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  1. Published on: 17/10/2013 04:07 PMReported by: rogerblaxall

    Not many people know that west Lancashire has the highest amount of green belt in England.

    Just how many are concerned that councillors last night voted through controversial plans to develop it for future generations remains to seen at future ballot boxes, although campaigners from Aughton, Halsall and Burscough expressed their disgust last night at a 'victory' for the ruling Borough Conservatives who decided to adopt the Local Plan in its entirety.

    The irony is that the very attractiveness of the green belt which gives west Lancashire its unique character will soon be lost as massive developments take place on it over coming years.

    Click here to see just one reaction to the decision by residents in Halsall: http://www.qlocal.co.uk/southport/ne...n-52636956.htm
    suffice to say this will not be the last that local councillors will be hearing of the decision, taken after two hours of reasoned debate in the council chamber.

    Even before that, there was a move by Labour's Roger Bell to delay making a decision until a meeting in a larger venue like the Civic Hall could be arranged so that local folk - just 50 were allowed into the chamber for some an unexplained reason - could see democracy being done.

    That was to no avail and there were spirited points made on both sides of the argument over the Plan which if nothing else has sparked a grassroots interest in democracy that's seen a number of action groups formed to fight what people have claimed will see the 'desecration' of green belt land in Burscough, Halsall and possibly Aughton.

    Mayor Iain Ashcroft did an excellent job in keeping the highly charged meeting in order, even allowing an extra four questions at around nine o'clock but even he wasn't quick enough to stop a shout of 'Judas' when Burscough councillor Ruth Melling cast her vote for accepting the plan, following what can only be presumed the Tory whip.

    It was Skem councillor Terry 'Yank' Aldridge whose words resonated with the observers cheering him as he reminded councillors they were there to represent the people.

    Quite how they'll vote when local elections are next called remains to be seen - one thing's for sure, the Borough Local Plan just might have changed local politics for the foreseeable future...

    The meeting ended with panto style boos and shouts of 'out' 'out'; one of the few people seen with a smile on his face was a local Burscough developer.

    And this afternoon, the Borough Council PR department issued this press release:

    'Your West Lancashire 2027 - Adoption of the West Lancashire Local Plan'

    A plan that will help to shape the future of West Lancashire has been formally approved.

    The West Lancashire Local Plan 2012-2027 Development Plan Document will guide how the Borough develops over the next 15 years. It covers everything from new homes and jobs to retail and leisure facilities, transport and local services and energy and the environment.

    The Local Plan allocates specific sites for development – including housing and employment. It will ensure new homes, jobs and services required by communities are located in the most sustainable places. The plan will also deliver the necessary infrastructure, facilities and other development to make this possible.

    Following several stages of preparation and consultation, the Local Plan was submitted for Examination in Public by an independent Planning Inspector. The Inspector’s Report, published on 26 September 2013, concluded that the Local Plan is sound and legally compliant, subject to the inclusion of the Inspector’s recommended modifications. The modifications recommended by the Inspector have been incorporated into the adopted Local Plan.

    West Lancashire Borough Council adopted the Local Plan at its meeting on 16 October 2013. It now replaces the previous Replacement Local Plan 2001-2016 as part of the development plan for the borough.

    Councillor Martin Forshaw, portfolio holder for Planning and Development, said: “We are pleased to adopt the West Lancashire Local Plan, which will help to deliver the sustainable development required by West Lancashire to 2027. The independent Planning Inspector has confirmed that it is robust and flexible enough to deliver development and will work to shape a strong future for West Lancashire”.

    Copies of the Local Plan, Policies Maps, Sustainability Appraisal Report and Statement of Adoption are available to view on the Council’s website at www.westlancs.gov.uk/2027 and at Council offices, local libraries and post offices.

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    Your Comments:

  3. PeterBanks says:17/10/2013 04:35 PM
    It isn't only Burscough, Halsall and Aughton that are affected by the loss of green belt. Arguably the worst site that is included in the plan is Grove Farm, High Lane, Ormskirk. The additional problem with this site is that it reduces the (already small) gap between Ormskirk and Burscough.

  4. Gavin R says:18/10/2013 10:46 AM
    I attended the debate on Wednesday for what was the end of Burscough action group’s campaign.

    My post is simply to highlight the developer bias of the Council on the night of the vote and their pathetic attempt to smear law abiding members of the public by unnecessarily requesting a Police presence.

