Maghull Labour Councillors' anger as Tory-Lib Dem government planning changes lead to greenlight for Damfield Lane development
Maghull Labour Councillors are bitterly disappointed that plans for a care village on Damfield Lane were given the green light and say they now fear the dam has been broken for developers to build on Sefton's greenbelt.
Labour's Cllr Patrick McKinley, Cllr Lynn Gatherer and Cllr Steve Kermode all spoke on behalf of residents opposing the scheme at the planning committee at Southport Town Hall last Wednesday.
The Labour Councillors have worked closely with residents since finding out about the plans last summer, immediately calling a public meeting to inform the local community about the developer's plans.
Labour has since discovered that Liberal Democrat Councillors had been made aware of the proposed scheme a full 12 months earlier but had failed to let the community know.
Cllr Gatherer said she will continue to work with residents to ensure that their concerns are tackled.
Cllr Gatherer said: "We are all obviously bitterly disappointed that this scheme has been given the go ahead against the wishes of the local community.
"Working together we put together some very compelling arguments against the scheme, which included drainage and sewage issues.
"These concerns were heard as the committee gave approval with conditions, which means they can't build a thing until the issues dealing with the drainage and sewage are met.
"Cllr McKinley, Cllr Kermode, our MP Bill Esterson, the Labour Action Team and I will continue to work with residents to ensure that their concerns are addressed at every stage of this development.
"This is not the end of this campaign."
Cllr Kermode praised residents for coming together to work on the campaign.
Cllr Kermode said: "This campaign brought together people from throughout Maghull who were determined to get the best for their community.
"While we haven't been able to stop the plans, we have been successful in making sure that approval is subject to the conditions based around the residents' concerns.
"I'd like to thank everyone who was involved in this long fought campaign."
Cllr McKinley said he was now concerned for the rest of the greenbelt and greenspaces throughout Sefton.
Cllr McKinley said: "The nature of this development, putting a four story block of flats in the middle of a field, is not in keeping with the local environment, even if they sort out the drains.
"It could be argued that this development attempts to maximise profitability for the developer at the expense of the local community, the social costs are very high.
"The planning committee originally rejected the plans on the grounds that the development was encroaching on urban greenspace. But shortly after the original application was rejected, the Tories and Lib Dems in government changed planning rules to allow developers to build on our green areas.
"This meant that the planning committee members essentially had no grounds to reject the scheme as long as the developer adhered to the conditions which address the sewage and drainage concerns.
"Despite the Liberal Democrats playing politics with this issue, they knew that it was their government which paved the way for developers to build where ever they want.
"My fear now is that this has broken the dam and developers will be queueing up to build on our greenbelt here in Sefton. This is a fight we we all need to come together for."
MP Bill Esterson blasted the local Lib Dems for withholding information about the Damfield Lane plans for more than a year from residents.
Bill said: "The Damfield Lane planning application has now been approved.
"The reason is a change by the Lib Dem and Tory government ministers which makes it easier for developers.
"Damfield Lane is one of many examples which we are likely to see. This will affect Maghull, Formby, Hightown and the rest of East and Central Sefton.
"What the Lib Dems won’t tell you is that they knew about the plans for at least a year and didn’t tell residents. Perhaps they knew what their MPs were planning to do to planning rules in government.
"One better piece of news about the decision taken by the planning committee is that it imposed conditions on the developer. The problems with drainage and sewerage which people in Maghull are familiar with have to be dealt with before building starts.
"The residents fought long and hard with the support of the Labour Councillors in East Sefton to block the plans.
"The planning application has gone through but the committee has given the community in Maghull the opportunity to scrutinise the development and make sure that it does not put additional pressure on the drainage.
"I would like to congratulate residents for their hard work. All is not lost and the Labour Action Team in East and Central Sefton will continue to work with residents to make sure that Damfield Lane and any other developments which go through under the new government rules are strictly monitored and that developers and planners are held to account."