A new campaign group has been launched in Maghull and Lydiate aimed at protecting Sefton's greenbelt and greenspace.
The Campaign Alliance for the Protection of the Environment (CAPE) was launched by local residents, supported by Sudell Ward Labour Councillor Patrick McKinley, Maghull & Lydiate Labour Action Team's Steve Kermode and Lynn Gatherer and Labour MP Bill Esterson at Maghull Town Hall on Friday evening. The meeting was also attended by members of five political parties including borough and parish councillors from all three main parties.
CAPE has already gained the backing of Labour-run Maghull Town Council.
The campaign group, which is an apolitical grouping, is also made up of local residents who were the most vocal during Sefton Council Core Strategy Consultation period, as well as local people who are opposed to the proposed development on Damfield Lane.
Plans for a major development which included flats and a dementia centre on Damfield Lane were rejected last month after Labour Cllr Patrick McKinley spoke on behalf of residents. Sefton's Planning Committee refused to give the green light to the development as the scheme would have resulted in the loss of urban greenspace. Labouir members of the planning committee all voted against the plans, although most Lib Dem and Conservative members voted for the development.
However, earlier this month, the Tory-Lib Dem government passed new planning laws which give developers the right to build on greenbelt and greenspace.
Just last week the Damfield Lane developer announced it was preparing to resubmit almost identical plans for the site, taking advantage of the Tory-Lib Dem government rule changes.
The Damfield Lane developer is the first to take advantage of the Tory-Lib Dem changes and Cllr McKinley said members of the campaign fear they won't be the last as a rash of businesses see the chance to make big money on our green spaces.
Cllr McKinley said: "Sefton planning committee rejected the development planned for Damfield Lane on the grounds that it was encroaching on greenspace. It is no coincidence that the developer resubmitted the plans so soon after the Tory-Lib Dem government changed the rules which give developers the greenlight to building on our greenbelt and greenspaces.
"So Damfield Lane is the first battle line. We need to put up a strong case against this development now, or we will end up losing our greenspace and greenbelt throughout East Sefton. I for one am not prepared to allow that to happen and I know my Labour Action Team colleagues feel the same.
"But the expertise which a number of residents showed during the Core Strategy consultation will be crucial in this campaign.
"Everyone on this campaign is foursquare behind this fight. We need to send a clear message that the people of Maghull and Lydiate are not prepared to sell off our greenbelt and greenspace to the highest bidder.
"We will fight for our community not just for us, but for future generations who come after us."
Maghull Labour Action Team's Lynn Gatherer said the resubmission of the near identical plans for Damfield Lane gave a clear warning that the planning law changes were opening the floodgates for developers to build on our green spaces.
Lynn said: "I have spoken to lots of residents about this issue in the past week and they are all shocked that these plans have been resubmitted so quickly after Sefton Council Planning Committee rejected them.
"The plans were rejected on the grounds that they were building on urban green space. As far as I and the other residents can see, the development will still be on the same green space. Nothing has changed with the plans. But what has changed is the Tory-Lib Dem government's changes to planning laws which have come in just in time for this developer to resubmit the same plans which were rejected just days earlier.
"This really is a shambles and the residents and I are totally furious. We have a lot of work ahead of us in putting together a strong case against the plans. Unlike big business developers, we won't be able to afford expensive solicitors, but I do believe that by working together, we can fight back against big money who are chasing the bottom line and are prepared to bulldoze our community to make a fast buck."
Maghull & Lydiate Labour Action Team's Steve Kermode said protecting the greenbelt is one of the big issues on the doorstep.
Steve said: "I speak to lots of people throughout Maghull and Lydiate, week in and week out. One of the biggest issues which people here are concerned about is the loss of our green areas.
"People don't want to lose the green lungs which make this part of Sefton unique. That's why it is vital that we fight to protect our countryside and our greenspaces.
"I have real concerns about large developers coming in and filling Maghull and Lydiate with houses which our current infrastructure simply won't be able to cope with. We don't have the roads and we don't have a drainage or sewage system which could cope with hundreds more homes.
"And that is one of the main issues with this new planned development for Damfield Lane."
Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson said the Tory-Lib Dem government changes to the planning laws were about looking after big business rather than our local communities.
Bill told the meeting: "These government changes to the planning rules are about opening the door for big businesses to make as much money as possible. Building on greenbelt over brownfield is cheaper and it brings in bigger profits.
"But we have brownfield sites which could and should be used to build any new homes which are needed.
"There are huge benefits to building on brownfield. If we want to build homes in a sustainable way, we need to look at the brownfield sites and we need to look at bringing Sefton's 6,000 empty homes back into use.
"Once our valuable greenbelt and greenspace is gone, it is gone. That's the danger of the new planning laws.
"We are fortunate in Sefton to have lots of grade one and two agricultural land. We are fortunate in Sefton to live in an area which has greenbelt and greenspace areas. These are worth fighting for.
"That's why I'm backing this new campaign and why I am sure lots of people in Sefton will do the same."