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August 23, 2011 - Bill Esterson's Westminster Diary

 

Bill Esterson

 

The deadline for submissions on the consultation of Sefton's Core Strategy was last Friday. Residents of Sefton have put up many informed and considered cases against building on the greenbelt.

I have received some fascinating reports from residents which gave reasoned arguments for preserving the area's greenbelt and I think Sefton Council has been surprised by the sheer scale of opposition to building on the greenbelt in the borough.

I received hundreds of submissions from people in all corners of the constituency rejecting proposals to build on green belt and green space in Sefton and thousands more have signed petitions.

I went to five public meetings which were attended by hundreds of people throughout Sefton where one message was clear - no building on the green belt.

I received very detailed reports from a number of people, most notably in Formby, Crosby, Maghull, Lydiate and Aintree which challenged many of the assumptions in the Core Strategy consultation document itself.

They challenged the need for the number of houses required over the next 15 years and put the case for saving the greenbelt in Sefton for economic, environmental, agricultural and social reasons.

Colin Reader of Maghull and Eric Haworth in Lydiate compiled independent studies of their own and I'd like to applaud them and many others for writing very detailed well informed and considered reports. More than 500 residents in Hightown wrote to the council, thousands of people across the borough signed petitions.

What it shows is that we have professional people here in Sefton Central who have the expertise to aid local campaigns against government policy and in the community's interests.

Colin Reader told me that Sefton's Core Strategy document had failed to make the case for building on the greenbelt.

He said: "It is my view that Sefton is currently unable to present a sufficiently robust assessment with which to demonstrate the ‘exceptional circumstances’ required in order to release greenbelt land for development.

"When regeneration is factored in, the available numbers do not support the need for such additional urban expansion. Apart from the loss of productive and strategically important farmland, such proposals would increase the geographic area of the borough making the delivery of council services less efficient. To this would need to be added the substantial costs of extending existing infrastructure into what are currently rural areas.

"In addition, it is my view that Core Strategy Options 2 and 3 would be extremely bad for the Borough as they would direct investment towards the new centres of development, depriving the existing urban areas of the regeneration opportunities they so badly need.

"The only viable Core Strategy option is Option 1 however, this Option needs to be modified to include a very real undertaking by Sefton to engage with the most extensive remediation/regeneration agenda possible."

In my view, Sefton Council must now reconsider all of the options given the weight of public opinion against sacrificing greenbelt as well as the arguments put forward by residents.

All of our local experts agree, we need to preserve our green belt as an asset for the future - not have it concreted over, whatever the government and its developer friends would like.

Now that the deadline for the consultation has been and gone, we must now work on forcing the Tory-Lib Dem government into making a u-turn on its plans to relax regulations for building on the green belt.

The government’s planning reforms usher in a default ‘yes’ to development including on the greenbelt.

What that means is that no matter what residents think as part of the Core Strategy in Sefton, developers will be able to swoop in and force through a planning application.

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I took my family to Speke Hall for a visit, which we all thoroughly enjoyed.

As an aircraft flew low overhead having just taken off, we heard an American visitor say, “Tt’s a pity they built such a nice home next to an airport.”

The staff say this happens a lot and they sometimes tell the Americans that it's because the owners also had a house in Magaluf and wanted to be able to get there quickly. It’s a bit like the Americans we met on holiday who when we told them we lived near Liverpool said, “That’s in London isn’t it?”

You really couldn’t make it up.

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