronic records, I have established that the information you requested is NIL. However, Lancashire County Council is the Lead Local Flood Authority for Lancashire and they may be able to provide further information relating to your query”.

But is that NIL response true? When WLBC posed its own question “Who is responsible for Hurlston Brook  in Ormskirk?” it stated “The West Lancashire Borough Council states publicly that it is responsible for the section of Hurlston Brook which runs through Coronation Park, Ormskirk. The trash screens are routinely cleared on a rota basis to allow the free flow of water and during expected severe weather the screens are checked on a daily basis”.

How strange that Hurlston Brook  [pics QLocal] doesn’t appear in WLBC’s own records. Who regularly cleans the screens and checks them when needed on a daily basis? What does it cost, where is the budget for it? Does WLBC pay the Environment Agency to undertake it? Giving a false answer to a FoI could lead to an appeal and a decision of making an unlawful response, and that would be disgraceful.

In some recent cases of Freedom of Information requests in respect of flooding, residents have been declared to be “vexatious” because they are persistent in seeking credible responses. As we reported a few days ago WLBC was deemed guilty of a breach of the FoI Act itself through its tardiness in meeting a deadline. Vexatious? Of course!

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | October 7, 2018

Sefton Council Wallowing In Cash From Parking Fees And Fines

Readers will be surprised by the cash accruing to Sefton Borough Council (SBC) from parking, cash that is steadily increasing. A combination of parking and penalty charges has seen them net more than £11,600,000 in the last three years .

The data, from a Freedom of Information request, found that the council collected more than £1,000,000 just from parking fines in the last year alone. Paid-for parking in the borough has been the subject of much controversy for many years and in Southport especially.

SBC claimed pay and display was initially brought in as a way of ensuring traffic flow rather than raising revenue (don’t they all!) but the charges have been increased during the last few years, as the council sought to make extra income from motorists as it tackles its budget deficit .

SBC claims “Like in every borough, parking fees and restrictions exist for a number of reasons. This includes ensuring car park space turnover for shoppers, the highway network is kept safe, residents can park close to their homes and to make sure traffic flows as freely as possible.

“We believe our charges are very competitive when compared to private operators and others in similar authorities. Any income we gain from charges and fines goes back into maintaining and operating the parking network, while any surplus contributes to funding public transport and concessionary travel”.

Well, that’s a new one. The local conglomerate of “Merseyside” which controls Merseytravel’s budget approved it in February 2017 and a government levy of £95,400,000 was agreed for 2017/18. The grant to Merseytravel to support its provision of transport functions including concessions was set at £92,000,000 and a separate grant of £27,700,000 was approved to support the operation of the Mersey Tunnels.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | October 6, 2018

The Bickerstaffe Bulletin

The Bickerstaffe Parish Council issues newsletters called “The Bickerstaffe Bulletin” to its parishioners. Its Summer 2018 edition carries news of the upcoming WLBC Local Plan Review.

“As a parish  within the Green Belt, development in Bickerstaffe is limited by Green Belt policy. The Green Belt serves five main purposes: to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas; to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another; to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment; to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; to assist in urban regeneration, and by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

“Green Belt policy, which aims to permanently protect open land through tight controls over most forms of development, has largely governed any development in Bickerstaffe for the past 30 years, including meaning that no land is allocated for development at the present time.

“However…change is potentially afoot…Planning permission for the permanent development of currently designated green belt land could be granted in the future if WLBC’s Local Plan Review chooses to release land from the Green Belt for allocation for development.

“A number of sites have been submitted to the Council by landowners and agents as potential development sites; these sites are coloured pink on the enclosed map . These are only proposals at the moment and WLBC will consider which sites to include in the Local Plan Review, and will seek the views of the public of West Lancashire in the Autumn on their selected “Preferred Options”.

“So the PC considers it to be very important that residents’ views are taken into account and seeks to co-ordinate a response. There may be some areas where residents think it is acceptable, and indeed needed for new housing plans, but there may be other sites where residents feel the proposals are more sensitive for a variety of reasons. Whatever your views, the Parish Council would like to know, so it is going to send a questionnaire to every home in the Parish, consulting on residents’ views.

