The coalition government is letting developers say where they want to build as part of its new planning rules, so thank you to the many people in Formby, Maghull and Aintree who have written to me about your concerns at plans for large scale building in our green belt areas.
The Tory-Lib Dem government is making it easier for developers and harder for local communities and I object to all of the latest proposals being put forward by developers.
The council has already consulted on a new plan and ruled out the very same sites.
Having a strong local planning system is vital to protect the interests of everyone who lives here now. But the government is on the side of the big developers so there is a big threat from the government that if it does not like what the council proposes it will just let the developers build where they want, leading to a free for all.
The biggest of the new proposals comes from Peel Holdings near Aintree, Melling and Maghull but other developers have earmarked sites around Maghull, Lydiate, Thornton and Formby.
The council has proposed a draft plan which excludes the Peel plans and those of other developers in Lydiate, Maghull and Melling.
The draft plan already has significant sites for development so we don’t need any more. And ideally, we should not be building major developments in the green belt at all.
We need homes for young people but should build on brownfield first as well as renovating empty properties. The trouble is that the current government ended the subsidies for development of brownfield sites making greenbelt far more attractive to developers.
I opposed building at Liverpool Road in Formby last year as the case for dealing with flooding and traffic in particular had not been made as well as the site being outside the current local plan and in the green belt.
I should also point out that the council opposed the planning application last year and so did the Labour councillors in Formby.
There needs to be a viable local plan and that should be based on brownfield first policies. But failure to have a viable local plan would be very dangerous as it would allow developers to decide where to build and that would be the case in Formby, Lydiate, Maghull and Aintree.
As a principle of planning, any major development should happen with the support of the local community and local people should benefit from it. Sadly, current planning policy has made it easier for developers and harder for local councils and communities to control development in a way that works for local people. This is the experience of local people right now faced with developers eyeing up every piece of land they can get their hands on.
In building new homes and in developing sites for business and jobs we should include all brownfield sites that are derelict and viable ahead of green belt.
The answer is for a Labour government to be elected next year and to reinstate a brownfield first policy.
In reality this would need to be alongside a strong regional approach to planning as there are many brownfield sites across Merseyside and Lancashire.
I recognise the widespread opposition to building in our greenbelt. It is not possible to stop all development and we need homes and jobs but we can have a much better planning framework that includes greenbelt protection.