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Controversial development of 99 houses on Andrews Lane Formby has been Passed With Conditions

Controversial plans to build nearly 100 homes in Formby have been approved - months after similar proposals were rejected. Sefton Council decided on the proposal - which will see 99 homes built on the land to the rear of Andrews Lane - at a planning committee meeting last week.

An original application for 95 homes was rejected in December 2016 for reasons including inappropriate use of green land, concerns over flooding and the detrimental impact on the existing properties. Redrow, the company behind the proposal, has appealed that ruling as well as submitting the new plans, which originally involved 97 homes but has since been revised to 99.

The development will feature a block of 12 apartments and a mixture of terraced, semi-detached and detached houses featuring either two, three or four bedrooms each. Thirty-one of the properties would be classed as affordable housing, despite the use of green land being given as a reason for refusal, the site has since been allocated for development in Sefton’s Local Plan, which outlines where 11,000 homes will be built in the borough.

Two petitions had been given to the council against the proposal, but the plans were set to be given the go ahead anyway.

Redrow states that it has factored the reasons for the refusal into the new proposal and this has been backed up in the planning officer’s report. The report states: “The principle of development is now established given that the site has been allocated for housing in the recently adopted Local Plan. The proposal will provide 99 homes in Formby, where there is a shortfall of development and include 31 affordable homes. “This in turn will assist in reducing the deficit in the Council’s housing land supply."

“The other reasons for refusal of the outline application in December 2016 have been addressed. The access is considered to be acceptable and the off-site highways works will ensure that the proposal is also acceptable in highways terms. The introduction of an acoustic barrier for existing and proposed residents, along with the Construction Management Plan and working hours’ restrictions will provide some protection in relation to the living conditions of neighbours.”

Residents, for whom there has been no public consultation , were left speechless at the Sefton Borough Planning meeting as the committee conditionally approved the go ahead for the development of the estate of 99 houses by Redrow. Despite standards of access to the development site falling well below Sefton Council's own guidance for adoptable highway standards and defying safety standards set out in the Department for Transport Manual for Streets, and even though the new access point is on a busy school bus, walking and cycling routes residents representations appeared to be ignored. Access is on a busy junction used by children from Range High School and St Luke's, St Jerome's and Woodlands Primary Schools to cycle and walk to school. In a 6 month period from Sefton's own figures the access foot/cycle path was used by circa 28,000 cyclists alone - yet Sefton did not classify this as being high usage!

Sefton also ignored the fact that the proposals contradicted supplementary planning guidance on residential amenity. Sefton Highways attended the site to measure the width of the access path just 3 hours before the planning meeting started! The residents commissioned a drainage report. This area has a very high water table and regularly floods yet there were no proper plans concerning drainage and sewerage submitted. The residents cannot see how Sefton are acting to safeguard them. To quote one resident " We are just going to end up wading in foul sewage constantly - this already happens and it will be worse. It will happen on the Range estate now too as they plan to put more sewage into the pipe coming from there to the sewage works - but not pump it so it will just back up"

Residents also queried why Redrow were measuring Andrews Lane with a GPS theodolite BEFORE the application was passed - with a view to doing work specified in the Officer's Report that had not yet been passed by Councillors. A local resident was told aggressively that they "did not like " the contractors because they "worked for Redrow"

Sefton Planning Department ignored Local Plan Policy IN2 and dropped requirements for Redrow to conduct an expensive and comprehensive Transport Assessment on Hoggs Hill Lane Level Crossing. Residents are amazed that Sefton can agree a local plan and ignore it

When Redrow suddenly put up to £500,000 on the table hours before the meeting there were cries of "bribe" and "bung" - another resident stated that the system lacked transparency and appeared to be biased towards the developer. The fact that many of the planning committee appeared not to have read the documents and not a single one of them addressed a question to Redrow left residents with no faith whatsoever in Sefton Council.

The money promised by the developer is to contribute to installing a light controlled crossing at Hoggs Hill, residents had pointed out that the Network Rail Risk Assessment on which these plans for safety rely on come from out of date figures from a census taken in January 2015 - on a dark unlit path, before the Bellway estate was built and use of the path was significantly less. The residents also pointed out to Sefton that Network Rail actually recommend a footbridge!!

