March 26, 2013 - Bill Esterson's Westminster Diary

Bill Esterson



Along with ward councillor, Steve McGinnity, I recently met with Hightown Parish Councillors and residents to hear their objections to plans to build 13 new houses in the village. Some people will say it’s only 13 houses but for residents this is of very real concern.

Hightown Parish Council has made a formal objection to the proposal and residents have told me that any development would be a strain on Hightown's already struggling infrastructure, especially on the road network.

Residents also said to me that the development would change the village environment the community has enjoyed for years.

In particular, access to the developed site would mean changes to the roads leading to the Hightown Hotel, to St Stephen’s Church and to the Village Green. 

The concern expressed to me was that this would fundamentally alter the appearance of the centre of the village, as well as affecting the amenities the residents currently enjoy at the heart of their village.

Increased activity at the Altcar rifle range has also been noted by residents in recent years. The village shares its road network with MoD vehicles and residents feel that additional pressures from new housing would exacerbate traffic conditions.

Residents are also worried that the properties next to the planned access road have very shallow foundations. More traffic immediately next to those properties could cause structural damage and the people living nearby want to see a full survey the effect of a new road on the houses opposite the Hightown Hotel. It also looks like the bus stop would be moved but it is not clear where.

I have written to Sefton Council’s planning department and I hope that the planning committee will take on board the residents' concerns.

This site is designated as urban green space. There is precious little urban green space in Sefton Central and of course there are major concerns about developers eyeing up the green belt for major housing development. Housing developments such as proposal in Hightown need to be designed very carefully and in my view any development must take into account the needs of the existing community. 

All too often developers ignore the wishes of local people and there is precious little consideration given to what benefits there might be if development takes place. Hightown. The impact on traffic and the changes to the village in Hightown are examples of where developers should be considering residents before applying for planning consent.

It looks increasingly likely that the government will force councils to give permission for large scale building in places like Formby, Hightown, Lydiate and Maghull. These would be on a far larger scale than that proposed in Hightown. If that does happen I shall be pressing developers, planners and the government to make sure that any houses built include an allocation for the local community and that means a significant number of affordable houses both to buy and for social rents. 

People across Sefton Central need homes which they can afford but my concern is that the announcement in the budget last week will just increase the prices of existing houses or encourage developers to build executive homes. It looks like it will do nothing to help with the shortage of housing for people on low and middle incomes, including many families and pensioners in this constituency.

Hightown is a small community and the surrounding open land is an integral part of the makeup of the village. There is a balance between the need for affordable housing and the protection of existing communities. My fear is that between them, the government and the developers are doing very little to deal with that balance and it will be the people of Hightown, Formby, Lydiate and Maghull who have to deal with the consequences.