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Final chance for residents to save Shorrocks Hill from development

Shorrock’s Hill is to be given a second hearing by the Government Planning Inspector on 2nd November. At the first Public Enquiry in January 2016, it was not properly discussed as there was no time for most people in the area to find out about it. Feelings were running high and a lot of residents were angry about this site being developed. They took the next step and wrote to the Inspector putting down many reasons why they objected to houses, car parks and toilets on this historic and valuable site for nature.

He has now responded by saying -: “I have carefully considered the requests by a number of Formby residents that the proposed allocation of Shorrock’s Hill site, MN214A should be discussed at the reconvened hearings in November 2016. In the light of the late inclusion of this site in the Sefton Local Plan and the substantial opposition received, I have agreed that further discussion is warranted. The matter will therefore be discussed on Wednesday 2nd November”.

This shows that we have an Inspector who wants to do what is only right and fair by the people and so this is an opportunity that we must not forfeit. He also intends to ask the council one important question regarding land at Shorrocks Hill and that is -: “Has the biodiversity/wildlife constraints been adequately addressed. Do the benefits of the public facilities required justify the proposed scale of the development”.

Again we must be heartened by this as it shows an Inspector who considers the importance of the natural world and that any final decisions should be arrived at in the public interest after balancing all the relevant factors. He also wants to know if the site has been selected on a sound analysis of the impact on the Green Belt in terms of urban sprawl and encroachments into the countryside. Also would the proposed housing result in accessible and sustainable development and have the implications for infrastructure been properly assessed?

There are many issues here regarding development at Shorrocks Hill and many local people are at liberty to write in but, the deadline has gone. This is a second and final chance to voice your views. You can apply to speak at this mini Enquiry by contacting the programme officer by email on -:

I do feel quite strongly that the fate of Shorrocks Hill is so important to the people of Formby that information I have provided here should have been widely advertised. The Enquiry on the 2 nd November starts at 10.00am at Bootle Town Hall and it is crucial that as many people as possible attend. It is so easy to get there by train as it is almost opposite Balliol Road Train Station.

Not all of Shorrocks Hill is brown field and only around 1.8 hectors is built on. It is the developers who are trying to get it all designated as brownfield but according to a Sefton Planner, most of the site is still ‘Green Belt’ and the trees around the house are covered by a blanket Tree Preservation Order, although this has not stopped illegal tree felling in the past. The land owner is the only owner who has refused to sign up to the Sefton Coast Forest Plan. The woodland has been vandalised which is classified as ‘Sefton Council Wildlife Site No 19’ by having paint balling sessions there, thus damaging habitats and disturbing nature.

Shorrocks Hill itself is has been allowed to fall into disrepair from a thriving health centre. The tragedy of the latest event when eight beautiful horses where burnt to death together with the tragic death of the keeper has made people question why this should have happened now after thirty years of stability at the riding school.

If you look at the maps of Formby you will see that one or two large houses in the area have been built replacing the ruins or ‘Footprints’ of previous ones but no housing estates have been built over the boundary that separates’ urbanisation from the Internationally Important Coastal Dune system.

This site, if approved for development would be very lucrative to the owner and developer as it is a most desirable location. Its true value should be in its benefits as a significant habitat for the Red Squirrel which is U.K. protected. If this site is approved for development then who is to say that the large Caravan Site next door which is not a permanent site will be the next for development.

As encroachment goes, Shorrocks Hill site is probably the worst that has happened along the Sefton Coast so far. A book could be written about the absolute necessity to preserve protected areas like this. We are a small borough and are lucky enough to have a narrow strip of beautiful Duneland which is heavily protected. So far this protection has been honoured but now we are faced with the possibility of it being dismantled. This is dire news for all the wildlife/residents and visitors alike who are all dependant on this area for their survival, enjoyment and health. Please come along on the 2nd November, it will be a few hours well spent this is our last chance to save one of our most treasured areas.

By Yvonne Irving - Local resident

Formby Bubble also received an 'Open Letter from John Nelson:

An open letter to Martin Pike planning officer:

Dear Mr. Pike, You are the officer charged with examining Sefton's local plan to ensure that it is "sound", an unenviable task indeed. It seems to me to be the sort of job where you can't do right for doing wrong, impossible to please some of the people some of the time let alone all of the people all of the time..

The device of this open letter is a small attempt to provide all of us with a little background to the Shorrocks Hill controversy so that we can better understand the issues involved, and of course to try and persuade you that housing on the Shorrocks Hill site would be quite unsuitable.

Most of what follows will be well known to you. In 2012, the then government introduced the concept of the "presumption in favour of sustainable economic development", (in the case of Shorrocks Hill specifically housing); development would have three aspects, economic, social, and significantly for this objection, environmental. There are also twelve core planning principals that must inform all planning and decision making. Development should be "genuinely plan- lead empowering local people to shape their surroundings, and should "contribute to conserving and enhancing the natural environment and reducing pollution', amongst lots of others. I suspect it is these considerations that have influenced you, quite rightly, to call a further hearing to re-consider the Shorrocks Hill application.

It is absolutely essential that planning inspectors must be able to change planning decisions that are plainly wrong or that attempt to thwart decisions that are clearly in the interests of the wider community. But neither is the case here. Neither is sustainability an issue, no one doubts that if houses are built here they will sell, which is what sustainability means in this context.

This objection is purely aesthetic; it is about the environment, it is about amenity, it is about natural habitat. Above all it is about empowering local people to shape their surroundings and conserve the natural environment. A sensitive site like this one should always be subject to local judgement, and this is a matter of judgement and not of fact or law. Where planning decisions are made on environmental grounds (as this one was), the reasons for overturning them should be exceptional and compelling.

The rule should be that local people know what is best for their own local environment. In my view, and of many others it would seem, such a case has not been made. For these reasons I hope you will accept that the proper course of a action, given the degree of public disquiet about developing this site, is to return to the status quo ante bellum and remove the Shorroks Hill (ref. MN2.14A) from Sefton's local plan.

By John Nelson

The Enquiry is on the 2nd November and starts at 10.00am at Bootle Town Hall. Open to the public.

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