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September 20, 2011 - Bill Esterson's Westminster Diary


Bill Esterson


St Michael’s Church of England High School in Crosby appointed a new head teacher, Dr Simon Hulme. The school held a welcome assembly for Dr Hulme, which included a performance by the students, all of whom have high expectations for their new head teacher. The school has just achieved record GCSE results and I really enjoyed meeting Dr Hulme, staff, governors and parents and watching the students performance at the assembly.


Good luck to Dr Hulme and to everyone at St Michael’s.


Lydiate held its civic service and annual fun day. It was well organised, thanks to the many volunteers and their hard work. At the same event, last year, it rained all the way through the service. This year, fortunately the rain stopped. Thanks to the Scotch Piper for their hospitality after the service and better luck with the weather next year.


A number of my colleagues asked questions about the rail network, when we had questions to the Secretary of State for Transport in parliament. I took the opportunity to ask the minister about the many elderly and disabled people who would like to travel by rail but are prevented from doing so by poor facilities at stations. I asked the minister to reverse the cut of 2/3 in the grant to Merseytravel so that they could build a lift at Formby station. It is a very long way from the ticket office to the platform for anyone who cannot use the stairs but Formby like many stations needs the investment if more people are to use the trains.


The campaign to protect the green belt and urban green space continues in Sefton. Residents who live near the proposed care village in Damfield Lane are very worried about the plans. I went to the latest public meeting which was also attended by Maghull Town Councillors, Maurice Byrne, Steve Kermode and Patrick McInley. Patrick is also a member of Sefton Borough Council.


Sefton planning committee will make the decision about any planning application. But for now, it is important that residents’ views are heard and that the developers take into accounts the concerns being raised. If the development goes ahead, the residents want improvements made to the roads, including the junction with Northway, which is dangerous at the best of times. There are big concerns about flooding, which is already a problem on part of the land and residents are worried that the sewers will not be able to cope. These are some of the issues, which developers need to take on board.


I am worried at the loss of green space, so any development needs to make sure that there is at least some protection of green space. Another concern voiced is the balance between the need for the public to have access to that open space with the need to avoid creating potential areas for anti-social and criminal behaviour. I will make sure that these points are all passed on to the developer along with the individual concerns about the location and size of the proposed buildings.


One way to protect our green spaces and to protect the countryside is to help builders to renovate empty homes. I met the Federation of Master Builders who want VAT to be cut to 5% for the renovation of property. This would make it much more attractive for developers to renovate empty homes, including the 6,000 in Sefton. If Sefton started with the renovation of empty homes and built on brown field, former industrial land, there would be little or no need to build in the green belt. I will be pressing the government to make this change to the VAT rules, which would also help the construction industry and jobs, all of which would be good news at a time when unemployment is going through the roof.

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