Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson submits formal response t

Bill Esterson

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson has submitted his views on Sefton Council's Local Plan - calling on the local authority to listen to the communities' views rather than succumbing to government pressure.

The Labour MP made his own personal representations to the Local Plan, which will be a blueprint for the development of our communities for the next 15 years.

In his submission, Bill said one of the primary concerns about the current draft of the Local Plan is the loss of parts of the greenbelt.

Bill wrote: "The plan is based on guidelines drawn up under the coalition government National Planning Policy Framework and this indicates that there is a presumption in favour of development. The government has made clear that building needs to take place and that the council needs to produce a plan which is acceptable to the government. The alternative is for government inspectors to either draw up the plan or to allow developers planning consent regardless of whether development sites fit with the council’s plan. In this context, the creation of a plan is very challenging.

"The proposed draft plan suggests significant building in the green belt, mostly in my constituency. Most people would prefer not to see building in the green belt for good reason. The green belt was set up to prevent urban sprawl, to maintain the integrity of the towns and villages which it surrounds and as an environmental protection. Much of the green belt is farmland and many of the sites identified in the draft plan are high quality farmland. The proposed developments around Maghull, Formby, Melling and Thornton would alter the character of the nearby towns and villages because of a significant increase in the size of those communities. Therefore in my view, any such proposals should be considered only by working with the communities affected, rather than be being imposed on them."

Bill also called for the Local Plan to take into account the housing need of the existing community.

Bill said: "I meet constituents who need housing either to rent or to buy. They want to stay near family and the issue for many people is about creating sustainable communities. This includes the number and type of housing and the impact on the existing communities.

"A big concern is that developers will want to build as many 4 and 5 bed executive style housing which will not meet the need of the people of Sefton and will encourage people to move to Sefton without addressing the underlying needs of the people who live here now."

And the MP said the impact on local infrastructure needs to addressed.

Bill wrote: "The impact on traffic, on public transport and on services including schools and health services needs to be taken into account. So too does the impact on flooding, given the existing concerns about this subject. In Maghull, a new station at North Maghull should be a priority and new shops and other employment land need to be part of the mix. The investment in the port should be linked to the local plan as jobs for Sefton residents and business opportunities which are linked to the port development should be a key benefit of the major investment being made by Peel. When it comes to housing, there is significant concern at the number of units proposed. This is especially true in Maghull and Formby. In my view, any development which takes place should benefit the people living in each community. So housing development should match the need of the community where that development takes place. That means where possible the numbers of houses should reflect the numbers needed in each town or village rather than catering for the needs of other communities. And the type of housing should match the needs of the community as well. That means a high proportion of social rented, affordable rented and part buy/part rent housing as well as starter, family homes. Executive housing should meet demand locally and attract people who are going to help the economy of Sefton. If too many executive homes are built, the developers will do well but Sefton Central will become more of a series of dormitory towns and villages and less a series of strong local communities."

Bill said he would like to see the estimates of housing need revised.

Bill said: "My constituents want to know what the benefits are for them. Having housing that meets their needs is part of balancing the concern about the loss of the green belt. In addition if the Office for National Statistics revised figures indicate a lower level of housing need, then the sites identified in the draft plan should be adjusted to reduce the impact on the communities most affected, especially where green belt and urban green space are concerned. In addition, I would like to see further consideration given to alternative sites such as those around Ashworth Hospital as another way of reducing the impact on green belt sites where development has not previously taken place, eg land between School Lane and Poverty Lane in Maghull."

In conclusion, Bill added: "Development should be done with people where possible not just imposed on them. It should benefit the people of the community where it takes place. The coalition government has threatened the green belt in Sefton with the National Planning Policy Framework. The government wants the local plan to be a developer’s charter which will put developers first and which will see executive housing which will help wealthy outsiders. The local plan needs to be a plan for the people of Sefton and every effort needs to be taken to look after the people of Sefton first. I hope that changes will be made to the plan which reflect the priorities of the people who have spoken to me about this vital issue for the future prosperity of Sefton."