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Nina Killen talks to Formby Bubble about why she voted for the Local Plan....

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Nina Killen to Formby Bubble.

"There has been a lot of scaremongering going on with regards to the Local Plan and some misunderstanding about what development means for the area so I thought it would be good to comment on some of the issues and clear up some of the misunderstandings."

It is in my own words "Why I voted for the Local Plan".

Why I voted for Sefton’s Local Plan by Nina Killen, Labour councillor for Harington ward

Not a single Sefton councillor wants green space built on unless it is absolutely necessary.

25,000 people live in Formby and a lot of them are opposed to green belt development, and I can understand that.

But the government sets out the framework for working out how many homes will be needed in the area for the coming 15 years and, following the process as set out in the framework, independent experts say 615 homes a year will be needed. If we accept this figure then unfortunately not all green belt and green space can be protected. Around 11,000 homes could be built in Sefton over the coming 15 years; around 1,000 of them in Formby.

Other councils have ignored what independent experts have told them about their housing need and have tried to go for fewer homes to protect the green belt. But when their plans went to Inspection, as they all have to, the government Inspector has thrown them out and has told them to go back and do the plans again. These local authorities, such as Cheshire East, are now having to identify green belt to build on.

We were being asked by green belt campaign groups to reject this Plan because the borough “only needs 400 homes a year”. But 400 would not be enough. The government requires us to plan for growth. 400 was a baseline figure which did not factor in any of the additional needs such as changes in household formation, the need to improve choice or to make housing more affordable overall.

We were also being asked to reject this plan because not all available brownfield was being used up before green belt. But all the available brownfield has been included in the Plan and the government’s NPPF does not insist that brownfield be used first.

615 is the number of houses the experts, the planning officers, the consultants, professionals who have worked on other local plans and understand the planning guidance think we need, that is the figure they believe the Inspector will accept. They take into account all the guidance and policies. With respect to the green belt campaign groups, they do not have that expertise.

There is the understandable worry that infrastructure will be overwhelmed. But development is actually an opportunity to provide infrastructure – developers will be asked to pay for new roads and school places if needed. It is actually an excellent opportunity to ensure we get better roads and drainage. No planning application will be accepted unless it can be shown that drainage and flooding issues will be improved or at least not made any worse by development. Residential gardens are also fantastic places for birds and wildlife to thrive. Developers will be asked to pay for new infrastructure. Doctors and dentists will expand as needed – there is no shortage of doctors, dentists and other professionals wanting to come and live and work in Formby. Council officers constantly monitor the availability of school places and traffic flow, and respond when necessary. Most of our homes are built on what was once farmland and as Formby has grown, so has the infrastructure. This will continue and it will mean Formby can thrive. We want any development to be for the benefit of people already living here.

I have been accused by green belt campaigners of not representing the people in Formby. But I have to represent all Formby people, not just those who object to green belt development. As well as representing the people who object to green belt development – who object with great passion and for the best reasons which I can understand - as well as representing those people I have to represent everyone else, the young people who can’t afford to buy a home here even though they have lived here all their lives, the school headteachers who tell me they welcome development because it will mean a steady stream of children for their schools. Formby schools are not full, and the projections show there will be hundreds of surplus places in the future. And if that’s not the case – because it is impossible to predict with absolute certainty how many children of certain ages will move here, to new-builds or existing houses - more school places can be provided if necessary.

I have to represent the taxi driver who tells me he is struggling for work who knows that more people mean more fares.

I have to represent the mother of two grown up children still living at home because they cannot afford to buy a house of their own.

I have to represent the Formby business owner who tells me he wants to expand into new premises but cannot find any big enough within Formby.

I have to represent the owners of shops in the village who need footfall in order to survive.

And I have to stay true to my values of social justice, what I believe in, the reason I am a member of the Labour party, because I believe in opportunity for all to have a home they can afford. A home is a basic human right.

A Labour government has pledged to have 200,000 homes built every year if elected. It is a policy I strongly support.

If 200,000 homes were to be built it could mean as many as 1,000 a year in Sefton, many more than this plan provides for.

The Plan provides for affordable homes and it states that any development should have 30% affordable housing. Now let’s put to bed the myth that affordable homes cost £300,000. Affordable homes are those that are sold for social housing, affordable private rent or part-rent-part-buy. There may be £300,000 homes on new developments, but these are not the “affordable” homes. Unfortunately the planning rules mean that if building affordable homes is not profitable for the developer, they can build fewer of them. Again these are the rules set out by the government and not Sefton Council. What I’d like to see is councils empowered to borrow money to build social houses, to take affordable housing out of the hands of private developers, but we’ll need a new government for that.

Contrary to some reports that every resident in Formby is against green belt development, many people have told me they accept that some development is necessary because people have to live somewhere. Do we want to grow this borough or have stagnation or managed decline? Do we want our children to have the opportunity to live in Formby or do we want to pull up the drawbridge and say I’m all right so let’s keep everything the way it is? Do we want the average age of the population to get older and older or do we want more younger families living here?

There have not been enough houses built in the UK over the past 30 years which has contributed to rocketing house prices and mass unaffordability.

It is human nature to not want change, to try to protect what we already have. I can understand this. If we could provide the homes we need and grow the local economy without building any more homes, I would be the first to sign up. Thousands of homes have been built in Sefton over the last 15 years. Roads have coped, schools have coped, doctors have coped. And the same will be true for the homes to be built over the next 15 years. I would be happy to meet with any resident who felt concerned about these issues and wanted to find out more about Sefton’s Local Plan.

Nina Killen, Labour councillor for Harington ward


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