The announcement last weekend that the High Court had partially reversed a lower court’s decision on Calderstones Park and the South Liverpool Green Wedge will have important ramifications for development across the city.
What it wont do, or at least I hope it won’t do, is put Calderstones Park under threat again. The High Court agreed with the lower court that the planning application by Redrow had been improperly passed by the planning committee because it had not been given important advice from the Council’s heritage specialists about the impact of the application on Beechley House. This does not stop another application being submitted for the Council to deal with directly.
However, I believe Joe Anderson when he says that the Council will not be selling the land to anyone which would make a new planning application pointless. The Council has been continually rebuffed by the people of Liverpool when it has suggested developments on Calderstones Park, Walton Hall Park and Sefton Park meadowlands. A draft lease has been submitted to Beechley Riding for the Disabled and I will be meeting the Trustees of Beechley soon to see how we can quickly move that forward.
We need to safeguard all our parklands and green spaces. It is now 4 years since the Green Spaces Review and precisely nothing has happened since then in terms of the development of a Trust or Trusts to manage our Parks which was the main recommendation which came out of it. As I understand it the Mayor is looking to have one Parks Trust for the City. Lib Dems however, would favour a series of complementary trusts with local residents and park users taking responsibility for the running of parks like Wavertree Playground, Calderstones Park, Sefton Park and Walton Hall Park. Local people can make better decisions than anyone else when it comes to the use of local assets.
So, if the Council doesn’t now intend to build on the Park or parks in general why has it spent a fortune in fees firstly fighting the JR application from LOGS and then subsequently appealing it?
It’s because the other part of the ruling of the lower court would have made it more difficult for the council to oppose planning applications on land in the green wedge and in similar places identified by our own planning policies. In other words, the Council can now talk very positively to developers such as Redrow about developments on sites not owned by the Council.
Talking to developers is not unusual and is not a bad thing. I would expect the Council to hold such meetings but I would also expect those discussions to be properly recorded and available for inspection. My concern is that the only developer in the frame for suburban developments is Redrow and although they can clearly sell their product their price range inhibits the purchase of land tin the City to a wider range of young people who are still forced out of our city by high property prices.
So, we still need to be vigilant and watch the planning process and planning committee like a hawk. We still need to make huge changes in the way we tackle development and although many improvements have been made by our Chief Executive, Tony Reeves, since he arrived in September 2018 there is still a long way to go to change the public viewpoint of our development processes.
Just as importantly as our developers get rocked by police and tax enquiries and continued bankruptcies and forced closures, we need to convince the Government and legitimate developers of our honesty, probity and the rigour of our internal and external systems.
Once again, I want to record the thanks of the local Lib Dem team for the splendid work done by Save Calderstones Park, Friends of Harthill & Calderstones Park and Liverpool Green and Open Spaces. Between them they raised 51,000 names on a petition, lobbied the Council and raised £40,000+ for the Judicial Review and associated costs.
They are real heroes of our City and not only we but our children, grandchildren and even further down the line will benefit from their hard work and efforts over the past 5 long years of intensive campaigning.