It is a privilege for me to represent the whole of Sefton Central, so it was deeply disappointing earlier this year when a law was passed that makes it almost certain that Formby would be split down the middle.
It is a move which will make it harder to represent the town effectively.
The new law says that there will be 50 fewer MPs and they will each represent the same number of voters which means that Formby will almost certainly be split between Southport and Maghull. The Lib Dems in Southport claim that Formby can be kept together but neglect to say that their plan splits up West Lancashire, has a knock on effect right across the North West and is likely to be thrown out by the Boundary Commission because it does not add up.
The Boundary Commission can create a whole number of constituencies from within the boundaries of East Merseyside. It can also leave the existing West Lancashire constituency as it is. Under the plans put forward by the Commission that is exactly what is being proposed. Any other proposal would be much harder for the Commission to create because of the rigid rules agreed by the government. That is why the alternative put forward by the Lib Dems is highly unlikely to succeed.
The reality is that the Tories and Lib Dems in government are almost certainly going to split Formby down the middle, whatever their representatives in Formby or Southport say about the issue.
There is a way to stop this from happening. When the Boundary Commission announces its final set of plans MPs can throw the plans out and keep the existing Sefton Central and keep Formby together. Rather than the Lib Dems pretending that they have a workable plan to save Formby when they don’t, they would do better to persuade their MPs to vote against the plans in parliament next time there is a vote.
I will oppose the plans to split Formby when they come back to parliament and would urge anyone in Formby who wants to keep Formby together to lobby the other parties and their MPs to do the same. However, if the boundary commission goes ahead with the proposal to split Formby and I am elected to represent part of Formby after the next election, I will help any resident of Formby who still wants my help whether they live in my constituency or not.
I met representatives of the 10 parish councils in Central Sefton recently. They asked me about the Boundary Commission plans to split Formby and it is absurd that the parish of Formby will also be split by the Commission’s plans. This matters because it is much easier to represent issues affecting Formby if you represent the whole area and it is much more sensible for the people of Formby to be represented by the same MP. It is also much easier for the parish council to have one MP to work with rather than two.
At the meeting with the 10 parishes, we also discussed the government’s Planning Policy Framework, which gives developers a big advantage. Planning decisions will have to be taken assuming that development will go ahead. That includes a threat to green spaces and the green belt. For a developer to build in the green belt under the rules now, the developer has to prove that the benefits significantly outweigh the harm being done. This was spelled out by the planning inspector who turned down an appeal against plans for a marina at Bells Lane Lydiate, which is in the green belt. The parish council had supported the bid as had borough councillors but the planning committee turned down the planning application. The inspector said that the marina would have been inappropriate because it was in the green belt and the developer did not demonstrate that the benefits would have outweighed the harm. If someone comes along in the future and bids to build a marina at Bells Lane, then the local community or the council will have to prove that the harm outweighs the benefit, a rather different situation.