Another resident, who did not wish to be named stated "Sefton are only interested in money from council tax - they do not care about the safety of our children, this will be another Fisherman's Path"

Cllr Maria Bennett from Ravenmeols Ward said: "The ink is barely dry on Sefton’s local plan and Officer’s and Planning Committee Members are already ignoring its content. Residents made excellent submissions and worked hard to develop a solid planning case against this development. Their arguments were not based on sentiment but solid safety reasons why this development should not go ahead. The proposed junction at Andrews Lane contravenes the Council’s own guidelines, is well below recommended adoptable standards and relies completely on cars sticking to 20mph! Sefton Council has failed to enforce its own policy of making developers provide a transport assessment for a level crossing if a development is likely to have a significant effect on upon it."

"The proposed mitigation for Hoggs Hill Lane level crossing is the absolute bare minimum according the Network Rail’s Safety body the Office for Rail and Road (ORR) who say “a simple renewal and retention of existing crossings should be seen as a last resort”. This itself was based on a report from Network Rail which drew upon outdated information, and then extrapolated upon it to provide a new risk assessment for the crossing. This is just the kind of practice that has been called into question since the tragic events at Grenfell Tower earlier this month."

"What is the point of having a local plan, with polices that have been agreed by an inspector via a 6 week public inquiry to then ignore them, this could possible give rise to a high court hearing or judicial review of this decision which, in my opinion, is flawed. We should be making safety our number one priority and ensure that all developers carry out the relevant risk assessments needed in order for their development to get passed. We have already had several tragedies at Fishermans Path Crossing are we now going to wait until there is an incident at Hoggs Hill before anyone will accept responsibility for what they are doing. This should not be about money it should be about doing the right thing and the safety of our residents, especially children who use this crossing."

Cllr Bennett went on to say: "It is no wonder residents have no faith in the Planning System, when the Council don’t follow their own rules, and the people who are meant to hold them to account do nothing! This is why, more than ever, ordinary members of the public should consider standing at local council elections. This is the only affordable way to challenge the decisions of planning section."

The site has also got flooding issues as part of the site is in Flood Zone 3 having a 1 in 100 or greater annual probability of river flooding, however as we have seen, after the winter floods of 2015 it was widely acknowledged the concepts of probability of annual flood will have to be revisited.

Redrow have, according to their planning application, added an attenuation pond to the area just outside the housing area. An attenuation pond is a pond which is designed to slow the passage of water from surface run-off to the ground/drainage system e.g. stormwater sewers. It does this by storing the run-off during times of peak flow i.e. heavy rainfall, and slowly releasing it at a controlled rate after the peak flow has passed. Although, according to Fragoff, the proposed attenuation pond is unlikely to provide sufficient storage to cope with additional runoff as it is situated in an area of the site that is saturated with high ground water levels throughout the winter.

There is also issues regarding the traffic congestion towards the level crossing. Traffic at the railway crossing is already really bad, especially during peak times so the addition of a further 99 homes will undoubtedly add to this congestion considerably.

We spoke to @FrapFormby and they gave us this statement: "Amidst the numerous smaller issues involved in this new application, there are three major concerns -

1) Drainage and Sewage: houses on Andrews Close only have soak-away drains. The new houses are raised to ensure that water run-off adds to the flooding risk for these and other local properties. Sewage already backs up in heavy weather raising manhole covers and making toilets unusable. Does anyone really believe that adding a culvert and pond to the plan will solve these problems?

2) Residents cannot afford to employ London firms to tell planners that it's OK to build a nice expensive estate on what is officially Green Belt land. This application started as 87 houses: the new application mentions 'up to 90' and 'up to 100' new houses, impacting on the environment, wildlife and quality of life for everyone.

3) The transport section of the application emphasises traffic on Elson Road and by the railway crossing. It ignores the creation of a blind junction on the corner of Barton Heys Road and Andrews Lane used by hundreds of children and their parents every weekday. This constitutes a genuine risk to children's' safety for all those who cycle to and from Range High School and those using the very popular cycle track. How long will it be before we are calling ambulances to this new junction?

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