Saving our Green Spaces has been at the forefront of our campaigns not only last May but for the past 50 years
More than two years ago Liverpool City Council agreed at its Cabinet to a partnership with Redrow Homes. The partnership would be to develop certain parts of the City owned by the Council and deemed to be surplus to requirement by Redrow. The ‘profit’ from the sale would then be used to subsidise social housing which is badly needed in the city. There is nothing wrong with the principle of this but the shambolic way that it is being undertaken is a major cause for concern.
Let’s look at three sites:
Sefton Park Meadowlands
This site has been the cause of contention for four years since it was first announced that the Council would s sell this part of the Park to Redrow for their bog standard, so called “Executive” homes. A consultation event was held to which more than 600 people came and the vast majority of people objected to the scene. This did not prevent Redrow submitting basically the same application that they had consulted on. That was 2 years and two months ago but the application still has not been before the planning committee nor has the Company sought to have the application determined by the Planning Inspectorate.
I will not comment on the application itself because I am on the planning committee. I will judge the application on its merits on the day as I am legally bound to do. I will however comment about the process. The application will be considered on 20th December. This is a terrible day for an application that is contentious. The council do not want to consider it on that day but Redrow have made clear that they will ask the Planning Inspectorate to determine the application if they do not bring it forward. Redrow have also made clear that they will appeal the decision if it goes against them. This site is not owned by the council so does not form part of the agreed partnership with the council. However if a real partnership rather than an opportunistic coming together was in place then Redrow would want to work with the council and its residents to resolve issues rather than bludgeon them through.
Harthill & Calderstones Park
This is in my ward and I will recuse myself from the planning committee and allow another Lib Dem to replace me as I have and will campaign on this issue. The attitude of both Redrow and the council have been a disgrace. This is part of the partnership and you would expect both sides to act in a decent and consultative manner. Not so!
Last year the 7 Labour councillors for the area all voted for a motion from the Mayor congratulating the Mayor (no I am not joking!) for selling the land. Now the Labour councillors are trying to find some way of scrabbling back from that vote. This may, of course, be connected to the fact that there are now only 5 of them as we took two of the local seats off them in May as well as holding my own ward by a vote weighing majority
Redrow and the Council have until now totally ignored the wishes of the local residents for proper consultation. Not one Labour Councillor of the 8 invited came to a public meeting in October attended by about 250 people. Neither Redrow nor its agents would attend. Redrow refused to hold its own consultation event even though the Mayor as one of the Partners told the Friends of Harthill & Calderstones Park in a letter last December that a consultation event would be held.
Redrow have put forward a planning application which, apart from renovating some Grade II listed buildings will introduce their normal sad and tired pastiche of 1950s suburbia to an area rich in ecology and heritage and which has an important role in providing the context for the park as a whole as one of its main entrance points. But marvellous things are happening. After me questioning the Mayor at the last Council and writing to Redrow they have agreed to have a consultation event. Unfortunately it is AFTER the date at which the formal planning consultation being conducted by the Council has ended. Useful or what?
Our 5 remaining Labour Councils (to be reduced to 2 in 2018 and 0 in 2019 are blustering and trying to justify the unjustifiable to local people and the organisations that represent them. Local people are not falling for it. Labour put out a leaflet trying to let people know “The truth about the Parks”. I have never had so many Labour leaflets put through my letterbox with angry comments about them!!
The exchange of e-mails below is typical. I have removed the names from them but the first e-mail is from a Labour Councillor to the Resident’s Campaign Group. Labour claim incidentally that the Group is a Lib Dem front. That is not true. In fact the person who replied to the Cllr’s letter is a member of the Labour Party! What we can clearly see here is not a partnership between the Council and Redrow but a stich up between Labour and Redrow. This might be partly explained by the fact that according to the Mayor’s website Redrow was a major contributor to his re-election fund!
I reproduce the letters in full Only the names of the guilty (and the innocent!) have been removed!
