Borough blueprint in balance as Tory group urges rethink
THE West Lancashire Conservative group will lead a bid to fight the proposed Local Plan at a council meeting next week.
The Tories will raise a motion calling for alternatives to be considered instead of the existing plans which could see almost 16,000 homes built in the borough by 2050.
The proposed Local Plan outlines the future development of the borough, in particular in terms of new housing and employment space.
The proposal has been approved for public consultation by both the planning committee and the cabinet of the Labour-run council, but the Conservatives are determined to fight it. Our West Lancashire, led by former Conservative leader Cllr Adrian Owens, has also consistently objected to the plans, though Labour say it is the best way to ensure that the borough’s future can be decided locally.
Among the criticisms the proposal has faced are the loss of Green Belt land and the decision to build over 6,000 new homes, in addition to West Lancashire’s needs, to meet the needs of the Liverpool city region.
The motion, which has been put forward by Cllr Edward Pope, will be heard at a full council meeting next Thursday and argues that implementing a 30-year Local Plan is “unprecedented” and that it is unrealistic to accurately forecast so far ahead.
Cllr Pope said: “The proposal for a new 30-year Local Plan 2020/50 is unprecedented, given that it has not been possible to identify any other council that has adopted such an approach.
“It is impossible to accurately forecast the borough’s population growth, future housing and employment needs for more than 30 years ahead.
“The proposal to plan for 15,992 new homes and a huge amount of land for employment use can only be a very rough estimate.
“Apart from wanting a huge increase in the annual target for both house building and commercial development, the Preferred Options propose to provide land to meet the future housing and commercial development needs of Merseyside – 6,256 new homes and hundreds of acres for employment use as part of an uncertain promise of support with a possible rail link for Skelmersdale. The proposed release of up to 1,500 acres from the Greenbelt or Safeguarded land is cause for considerable concern.”
Announcing the consultation, which runs from tomorrow to December 13, director of development and regeneration John Harrison said: “The proposed new Local Plan will be an exciting blueprint for West Lancashire’s future.
“It will enable the council to better manage new development in a way that creates more sustainable communities, provides homes for all parts of the community and increased employment opportunities for local people.”