“We would ask for your co-operation in returning the questionnaire—full instructions will accompany it. Enclosed within this newsletter (open up the folded part) is a map of Bickerstaffe, taken from the WLBC Srategic Housing and Employment Land Availability Assessment (SHELAA), showing all the land which landowners have put forward as potential housing development land—highlighted in purple —this does not mean that houses will automatically be built on this land, it means that if a developer bought the land, housing could be put on this land if WLBC allocates that area in its Local Plan Review”.

Whose policy is it? “The National Planning Policy Framework sets out the Government’s planning policies for England and how these should be applied. It provides a framework within which locally-prepared plans for housing and other development can be produced”.

As for its questionnaire, is that unique for a parish council? Could be! No sign of Aughton PC sending one. But then APC supported development of its green belt. And it doesn’t issue newsletters either.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | October 5, 2018

Pitiful Protection Of “Shovel Ready” Protected Green Belt Land

In July the Campaign to Protect Rural England  labelled the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as a ‘speculative developers’ charter’, as the government published its new planning rulebook.

And, as expected, speculative and lucrative development is what West Lancashire Borough Council will deliver in its latest Local Plan proposals.

Despite a promise to ‘build attractive and better-designed homes in areas where they are needed’, CPRE points out that far from fulfilling this promise, the NPPF will continue to favour the delivery of any development, rather than development that meets communities’ needs, respects the environment, and adheres to policies in the NPPF other than those which deal with housing delivery.

New statistics from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show the largest increase in the amount of Green Belt land released for housing to date. An analysis of the new Government data released 4 October by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) shows that since 2012 almost 10,000 hectares of Green Belt land have been released from ‘protected’ Green Belt boundaries by local councils. Ten councils have together released more than 5,000 hectares in the past year alone.

CPRE claim that a combination of unrealistic housing targets set by the Government, capacity of the housebuilding industry and slow build out rates on land already granted planning permission has created a perfect storm that has resulted in this consistent erosion of the Green Belt.

Green Belt land is some of the most profitable for developers to build on due to it being ‘shovel ready’, surrounded by countryside and within commuting distance to major towns and cities making its release for development extremely desirable for housebuilders. This leaves councils to foot the bill for resulting infrastructure requirements, such as schools, shops and roads.

CPRE points out that national planning rules require councils to deliver housing targets that housebuilders and developers are failing to meet. Developers have consistently argued for higher housing figures as part of an opaque process in determining housing demand. This has resulted in constant pressure on councils to continue releasing Green Belt land for housing in order to try and meet these unrealistic targets.

Planning permission was granted for 378,600 homes in England last year. But housebuilders have increased their land banks by 20% over the past 10 years, while the overall rate of actual building of houses has slowed.

Rebecca Pullinger Planning Campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said ‘National planning rules require local councils to show exceptional circumstances when they remove land from the Green Belt. These statistics illustrate that since 2012, such changes are no longer exceptional.

‘For too long housebuilders have been able to use land as a tool to manipulate and monopolise the market only to serve their own interests. The Government must stop heaping pressure on councils to deliver unrealistic targets that result in the Green Belt being chipped away. Instead, developers should be held more accountable to deliver the homes that they have promised.

‘Building within or on land released from the Green Belt is not the solution: it results in low density, unaffordable homes out of reach of those who desperately need to get a foot on the ladder’.

These new figures reinforce the conclusions of CPRE’s State of the Green Belt 2018 report, published in August this year. The report showed that the planned loss of Green Belt is continuing to increase at an alarming rate. Overall there are currently 460,000 homes being planned to be built on land that is set to be released from the Green Belt, of which 78% would be unaffordable by the Government’s definition. CPRE is calling on the Government to follow through on its commitment to protect the Green Belt and develop clear guidance for local authorities on housing requirements to protect designated land.

There is currently enough brownfield land in England to accommodate more than 1 million homes, with almost three quarters of this land in areas counties with Green Belt land. CPRE urges the government and local authorities ensure brownfield land is redeveloped before any more greenfield land is released from the Green Belt.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | October 4, 2018

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Become Vexatious

We’ve all seen the pictures of flooding in Burscough. The old adage of what can’t speak can’t lie applies to Burscough .

So, as you might expect, a complainant requested information “in relation to the Council’s agreements and other arrangements with United Utilities (UU) including copies of all communication, notes, meeting agendas and minutes of the meetings between the Council and UU, and copies of all communication, notes, meeting agendas and minutes of the meetings between the Council and Environment Agency (EA)”.

