Tory-LibDem Government is forcing Sefton to greenlight building

Bill Esterson

 

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson said Sefton Council was right to try and get its empty houses in order - but warned Tory-Lib Dem Government housing targets for the borough means that thousands more homes will be required.

The latest report produced by Sefton Council which studies the borough's 'Empty Homes Strategy' reveals that there are 5,356 vacant homes in Sefton - 4.3%. Of these, 3,315 have been vacant for more than six months.

While the number of vacant properties has been steadily declining since 2008 when the borough hit a peak of 6.2% empty properties, Sefton is still above the national average.

But despite the increased number of current empty properties, the Tory-Lib Dem Government is setting local authorities huge new build targets.

Local Councils are being forced by the Tories and Lib Dems in Government to produce Local Plans that adhere to these targets. If a local authority produces a Local Plan that fails to allow developers to build the target number of new houses, the local council is then forced to release land to builders.

To reach the Tory-Lib Dem target, Sefton Council will be legally bound to allow developers build on greenbelt.

MP Bill Esterson said the council is being placed in a "no win" position by a "Tory-Lib Dem Government that is working in the interests of big business developers rather than local communities".

Bill said: "The targets this Tory-Lib Dem Government is setting for our local authorities for new build means that there just isn't enough land to build on. They have removed the money which was available to reclaim contaminated brownfield sites, so there is no incentive to build there.

"So what we are seeing now, is developers rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of making much more money because they are being given the green light by the Tories and Lib Dems to build on the prime greenbelt land where they will be able to charge more for anyone wanting to live there. It's all about profit at the expense of community.

"But I have argued all along that the borough's existing empty properties should be deducted from the overall target. It's the logical thing to do. If there's a market for new homes, there must be a market for existing empty properties.

"Yet despite my best efforts, and despite raising this in Parliament time and time again, the Tory and Lib Dem Ministers refuse to listen. They refuse to allow the council to deduct the number of empty properties from the number of new build houses they are forcing Sefton to allow developers to build.

"And the reason comes back, yet again to the fact that they are more interested in creating opportunities for their wealthy friends at the expense of communities like Formby, Maghull, Hightown and Melling."

The MP said Tory-Lib Dem changes to planning rules has effectively created a 'Developers' Charter'.

Bill said: "My last tally indicated that in Formby there were 359 vacant properties. In Crosby and Hightown, there were 962. Maghull and Aintree there were 458. These are considerable numbers which for many reasons are lying empty. Ninety-percent of the empty properties are privately owned.

"Sefton Council has devised an effective strategy to deal with the problem, but despite the council's best efforts, it will not be recognised by the government who will still insist on a Local Plan which allows developers to build thousands of houses, in effect, exactly where they like.

"Even before our councillors get the chance to vote on the final draft of the Local Plan, we have developers circling. And because of the government's changes to planning regulations, which in effect has created a Developers' Charter for developers to build where they like, our local planning committee's hands are tied. No account of the number of houses that we really need. No account of the type of housing that we need.

"So in Hightown, we have seen the greenlight being given to new homes, despite local people's legitimate fears about the impact of the houses on the existing community.

"In Formby, a plan has been submitted for hundreds of new homes in an area where there are big concerns about flooding and traffic congestion.

"All this before the consultation period for the Local Plan was even closed and all because the Tories and Lib Dems are more interested in looking after the interests of developers rather than the interests of our local communities."

 

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