Along with hundreds of Formby residents, I went to see an exhibition at the Gild Hall by David Wilson Homes. The exhibition was about a proposal to build up to 300 houses on green belt land between the Formby Bypass and Liverpool Road.
The representative of David Wilson Homes was very confident that the company would be granted planning permission. His confidence was based on the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which was brought in by the coalition government a few months ago.
According to the representative of David Wilson Homes, the NPPF means that a developer can build in the green belt and there is nothing that people in Sefton can do to prevent this. In the last 18 months, I have raised this point in parliament on a number of occasions. Government ministers have always claimed that the green belt is protected by the NPPF, yet here we have a developer claiming the opposite and telling residents that he can and will build on green belt.
I raised a number of concerns with David Wilson Homes, concerns which have been raised with me by residents of Formby, Hightown and Ince Blundell. These concerns included traffic, school places, health services, shops and flooding. Most people I have spoken to are especially worried about the impact on traffic and the fact that much of the land already floods. From what I have seen and heard this site is not suitable for development for the reasons given by residents.
I believe that we should be protecting our green belt as far as possible. Green belt was created by the Atlee government after the Second World War as a barrier between towns and villages. We still need green belt for that reason in my opinion.
Do we need new homes in Sefton? Yes we do.
I have two children who will need somewhere to live one day. Many people cannot afford homes to rent or to buy. We will need more homes but in my view we need to build these on former industrial land or use the 6,000 empty homes in the borough.
Many developers give money to the Conservative Party and the government has changed the rules in favour of development. So perhaps the attempt to build next to the Formby Bypass should come as no surprise.
We face a challenge from David Wilson Homes. It is clear that the new rules have given developers a big opportunity – the same thing is happening in Burscough. So far I have seen nothing from the developers, which shows that they can deal with the flooding without making things worse for existing residents.
I have also seen nothing to suggest that the roads won’t be more clogged.
Once a developer gains a toe-hold on green belt in Sefton , many residents are concerned there will be little to stop other developers building where they want to.
Rest assured along with many residents, councillors and parish councillors, I will be challenging proposals for building at Formby or elsewhere in our green belt. I am not against development as we need affordable homes for many people in Sefton but they have to be in the right place.