The planning inspectorate has dismissed an appeal for planning permission to build a marina in Lydiate.
This follows the decision of Sefton Planning Committee who turned down the planning application some months ago. But the more I hear about this saga, the more curious I become.
Lydiate Parish Council and Maghull Town Council both supported the plans and the landlady of the Running Horses was encouraged to refurbish her pub at a cost of many thousands of pounds because she was told that the marina would be built.
The residents in this area clearly had legitimate concerns. You just had to look at how many people turned up to voice their opposition against these plans to see how many people didn’t want this. More than 140 people attended a meeting to show their opposition. The Labour Action Team gathered 250 names in a petition.
I am concerned at the way this was handled by both Lydiate Parish and Maghull Town Councils. Lib Dem members of both councils supported the plans and encouraged Lydiate Marina Ltd to apply for planning permission both through the two councils and in their membership of Altside Business Village Partnership, which is a group promoting economic development in East Sefton.
The Planning Inspector says in her report, “The appellant (ie Lydiate Marina Ltd), was invited to submit a planning application for the proposed marina by Altside Business Village Partnership (ABVP). I was advised that the group works in partnership with the Council and had been tasked with locating alternative sites for a canal corridor marina within East Sefton (Aintree, Maghull, Sefton Village, Lydiate and Melling) to improve the local business economy. I understand that the partnership includes a number of Parish and Borough Councillors (all Lib Dems).”
But development of the this land is clearly inappropriate according to planning guidelines because it is in green belt and outside the built up area. The work done by the company must have cost many thousands of pounds, just like the work done by the publican at the Running Horses. At the last minute, the same parish and town councillors suddenly changed their minds when the scale of opposition became clear from the residents of Bells Lane and neighbouring roads.
At the planning appeal, Des Brennan of Sefton Council for the Protection of Rural England gave a presentation to the inspector, which showed that the planning application was not appropriate development of the green belt.
Des told me: “Lydiate Marina Ltd focused their attention on permitted uses of the green belt but neglected to check whether the marina was appropriate development for the green belt. Planning guidance is clear and it is the responsibility of the applicant that harm done to the green belt can only be outweighed in very special circumstances. There were no such circumstances in this case as the planning inspector has made clear.”
It is clear that there should never have been a planning application for a marina at Bells Lane. It is also clear that Lydiate Marina Ltd should never have been encouraged to apply to build on Bells Lane in the first place by local councils or local councillors. Lydiate Marina is out of pocket because of this episode. The Running Horses are out of pocket. Sefton Borough Council has wasted public money and time on a lengthy planning process and many residents have faced uncertainty and worry about the proposals. All because of the actions of the Lib Dems in Lydiate and Maghull.
The Lib Dems in Lydiate now claim that they prevented the marina going ahead because they opposed the planning application. But the Lib Dems encouraged the development of Bells Lane in the first place. All very curious.
To build in the green belt, under the current planning guidelines, a developer has to prove that the benefits outweigh the harm done to the green belt. A big worry for the future is that the Tory/Lib Dem government is bringing in new guidelines. Those guidelines will mean that residents will have to prove the harm is greater than the benefits, the opposite of the situation at the moment. Councillors will need to work much harder to stop inappropriate development under the new rules and the actions of the Lib Dems in Lydiate do not bode well for the future.