    At around 6.30 pm on Wednesday the main developer of the Yew Tree Farm Site, the agent and family arrived at the Council offices. The doors were unlocked and the entire party of approximately 15 walked in. Approximately thirty five members of the ordinary public then entered and the remaining were told that they couldn’t enter for health and safety reasons. Not only that but the Council had called the Police and, at one stage, there were a total of four Police Officers and Specials standing around looking at entirely peaceful members of the public, many of them elderly, some of them shivering in the cold.

    It’s obvious that the developer’s party had special treatment by being told to turn up early when the doors were immediately opened for them. It is unfair because the ordinary public were entirely unaware that numbers would be so restricted that the majority of them couldn’t get into the council chamber to see the debate.

    The behaviour of the Council on Wednesday shows that the Council is willing to help developers attend meetings en-masse when public access is restricted. If that bias is not new then it does suggest that the Council could easily have helped the developer’s party of family and friends gain admission to consultation forums in large numbers; and we know that the Yew Tree Farm developer attended two public forums in Burscough with sufficient family and friends to influence the outcomes of the forums. Again, access for ordinary members of the public was artificially restricted by the Council.

    The behaviour of the Council on Wednesday also puts another huge question mark over its honesty and integrity that the planning inspector has already answered when he concluded that there was no evidence of wrongdoing by the Council.

    I suggest that as all that is required for wrongdoing is a simple telephone call from within the Council to change something from fair to biased then the planning inspector is hardly likely to find the evidence of that having taken place. As far as I am aware, unless money has changed hands (and we have no evidence of that) it’s not criminal behaviour so the Police would not be interested, but if they were, then the Council has already wasted their recently reduced resources unnecessarily watching well behaved members of the public.
    Last edited by Gavin R; 18/10/2013 at 11:02 AM.

  5. Mwmbwls says:18/10/2013 02:49 PM
    Dear Gavin,

    I regret to say that I find your interpretation of events on Wednesday both emotional and implausible.

    Any decision by the Police to attend the West Lancashire Borough Council meeting will have been an operational decision in order to ensure both good order and public safety. Had any incident occurred at the meeting or outside and the Police were not present then you would perhaps be the first into print to condemn the absence of the Police.

    The Police may have noted a number of comments published on this web site – terms such as “no hiding place” and “walk a wall of shame” were out there in the public domain. Harsh words were exchanged at the meeting in Aughton. The Local Plan has aroused if not inflamed local passions. It would have been easy for matters to get out of hand, especially had the event been infiltrated by those more interested in causing a rumble. The hijacking of events such as your peaceful protest by disruptive elements is not unknown. Erring on the side of caution seems quite reasonable.

    It was also not unreasonable that the Developer attends the meeting – he is, after all like you, a stakeholder in this process. The segregation of people likely to have differing opinions about the result of a meeting is common policing practice – it happens before and after every major football match. Moving the smaller group inside seems sensible. In the absence of explicit evidence, to the contrary, it would wrong to infer conspiracy and bias on what was probably a pragmatic decision.

    With regard to the numbers of people attending – the Burscough Action Group has bumped its head in this issue before and raised it at length with the planning inspector.
    It would appear that you have drawn no inferences from his verdict. Every venue has limits and again sneering at health and safety issues is fine until something goes wrong.

    Councillor Bell made an excellent suggestion about moving the meeting to the Civic Hall. It was, however, a pity that this idea was not raised earlier when appropriate arrangements could have been made. Did you advise the council prior to the meeting that you expected a large number of people to turn up and that they would want to attend the meeting? If not, why not?

    I appreciate you must be feeling sore about this but your last paragraph is over the top. In due course, you might like to apologise. You claim that the attendance of the Police was a smear on the opponents of the plan. For the reasons given above we can disagree about that – but the suggestion you make in your conclusion is, however caveated, most definitely a smear.

  6. NRE Surveyors says:18/10/2013 08:20 PM
    Dear Mr Rattray

    I post this response to counter the ridiculous claims you keep on making and this will be my first and only post on this matter. I am the agent for Crompton Property Developments who are the owners of part of the site at Yew Tree Farm.

