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Sefton's Local Plan is a Step Closer but not a good result for Shorrocks Hill

Sefton Council's Local Plan is a step closer to adoption after the last hearings took place last week. The Local Plan looks to shape the future of Sefton meeting assessed housing and employment needs until 2030.

An independent Inspector has just concluded a further two days of hearings in relation to 4 sites in Formby – land North and South of Formby Industrial Estate, Shorrocks Hill site and land at Liverpool Road.

The Inspector heard evidence from site owners, Sefton Council, Formby Parish Council, local residents and other interested parties at a hearing in Bootle Town Hall.

This marks a significant milestone in the progress of the Local Plan as the Inspector indicated these are the last hearings. He is due to issue his final report by the end of December and the Local Plan should be approved in 2017.

Cllr Daren Veidman, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member Planning and Building Control, said: "The hearing marks an important milestone in a lengthy process of helping Sefton gear up for the challenge of meeting needs for new homes and businesses over the next 15 years.

"The Inspector has heard much evidence from many people and we now look forward to receiving his report and completing the Local Plan. As soon as we hear from the inspector we will of course let people know the outcome as we look to the future."

Over a hundred residents from Formby attended the meeting at Bootle Town Hall and it is safe to say were not happy at all with the hearings in particulr to the Shorrocks Hill site which was described by one resident as "A complete Sham!"

Yvonne Irving who wrote the article in our last paper attended the meeting and has submitted her summary of events on that day which we have printed here for you to see....

"It was with great expectations and hope in their hearts that approx. one hundred Formby residents turned up at Bootle town Hall on Wed 2nd November for a half day Public Inquiry which had been called to discuss development at Shorrocks Hill. By mid-day our hopes had been dashed and we left with the realisation that it had been just held to placate the community, we went home empty handed."

"The last Inquiry which had ended early in January this year had run out of time for the public to have a real say on their views of development for this site. The Inspector had to finish the Inquiry without any real decision being made so he told the council to go away and come to a “creative solution”. This left everyone with no idea what the council would decide. We soon found out when the council’s Modifications to the Local Plan came out which said that 3.3 Hectacres of land at Shorrocks Hill was to be for residential use together with a car and public toilets which apparently would be for the benefit of the council. People were angry and upset at the time to hear this but they were told they had the option to write in with their objections to the council who would then pass them onto the Inspector for consideration. This gave people some heart in the matter and they wrote in, in their hundreds."

"We had however no idea that our efforts were a waste of time because, just a few months previously the owners had met up with the council and the council had signed a “statement of common ground”. This gave the owners an agreement for their land to be developed as set down in the Modifications. An even more disgraceful move by this council, they also took the site out of the green belt by saying it is a brownfield site within a green belt. This effectively removed all the protections it once had under its green belt status. When we all wrote in, we had no idea this ‘deal’ had been made and really the stage had been set."

"In total disbelief I asked the Inspector, how can such practises be allowed behind the publics back and why has no-one ever heard of it? He replied by saying that it is used quite often and had been introduced by the government to speed up the planning system. I said where do the public stand in all this and furthermore I thought the whole procedure was disgusting, but he made no reply to this. The council however did not need to sign up to this and are the ones to blame. They have always turned down development at Shorrocks Hill because of its location in the green belt and because it is within the boundary of the internationally important coastal area and of course it has significant value to nature. This is why the council left it out of the Local Plan. None of this has changed except they have done a complete U turn which they tried to explain away in what sounded like many lame reasons. They have obviously ignored all the people’s views and concerns and simply gone ahead with their own plans."

"By agreeing to build houses on this site they have basically allowed the creep of urbanisation to infiltrate an area which is so heavily protected that virtually no development is allowed unless it is for special circumstances. So what are these, the car park should be down at the bottom of Lifeboat Rd as should the toilets there is sufficient room for this, more importantly Sefton do not need to build any more houses in Formby because Formby has met its target of 1,000 new homes to be built as required in the Local Plan. No this is simply down to money. They are willing to abandon all their long held commitments to this site for the offer of a free car park and a toilet! Not forgetting of course, the huge revenue they will receive from houses built on a prime site like this. I think it is to their total shame that they are happy to treat the decent people of Formby in this way although I do not expect them to worry about this."

"The owners were at the Inquiry but said not a word and had a paid representative acting for them. Such a pity we could not afford to do the same, we had many coming up to speak but it never felt that the Inspector was taking as much notice of them as he was to the council and the man from Landor Associates who was speaking for the owners. He did listen to Des Brennan from CPRE who put forward a very good case for not building on the site and everyone must be grateful that CPRE tried their best to question the integrity of this development and that of the council. The only person from the audience who stood up in favour was our local millionaire Mike McCoombe who tried to say that people welcome this plan as it means the end of the night club. He dismissed the fears over the environment by saying that his new house and grounds had actually added to nature in the area, a fact that none of us could neither believe or accept."

"The council had had another meeting with the owners and had reduced the scale of the development. The new agreement is for the car park to be reduced to 100 spaces so that more beautiful trees surrounding the Hall can be saved, the public toilets still remain and the housing estate to be reduced to 34. Not that any decision has yet been made it will be down to what the Inspector decides in his report but nothing we had seen or heard that day had given anyone the feeling that we stood a chance. One thing we had all been aware of is how little voice we all have and how little power over what happens to the areas we love. There is no real hope when you up against money and authority as we keep learning to our cost. Thanks to everyone who have least tried."

Yvonne Irving

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