UPDATE Halsall Residents Turn out in Force for Public Meeting

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Halsall Residents Turn out in Force for Public Meeting

There was real show of strength by Halsall and Sefton residents, who turned out in force to a public meeting organised by Halsall Residents Action Group (RAP), who are fighting to prevent West Lancashire Borough Council opening up Green belt land on New Cut Lane, for development of 150 new homes

The meeting was chaired by Lynn Campbell a member of RAP and attended by WLB Cllr Doreen Stephenson, and WLBC cabinet council members David Westley and Martin Forshaw.

Cllr Forshaw presented on why the council had had made modifications to the Local Plan 2012 – 2027 and their reasons for changing New Cut Lane from a Plan B to a Plan A site. Cllr Forshaw explained this was due to the government inspector identifying a shortfall of housing in the councils original Local Plan. He did also suggest and advise on certain issues which the residents could include in any official objections, which have to be lodged by the 9th August.

Raymond Belcher, one of the members of RAP said. “We were absolutely delighted to see so many people turn up, we can’t thank everyone enough. This overwhelming support sends a very clear signal to the council that we may be small in size due to our rural location but we have a big voice and they ignore us at their peril.  People from all over Halsall and surrounding areas want this plan stopped.”

The presentation was followed by a very lively Q&A session with residents challenging the Cllrs on a number of points. These included, lack of effective and intelligent communication to the residents regarding the modifications to the Local Plan. A show of hands confirmed that no one had seen the adverts or notifications. The Cllrs stated all legal obligations had been met.

Looking at the actual deliverability of the New Cut Lane site. The councils plan had included parcels of resident’s gardens/land as part of the available land for development, unbeknown to the majority of residents until three weeks ago. Cllrs were asked didn’t they think this was misleading, as when resident’s gardens were taken out of the equation the actual land available is considerably reduced. To include/identify land in this way, is apparently normal procedure.

Residents also called into question the ability of the developer Bloor Homes, and their understanding of the major building issues surrounding the land, including deep level piling, and dealing with existing and potential flooding issues. It seems that Bloor Homes have not submitted any in-depth reports or plans, or been required to.  When asked if any of the other originally identified sites have had in-depth reports/plans submitted, Cllr Forshaw answered, “not to his knowledge, other than a very sketchy plan”, but did not say for which site.

Halsall Parish Cllr Barry Critchley, reiterated the Parish Councils total support for the residents, and asked the councillors why had the Alty’s lane site close to Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, an original Plan A site, meeting all the criteria,  completely deliverable and addressing WLBC housing requirement, was dismissed in favour of Plan B sites. Had this site been chosen, it would have negated the need for developing Yew tree Farm in Burscough, New Cut Lane, and Fine Janes farm. The answers given were there would have been too much of a traffic issue for Ormskirk, and the housing would not have been spread across the borough. Many people responded with “what about the traffic issues for New Cut Lane and Burscough?”

Residents pushed local Cllr Doreen Stephenson, on how she would vote when the government’s inspector made his recommendations, which would then be put to the council for their vote. Would she follow the party whip, or do the right thing and vote wholeheartedly for the residents who helped to elect her? In an overwhelming vocal response from the hall, including ‘resign now,’ she was left in no doubt what the residents expect, and how the wrong answer will affect her long-term position.

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