Opposition ‘shambles’ in Local Plan debate
THE opposition Conservative group was branded “shambolic” as it failed in a bid to halt the council’s Local Plan proposals.
The Tories raised the proposal, which maps out the future development of the borough until 2050, at a full council meeting last Thursday in a motion calling for it to be scrapped.
But the Labour group rubbished the suggestion, saying there was no choice but to carry out a review under rules set by the Government.
Instead, Cllr John Hodson warned, those opposing the proposals must come up with alternatives rather than simply asking or all plans to be scrapped.
The motion, submitted by Cllr Edward Pope on behalf of the Conservatives, called for the council to reconsider the Local Plan, saying there was a need for “drastic action”.
One of the key aims of the plan is to help support the case for a train station to be built in Skelmersdale, although Cllr Pope questioned whether there was demand for this, a suggestion which was forcefully rejected by Skelmersdale North councillor Neil Furey.
Cllr Pope also pointed towards the congestion in Burscough and Tarleton as reasons to fight further development.
He said: “The current Local Plan stood up to scrutiny. This proposal is a developer’s dream. It’s saying ‘come to West Lancashire and pick a site’.
“This is a plan for Skem and should be consigned to the scrap heap before consultation has finished.
Cllr Adrian Owens, the leader of the Our West Lancashire group, said he would support the motion, saying that asking cabinet to think again is ‘clearly the right thing to do’.
Responding to the criticism, Cllr Hodson, who is portfolio holder for planning, labelled the responses “shambolic” before giving a detailed rebuttal listing six occasions over the past two years where the Local Plan proposals were formally discussed and accusing the opposition of feigning ignorance.
“There’s either a cloud of amnesia about what’s taken place over the last two years, a deliberate attempt to mislead the public, or a failure to read the documents.”
He said that there was no choice but to review the Local Plan and argued the council was being sensible by planning further ahead to attract more investment to the borough and maintain more control over its future.
Cllr Hodson added that he would happy to attend any invitation to discuss the proposals with concerned groups, such as parish councils.
Ultimately, a majority voted against the motion and the consultation will continue as planned.
Any one wanting to give their feedback con the plan can do so online or by booking an appointment at a consultation event – details at westlancs.gov.uk