E-mail from a Labour Councillor
I, and other local Labour councillors) lobbied the deputy mayor and others yesterday regarding the four planning applications relating to Harthill/Beechley/Calderstones.
For your information, which you may share with others, the following update will be of interest:
- Regarding possible notable archaeological at the site, ‘trial pits’ are being used (possibly also trenches); we did press for information from these to be made available.
- Relocation of the Railway will be to a site by the old tennis courts (not by the ‘woodland walk’, which was the information I’d originally been given.) This does not require any additional, external funding.
- Calderkids are still planning a move to Milstead (Wavertree). This plan is ‘more than just aspirational’ but the ‘final sign off remains to be done’.
- Beechley RDA will be going to Clark Gardens (Allerton) and will make use of the grade 2 listed building there. Although additional funding is being sought (e.g. Lottery, charity) and may be needed, the move is not dependent on this as any shortfall will be met by LCC if needs be.
- The outcome of the ‘village green’ application is obviously not known yet. (It covers the riding trail and paddock).
- All four applications will be heard together but this will NOT be before Xmas. I asked for this to be no earlier than February but the probable date will be Tues 31 Jan 2017.
- We have insisted that Redrow provide a proper consultation process. This will take the form of a whole-day ‘drop-in’ session (probably about 1000 hrs to about 2000 hrs). This will probably be in the week beginning 16 Jan.
- Due to the large number of emails coming into councillors, often asking identical questions, the Mayor’s Office has agreed to co-ordinate and deal with more of this.
Rapid Reply from the Resident’s Group
Hello Xxxxx and Xxxxxxx
A not a very useful meeting it seems. All those things considered and set aside, it still does not explain any rationale for building housing of an inappropriate design in this area. Whether it is technically on land legally designated as parkland is irrelevant; it is within the context of the park which is a big deal in terms of the sustainability of this place and how it works for the good of the community. This is the point of the planning function within the council – to plan appropriately, not take a decision to build houses because it is a cash cow, and then post-rationalise site by site.
The consultation is a waste of time. It needs to be engagement at the very least and undertake as part of a visioning exercise for the area. If housing was deemed appropriate from that exercise, further community engagement should have been undertaken at the early stages of the design process. Consultation now, after the decision has been taken to build houses, and by a particular housebuilder with a pre-determined product, is an insult to our intelligence and any concept of democratic process. They cannot change the form of their housing or the poor quality layout that their house style dictates. Tinkering with a few details is meaningless.
The scheme needs to be killed in its tracks and a more responsible approach to planning our city taken by the city council. There is an ocean of evidence and expertise out there that illustrates the way forward, and that evidence says that the approach being taken by the council is absolutely the wrong one. There are no excuses or ‘good reasons’ for this going ahead – it is said that ignorance is no excuse in law, and this is a quasi-legal process.
Even the Tory government has introduced Neighbourhood Planning to bring some democracy to the development process within communities. I am not a fan of it because it is restricted to development and not stewardship of fixed infrastructure and non-tangibles, but it is a million times better than the autocratic narrowed agenda approach being taken in Liverpool right now.
The only good any consultation meeting could have now is as the focus for community protest and hopefully negative media coverage. We look forward to the opportunity to do this, for there can be no other rational use for the event.
Today Redrow showed that they have no sense of partnership with the council. The Allerton Priory planning application was considered by the Planning Committee. 13 people spoke against the application and not one person spoke in favour. Yes that’s right Redrow didn’t have the decency to turn up to defend the indefensible proposals to desecrate a key part of the green wedge which protects our City.
They have, however, already made clear that they will appeal against the council’s decision. This means that they are unable to face the democratically elected representatives of the people or the local residents who will be affected by the proposals.
As a member of the committee I was very impressed by what local people had to say. They were passionate, informed and cohesive. They were ably supported by local councillor Mirna Juarez. Well done all (except Redrow).