The local plan is not a quick read but an important one!
It’s long (1,000) pages; at times heavily technical but it’s probably the most important document that we have received in the council for a decade. What is it? Is the draft local plan a document required by law but most importantly it is document that we require as we shape our city and prepare for whatever challenges and opportunities that faces in for the next 15 years.
The Plan basically looks at all the planning requirements for the city and allocates land to those purposes. As a city we need land for housing, work, recreation and transportation. Not only do we need the land for these uses we need to give an idea about how the land will be used for examples how we safeguard the quality of what is built and the definitions of how industrial commercial and residential will be run.
But the plan is not just a city-wide plan. Instead it is a plan which contains a number of area based components. For example it lists all the neighbourhood and District Centres which it wants to protect and how it would do so. It looks at the potential of vacant land for development on a location by location basis. So even if you do not want to comment on the big, big agenda it is still worth looking at to enable you to see what is proposed for your neighbourhood.
The document also introduces a series of topic based polices which will enable us to act more positively in defence of those neighbourhood centres. They include policies for things such as pavement cafes: night time economy, takeaways, markets; student accommodation and use of vacant sites. These are often the little things which cause the most annoyance and are therefore worth looking at in the context of where you live.
I do not claim to be the absolute master of everything that is in the document! It seems, however to be a very good attempt at putting together a proposal which meets all the complexities described above. Where I particularly agree with it is in the section in the report which indicates where more needs to be done namely the development management policies for Environmental Protection; Transport & Heritage & Design. Linked to these things is the admitted failure to develop policies for Cultural and Historic quarters.
So let me set out my stall for discussion. I want Liverpool to be the best city in the Country. I want to build on our unique and magnificent physical and environmental legacy to create a city which continues to be unique. I want people to get out of the train in the City Centre or travel in to the city from the motorway and feel an immediate wow factor. In 100 years’ time (when I do not anticipate being a councillor!) I want people to look back at what we allow to be built and say, “There must have been a good council in the early 21st century just look at how good our city is!”
Regrettably, I do not think that the Plan has sufficient vision in it to ensure that this will happen. Inevitably the technical has to follow on from the political and I do not believe that the current political leadership of the council grasps fully the importance of this plan and the opportunity it contains to ensure that we are the best.
I am pleased that the document recognises its own deficiencies. The section relating to heritage and design in particular is weak. I passionately believe that we should be preserving wherever possible our mercantile heritage in the City Centre. The World Heritage status is important not as ‘plaque in the Town Hall’ which is claimed by Labour, but as a tool by which we can enhance high quality design. But our mercantile past is not just present in the City Centre. Look at the mansions that the Merchants; insurance owners; ship owners and bankers built in South Liverpool along Parliament Street, round Princes and Sefton Parks and throughout Mossley Hill.,
One of the pleasures of our city are the 48 conservation areas which chart our history. Some of them such as Wavertree High Street and parts of Woolton show quite clearly the growth of the city as it swallowed up councils and villages such as Wavertree and Woolton. Walk along Penny Lane and see still the original drystone walls which predate the building of the railways almost 200 years ago.
Of course we must remember two things at this stage:
Firstly, that the document must not only include what the people and council of Liverpool want to see in the document it must also pass a rigorous examination by the Planning Inspectorate which will judge it against national planning policies. There are things, therefore in the housing section, which I do not approve but I know must be there. The problems of not acceding to the national policy framework is twofold. Firstly the absence of a coherent plan means that we find it difficult to fend off unscrupulous developers. Secondly, if we don’t produce a plan that stacks up in national terms the Government will simply set its own targets and actions. So much for localism!
Secondly the plan must always be interpreted by the planning committee in terms of each development. I don’t believe that the planning committee itself has enough vision and accedes too readily to the strictures of developers.
So now it’s over to you. It’s not my city or the council’s city it’s your city! Consultation lasts until the end of October and the local plan is available on the council’s website. Queries can be made to the development plan manager email@example.com.
There will be another opportunity to look at the plans when the final draft is produced in April/May next year. Please take time to have a look and if you sending in a submission please let me have a copy of it at Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org.