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February 23 2011 - Bill Esterson's Westminster Diary
The Core Housing Strategy is Sefton’s approach to providing enough houses for the people who live here.
Sefton Council believes it needs to build 500 new homes each year and at a time when hundreds of people are chasing each home which is available. Through One Vision Housing it is easy to see why there is so much demand.
Sefton is a great place to live and my family and I are very lucky to live in Maghull with great schools and other facilities like The Meadows Leisure Centre and library.
Put to one side the threat to those services from the unprecedented government cuts and the question is where are the new homes going to be built?
I went to the Hightown Parish Council presentation about the Core Housing Strategy along with 120 residents. As well as being impressed by the number of people who went to the meeting, I was also impressed by the quality of the analysis made by those people who spoke.
The council officers told the meeting about the possibilities for development around Hightown and elsewhere in Sefton and a number of residents demonstrated flaws in the planning and raised concerns about the impact of large numbers of new homes being built in Hightown.
I am very proud of the greenbelt, a fine achievement of the Labour government in 1947 and don’t want to see building on the greenbelt.
I also think that any new developments need to include facilities for schools, health services, shops and transport. The mistakes of previous developments are there for all to see, where developers were allowed to do as they pleased and the end result has been communities without the facilities needed for the people who live there.
Another concern is the impact on the people already living there. While new houses are being built residents have to put up with the inconvenience of living on a building site and often there is blight during the planning process.
In my view there is a way of addressing Sefton’s housing needs and looking after the existing communities. Instead of planners presenting their ideas as a done deal, why not go and talk to local people?
It's amazing how many good ideas people have for how to improve their community and if new homes are needed, the people living there probably know the best place to put them.
The planners spoke about the 2,000 empty homes in Sefton. In my view these could be brought back into use as a good start in dealing with the shortage of housing. One objection to this approach is the cost. The answer to this is to use the Town and Country Planning Act to force property owners to bring their properties back into use.
Using Empty Homes won't solve the whole of the housing shortage but it is a start and it is a way of reducing the need to build on the greenbelt.
Hightown is only one of the communities which is facing big development in the coming years. The Core Housing Strategy also affects, Ince Blundell, Thornton, Formby, Lydiate, Aintree and Melling. How about asking the people in those communities how they would deal with the potential conflict between housing shortages and potential over development.
For too many years planners and politicians have imposed change on communities. Is it too much to ask the authorities to work with people?
There are examples of good planning where the people who live there already are asked what they would like to see. When that happens, planners can design sustainable new communities that benefit the people who already live and work there as well as those who will live and work there in the future.
Which brings me to Crosby Village.
I am due to meet Sainsbury’s to hear about their revised plans. The A Better Crosby Group is an example of a group of people who want to improve their community and work with the planners.
So far most residents feel that Sainsbury’s have paid lip service to consultation. There is a sense that the developers are carrying out their work to the community rather than with the community.
When I meet Sainsbury’s I will repeat what I and many other people have said. Sainsbury’s are a key part of the future development of Crosby Village but they need to accommodate those people who live, work and shop there now just as I hope the planners will across Sefton when it comes to the Core Housing Strategy.
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