Outline plans to build 286 homes on land north of Brackenway in Formby will be considered by Sefton
New build homes on land north of Brackenway in Formby will be considered by Sefton Council's planning committee on Wednesday 6th March. Labour's Formby councillors Catie Page and Nina Killen said it put the planning committee in "a difficult position" and criticised Independent councillors for "spreading myths to suit their own agenda".
Cllr Killen said: "Government planning policy has been written in a way that will increase housebuilding and increase building on green space. We broadly support housebuilding as we recognise that we have high house prices because not enough homes have been built over the past 30 years.
"But what it means is councils have a lot less power to turn down planning applications.
"The Government's independent planning inspector, during the local plan inspection, said this site north of Brackenway was suitable for development as long as the flood risk was mitigated.
"Turning down a planning application that meets planning criteria will only lead to the government allowing it on appeal. It puts the planning committee in a difficult position.
"Our Independent councillors would have us believe that there are no school places, that the flood risk can't be mitigated and that the affordable homes will be £300,000. They are spreading myths to suit their own agenda which we all know is to have no development on green space, ever. That is not a reasonable or responsible position.
"The facts are that if valid planning applications are refused, the government would give permission on appeal and the council would be forced to shell out for costly appeals.
"The facts are that some of our primary schools are not filling their reception classes due to so few children being born here, one of our high schools accepts children living 10 miles away due to a surplus of places, several agencies have confirmed that the flood risk plan will work and the affordable homes will be 80% social housing and 20% part rent part buy. The independents' claims don't stand up to scrutiny."
The following agencies had 'no objections' to the planning application subject to the conditions that would be imposed if given approval: Natural England, Environment Agency, Canal & River Trust, United Utilities, the council's Flooding and Drainage Manager, the Merseyside Environmental Advisory Service, the council's Environmental Health Manager, the Ministry of Defence and Merseyside Fire and Rescue.
Cllr Killen said: "A total of 15 partners and stakeholders had 'no objection' yet the Independents apparently know better."
In comments submitted to the council in response to the planning application, Cllr Killen and Cllr Page submitted comments regarding the flood risk, saying: "Flood risk for existing properties must not be increased and in fact should be decreased during any development of this site.
"The site sits within flood zone 2 and 3 and we welcome the fact that no homes will be built in flood zone 3 which will continue to act as a water storage area.
"We ask the planning authority and committee to seek assurances that the work that is planned for Eight Acre Brook, which we understand will include the lowering of the north side of the brook so that water will drain northward, will in fact bring about the desired outcome in reducing the risk of flooding to homes on Hawksworth Drive and Brackenway."
The report states that the Environment Agency are satisfied that the flood risk to the site as been successfully minimised and that flood risk elsewhere will not be increased.
The Local Lead Flood Authority said they were satisfied with the drainage and flood mitigation strategy.
United Utilities said the site would be drained on a separate system to that used by existing properties so the proposed development would have no negative impact on the sewer flood risk for existing homes.
The councillors also asked that no site traffic be allowed to use Paradise Lane to access the site. The report confirms that development and servicing of the site will take place via the bypass entrance.
Cllr Killen said: "I was pleased to see in the officer's report that site traffic will have to use the bypass to access the site and not Paradise Lane.
"The Paradise Lane entrance will be for pedestrians, cycles and emergency vehicles only. We have been given assurances that this emergency access from Paradise Lane, which will block traffic with the use of metal bollards, will never be opened up as a full access to the estate. The local plan states that access to this site by vehicles must be from the Formby bypass only, with access from Paradise Lane being only for emergencies, for example for a fire engine or ambulance."
As a condition of the development, the developer would have to pay for de-silting of Hawksworth Drive surface water drainage network; de-silting of Eight Acre Brook and Wham Dyke culverts and a maintenance regime for Eight Acre Brook. The north side of Eight Acre Brook will be lowered so that water runs north away from existing properties into water storage areas.
The site is 21 hectares in size, with just 6 hectares due to be developed, the remainder forming both accessible and non-accessible open space. There will be a new children's play area and links to existing paths and footways. The nearby bridleway would also be improved.
Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson blamed government planning rules for forcing councils to release land for development. He wrote in response to the planning application: "The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has made it far easier for developers to build on greenfield sites. This Conservative/Lib Dem policy has introduced an assumption in favour of development, making the NPPF a Developers' Charter.
"The Conservatives and Lib Dems pushed through the NPPF when they were in coalition in government together. It should also be remembered that Sefton Labour Group tabled a motion opposing the introduction of the NPPF, when Sefton Council was under No Overall Control. This motion was defeated by a combination of the Conservative and Lib-Dem Councillors.
The consequences are that developers very much have the whip hand at Brackenway.
"Both Maghull Town Council and Lydiate Parish Council have neighbourhood plans in place, which grant the planning committee greater influence over planning decisions. Neighbourhood Plans give some protections and Formby Parish Council has failed to introduce one in a timely manner. The lack of a Neighbourhood Plan in Formby makes it harder to influence greenfield development on sites like Brackenway.
"I recognise the limits facing the planning committee as a result of the policies implemented by both the Conservatives and Lib Dems in government. The failure to act by the parish council has also limited the ability of the committee to act. However, I would encourage the members of the plannning committee to use any conditions, which they are able to impose to support the existing community.
"These should include flood protection, road access to the bypass and contributions to local services especially in our NHS.
"Objecting outright to this planning application may not be possible without the risk of the applicant winning on appeal and those members of Sefton Council who are suggesting such an approach need to consider whether the use of conditions is a better way of standing up for the people of Formby than losing on appeal. The loss on appeal in a decision taken by a government appointed planning inspector could see no protections in place in the form of planning conditions.
"On previous planning applications, Conservative, Lib-Dem and Independent councillors have sometimes voted against approval and had they won the vote the final planning permission at appeal would have been far less sympathetic to residents because of the potential lack of conditions on the final planning consent.
"I hope that that all members will consider the best way to put the existing community first. Any planning consents should try to ensure that homes in any new development benefit local people and address local housing, rather than favouring those moving from outside. Such planning consents should also ensure road, drainage and health services are supported to benefit the existing community as a priority."
The committee will hear the application at Bootle Town Hall on Wednesday March 6 at 6.30pm.
The officer's report can be read here http://modgov.sefton.gov.uk/moderngov/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=134&MId=9278