    I can absolutely assure you that myself and the landowner's family received no special treatment on Wednesday night at the Council Chamber and never have had and never will be allowed to. Like yourself we are ordinary people and local residents. The only reason I was first to enter the building was that I was first in the queue. Several protestors arrived before me but they chose to stand by the entrance reserved for councillors, presumably to create the 'wall of shame' which had been mentioned in previous postings on this site, and to harangue councillors as they arrived. I had anticipated that there may be a lot of residents attending the meeting and had therefore arrived in plenty of time. Mr Rattray, you have been to several meetings at the Council Chambers and you know the size of the venue.

    For the avoidance of doubt I confirm that there were 9 people in the party and not 15 as you have suggested.

    You also insist on making claims about the developer's family and friends. The landowner lives and works in Burscough as presumably do many of his friends. They are all entitled to attend public meetings as are the members of your protest group along with their family and friends. As far as I am aware the only people who were turned away from public forums were those that did not bother to pre-book their places. You seem to think that there has been some orchestrated campaign, supported by the council, to influence the outcome of the forums. Again, I can assure you that this is simply not the case. There are people in Burscough who have differing views to your own.

    Finally, there is an insidious comment in your final paragraph about money changing hands and I hope you think very seriously about your own professionalism and conduct.

    Nick Eckersley

  7. MMB says:18/10/2013 08:28 PM
    All residents have the right to attend council meetings. Whilst the decision to move the developer party inside the chamber may have been in the interest of segregation it also guaranteed seats to that party leaving all the other residents much less favourable odds on whether they got the few remaining seats.

    Staff monitoring the door turned the public away informing them that in the interests of health and safety only the number that can be comfortably seated are allowed into the chamber. Councillor Dereli argued the case of the public left out in the cold, insisting that they had a right to witness the meeting and that the chamber could comfortably accomodate a few more. The staff refused. Two members of the public who were seated within the chamber, realising the situation, left the chamber and offered that two of the people locked out could attend instead, again the staff refused even though there clearly was now room for two more.

    As the meeting started the staff insisted that the public left the building or sit in a room with no visual or auditory link to the meeting.

    Given that the council had been forward thinking enough in ensuring a robust police presence and the segregation of the developer party, they had obviously anticipated a substantial local turnout. They could easily have advertised the limitations of the space in their public announcements and asked groups for a likely number of attendees or to register their attendance as they have done for previous 'key decision' meetings and forums. They could have allowed the developer party separate access to the chamber if they wished but ensure that they were allowed in at the same time as residents so that the unusual health and safety restriction was fairly applied to all stakeholders.

    Instead they chose not to warn the public of the limitations of the venue, they chose to waste the public purse on an unnecessary police presence and they chose to give some stakeholders guaranteed seats.

  8. faltotoo says:19/10/2013 12:41 PM
    Quote Originally Posted by NRE Surveyors View Post

    There are people in Burscough who have differing views to your own.

    Hardly any though

    professionalism and conduct.

    How would you describe that of the Land Owner?

    Nick Eckersley

  9. Richard_Fawkins says:19/10/2013 01:12 PM
    How do you actually know the views of the people of Burscough? You set up a parish poll and 96% voted no to development on Yew Tree Farm but answer me this - how many people in Burscough didn't bother to turn up and vote in that Poll?

  10. MMB says:20/10/2013 09:49 AM
    Here you go Richard, although you are a little late for that debate:


  11. Richard_Fawkins says:20/10/2013 08:11 PM
    Depends if the argument is about warped democracy.

  12. AlanL says:20/10/2013 08:41 PM
    But money HAS changed hands. Not in West Lancashire where the credentials and ethics of Planning Officers are exemplary, but in London, where dozens of property firms have given a total of £4,000,000 now, to the Conservative party over the past few years, including large gifts from companies seeking to develop rural land.

    Developers are also paying thousands of pounds for access to senior Tories through the Conservative Property Forum, a club of elite donors which sets up “breakfast meetings” to discuss planning and property issues. “The developers will have the whip hand. When you are talking about economic benefit, the benefits of England’s green and pleasant land to tourism and the scenery is as important as anything else.”

    Nothing illegal in any of this, the two main parties received; Labour £19,415,013 and Conservatives £14,112,365 last year, Source http://www.ukpolitical.info/Donations.htm

  13. MMB says:20/10/2013 10:28 PM
    but answer me this - how many people in Burscough didn't bother to turn up and vote in that Poll?
    Your question was answered in 2012.

    Depends if the argument is about warped democracy.
    Glad you are back in the present with us...

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