November 4, 2014

Bill Esterson

We should be doing all we can to avoid building major developments in the green belt in Sefton. That much is clear. 

The green belt was set up by the 1945 Labour government to prevent urban creep and to protect the integrity of different towns and villages and it is as important today as it ever was. 
It makes sense to build or renovate existing homes in towns and cities close to jobs, shops and transport links. It also makes sense to protect our farmland and our green open spaces for environmental reasons and that goes for urban green space as well. 
So, we should be protecting the environment around Formby, Maghull, Lydiate, Thornton, Aintree and Melling. 
Peel Holdings should not be building a large scale distribution depot in the gap between Aintree, Melling and Maghull and David Wilson homes should not be looking at 300 houses in Liverpool Road, Formby. 
So how do we make sure there are enough homes in our communities and spaces for jobs? 
Renovation of old property whether housing or offices is one way to create extra housing and business premises. 
We should be using existing property as a priority. And when we build new homes or offices they should be on derelict land first. 
The Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) say that there are many places where planning permission has been given on former industrial sites for house building or for employment use but developers are refusing to build. Instead they claim that it costs too much and that they should be allowed to build on green belt where they don’t have to carry out remedial works. 
Yet the Tory-Lib Dem government allows developers to get away with this approach. 
The court of appeal has ruled that the government’s Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) must not take account of the green belt. In fact, the SHMA is one of the main ways in which councils have to evaluate the land requirement for housing development. 
The reality is that this government has made it easier for developers to build on green belt despite claiming that they are protecting the green belt.

What is needed is a return to the policy of the last Labour government, where we put brownfield development first. 
We face real challenges in meeting our own housing and employment need in Sefton so we should be able to look across the region not just within our own area. 
Councils should work together to plan so that there can be a proper brownfield first approach, so that empty properties can be used and so that developers have to build where the local community wants not just where they can make the most money. 
People in Formby, Maghull, Lydiate, Melling, Aintree and Thornton are concerned about the impact on their communities of large scale development in the green belt. 
Many of you have told me you are worried that the roads, the drains and the GPs cannot cope with large scale development. 
I share those concerns. I live here too. 
And I shall continue to press for a change of government policy to protect our communities and to try to stop major development in our green belt.

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