The government has made it easier for developers to build houses and to fast track the planning process. The danger is that this will ignore the views of people in Sefton and beyond. What is really needed is a plan to address the very real concerns of people who live and work here.
If new houses are built, are there enough shops, GPs and school places? Can the roads cope with the extra traffic and are the bus services good enough? And where are the well paid jobs for people living in Sefton, now that the government is hell bent on cutting jobs in the civil service, on Sefton Council and in the health service?
The threat to the greenbelt is also a crucial question along with the impact on drainage and water supplies. Should we be building any more houses on a flood plain?
These are all questions which need answers and with a government which cuts too far and too fast, we also have a government which rushes through plans which benefit big business but ignore the impact on people and on communities.
If new housing estates are built here they need to be designed in ways that encourage people to get to know their neighbours and not to live in isolation. Community Centres are an important part of new communities so developers should have to build and maintain these along with new parks. These are all issues which residents have raised with the Labour Action Team about the proposed development of the Parkbourn site in Maghull, about the plans for Hightown and about proposals around Aintree, Melling, Ince Blundell and Little Altcar.
There are many empty homes in Sefton, which could be brought back into use as a first step and there are places in Sefton that used to be industrial land and should be considered for housing before the greenbelt. The plans and the developments which are being considered now will have an impact for generations to come. It is essential that the planners and the developers listen to the people in Sefton before making any commitments.
The plans to hold music festivals on St Mary’s field is very similar to the plans which were turned down in Hightown. The idea of 5,000 people attending a festival is a big worry for residents. The concerns about noise, traffic and litter are on top of fears about safety and policing. There will clearly be a big impact on people who live nearby and questions have been raised about how often the festivals would be held. My colleagues on Sefton Council, Cllr Steve McGinnity and Cllr Diane Roberts are working closely with residents in making sure that concerns are heard by the planning committee before any decisions are taken.
I enjoyed taking my children to the Aintree Davenhill school summer fair. The sun shone and fun was had by all. It was a well organised event with loads of activities for the visitors and it raised money for the school. Well done to the headteacher Mrs Coyle and her staff and to Carole Mitchell and the other friends of Davenhill who do such a good job supporting the school.
Another issue which was raised on the doorstep was the theft of lead from roofs in Lydiate. This is a problem in West Lancashire as well. One theft was foiled because the potential thief was spotted removing the nails during the day so he could come back and take the lead at night. The police are investigating scrap metal dealers to try to find out who is buying the lead from the thieves. Please let the police know if you have seen anything suspicious.
The Welfare Reform Bill has gone through the House of Commons. There are too many people who claim benefits fraudulently and it is clear that this should stop. We also need to encourage people off benefits and into work, although with the cuts it is hard to see how government plans are helping create jobs. But as with much that the government does, the so-called reforms are going to hurt many disabled and sick people who desperately need help. Take cancer patients. According to MacMillan Cancer Support, 7,000 people risk losing benefits before they have recovered from cancer treatment. And disabled people who live in care homes will lose their benefits. As one Crosby resident told me, he will be a prisoner in his care home if the cuts go through. The benefits are the only way that he or the care home can afford to take him out of the home during the day. Cutting the welfare bill is one thing, making cancer patients and care home residents pay for the cuts is quite another.