WLBC, in the matter of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR), refused to comply with the request as “It considered it to be manifestly unreasonable under regulation 12(4)(b) of the Environmental Information Regulations (‘the EIR”)”.

Now we all know the water floods the roads , sewage, crap is in the gardens, but there is a bureaucratic format to be followed. It’s no use saying politely to bureaucrats “Please can you stop all these regular distasteful episodes that you wouldn’t accept for your own homes and gardens”, because they are oblivious to them.

Not only that, but become too persistent, too regular, too angry, to take any more manifestly bureaucratic crap, and after nearly a year, patience at WLBC has evaporated. To hell with you, the Council responded on 7 December 2017 stating that it had decided to reject the request as vexatious relying on section 14(1) of the FOIA.

Remaining dissatisfied with the response, on 2 January 2018, the complainant requested the Council to conduct an internal review.

Following an internal review the Council wrote to the complainant. It stated that the appropriate legislation in this case was the Environmental Information Regulations 2014 (EIR) rather than the FOIA. However, in substance it upheld the response to the initial request, considering it to be manifestly unreasonable under regulation 12(4)(b) of the EIR on the basis that it was vexatious.

We are approaching the crossroads, whereby your “physical crap in your garden” is real or environmental, according to how much of a level of disruption, irritation, or distress you have caused to your public authority by vexatiously asking about it!

And, to your surprise, the Council is of the view that you have shown an unreasonable persistence in your attempt to reopen issues of floods and crap, which have already been comprehensively addressed by the Council. Also it is unlikely that they will come to a shared view on many issues related to this topic. Well, if their view is “so what”, who do they think shares it with them?

The Council bureaucrats claim that “such voluminous amounts of correspondence have caused (and continue to cause) a disproportionate level of disruption to the Council and the complainant’s actions appear to be an improper use of the formal procedure (bureaucracy) which the FOIA and the EIR allow for”.

Their claim succeeds as “The Commissioner agrees with the Council that the complainant’s requests have reached the point where a reasonable person would conclude they are vexatious and manifestly unreasonable”. The Commissioner also considers that, in general, the public interest is served through transparency and accountability of the work and dealings of the elected bodies, especially in situations where certain activities of a public authority have a direct impact on the lives of its constituents.

The moral of this story is that despite crap being transparently evident in your gardens there is no accountability due to you from the local authority. But Regulation 5(2) provides that a public authority must comply with regulation 5(1) as soon as possible and no later than 20 working days after the date it receives the request. And in this case, the complainant submitted his request on 27 October 2017 and did not receive a response under the EIR until 7 December. Therefore, the Commissioner finds the Council in breach of regulation 5(2).

Congratulations, you’ve proved that those bureaucrats ARE accountable! Your VC (Vexatious Cross)  can be worn with pride.

Posted by: westlancashirerecord | October 4, 2018

Major Shock For Municipal Leased Golf Courses

Eight golf courses were all forced to suddenly close on Tuesday across England after their parent company went into liquidation. Mack Golf  owns eight courses across the country but all were closed on 3rd October after Mack ceased trading with immediate effect due to “unavoidable financial difficulties”.

Statements were put up at the courses informing golfers and customers of the situation. Its eight courses include Southwood Golf Course  in Farnborough, Hampshire, where Justin Rose used to play as a child.

The course was due to be shut down next year by the local council and Rose offered his support on his boyhood course. The course is currently shut, causing more uncertainty over its future. It was due to close next year to become green space to allow for a new housing development in Farnborough .

Another one of Mack Golf’s courses includes Heaton Park in Manchester which won the 2005 best municipal award. It is over 100 years old and the local council have said that they are committed to bringing in new vendors to keep it operating as a golf facility.

The courses that have been shut are…
Southwood Golf Course – Farnborough, Hampshire
Heaton Park – Manchester
Bowring Park – Liverpool
Ellesmere Port – Cheshire
Knights Grange – Winsford
Moors Valley – Ringwood
Stony Holme – Carlisle
Stanley Park – Blackpool

Mack Golf leased their courses so it would appear that councils will now look to find other leasers to re-open these golf courses.

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