Planning in Action – Planning Committee 17th April

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Apologies if we’re a bit late to the planning party but events have rather overtaken us this week . However we have been asked for your support against a planning application  concerning Ashton Court ,West Kirby  that comes before tonight’s Planning committee.

Planning Committee 17.04.19 agenda

It will be interesting to observe the actions of Planning Committee Chair (!) Cllr Steve ‘Foulkesy’ Foulkes on this particular agenda item particularly considering the conflicts of interest involved with him being a board member of Magenta Living. But then this is Wirral Council where all kinds of conflicts go undeclared and unchallenged.

Here are the details of one of the objections to the plans:

ASHTON COURT……Planning Committee – Wednesday 17 April 2019.

1.      My name is Alan Rundle and I live at XXX, West Kirby.

2.     This Planning Committee has already rejected two identical planning applications for development at Ashton Court. The Planning Inspectorate has dismissed two appeals.

3.      ‘Magenta Living’ has created three companies to privatise its housing stock. They are ‘Starfish Commercial’, ‘Bamboo Lettings’ and ‘Hilbre Homes’.

4.      The previous two identical applications were submitted by Starfish Commercial.

5.       This application has been submitted by ‘Hilbre Homes’.

6.         Since this application is identical to the previous two, the concerns and objections to the previous applications apply equally to this application.

7.      Six petitions have now been submitted to the Council, objecting to this scheme.

8.     A large number of West Kirby residents want to see the Ashton Court flats refurbished, modernised and occupied, once more, by elderly people.

9.     The Lead Local Flood Authority (the LLFA) objects to this application and recommends refusal of planning permission contrary to what is printed in the Ashton Court Agenda, under the heading ‘CONSULTATIONS’.

10.             I quote from an email sent by the Lead Local Flood Authority to Neil A.Williams, with the subject given as ‘Application APP/18/01625 (Ashton Court) consultation response, dated 10th January 2019. It states:

“……the Lead Local Flood Authority object to this application and recommend refusal of planning permission….” adding “….the proposed scale of development may present risks of flooding on-site and/or elsewhere if surface water run-off is not effectively managed”.

The LLFA also states that “….there is no information whether the system will be in private ownership or offered for adoption, who will be responsible for maintenance and how maintenance of unadopted communal components…….will be secured and funded in perpetuity”.

The LLFA further adds: “In the absence of this information, the surface water flood risk resulting from the proposed development is unknown and this is therefore sufficient reason in itself for a refusal of planning permission”.

11.             The Council’s website shows that there were seven bodies consulted concerning this application. The LLFA one has been seen to recommend refusal of planning permission. I have given some of the LLFA’s reasons. The Wirral Society was consulted. In a communication to Mr. N. Williams, dated 9 January 2019, the Wirral Society writes: “The Wirral Society objects to this repeat, repeat application….”.

Reasons are given including one that states: “Surely, a refurbishment is possible and less costly, and would maintain the green space that is under threat from this application at the centre of Banks Road”.

Why is there no mention of the Wirral Society objection in the Ashton Court Agenda document under the heading ‘CONSULTATIONS’?

Why is the Agenda item ‘CONSULTATIONS’ so misleading and incomplete?

12.             This application breaches several NPPF and Council policies:

  1. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) definition of Previously Developed Land (aka Brownfield Sites) specifically excludes the inclusion of “….land in built-up areas such as private residential gardens….”. Therefore, Ashton Court does not qualify as a Brownfield Site and should be removed from the Council’s Register of Brownfield Sites.
    Ashton Court is not actually given ‘confirmed’ status on the Council’s Brownfield Site Register and, as a consequence, this application does not qualify for the subsidy of a Vacant Building Credit of £9,291 to be paid by the Council to the applicant.

    The Lead Local Flood Authority has previously stated that the site cannot be classed as ‘previously developed’ or ‘brownfield’ for the purposes of the water drainage system.

    (ii) GRE1 – The title of the Council’s Urban Greenspace Strategic Policy is a big clue as to what it is intended to do: GRE1 The Protection of Urban Greenspace. This planning application proposes to cover urban greenspace with concrete, tarmac and bricks and mortar.

    (iii) SPD2…..Separation Distances.
    In the Agenda, section 3.8.13 it states that “Almost all separation distances are complied with“.This is not acceptable. Does the Council’s SPD2 policy apply to some residents but not to others, or does the SPD2 policy apply to all residents? This application breaches the Council’s SPD2 policy.

    (iv) SPD4…..Car Parking provision for newly-built properties – 27 car parking spaces should have been provided for the proposed 14 houses. This application breaches the Council’s SPD4 policy. and

      (v) the NPPF definition of ‘Affordable Housing’ states that

     “Social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing, provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market. Eligibility is determined with regard to local incomes and local house prices. Affordable housing should include provisions to remain at an affordable price for future eligible households or for the subsidy to be recycled for alternative housing provision”. “Intermediate housing” is homes for sale and rent provided at a cost above social rent, but below market levels.

    It is not clear that the applicant has made any commitment to guarantee that future eligible households will receive any subsidy.

13.             Some West Kirby residents have suggested that the Council compulsorily purchase the Ashton Court retirement flats.

14.             Some West Kirby residents have expressed their desire to see the Ashton Court flats awarded listed status…….as an example of 1960s council housing.

15.            This application includes no Social Rented Housing…….no Intermediate Housing……. and……no Key Worker Housing.

16.            I ask Wirral Council’s Planning Committee to reject this planning application.

 

On the Highway to another Maccy D’s ?

Highways etc 004

Maccy D’s cheek by jowl with Highways depot. Planning at its finest.

Another recent news story that readers have sought our commentary on is this one headlined McDonald’s drive thru planned for Prenton

A source writes:

How long has the word ‘through’ been ‘thru’? The next thing you know they’ll be spelling the name ‘Foulkes’ as ‘Fucks’. And ‘Trump’ as ‘Davies’.

For indeed as you can read the story concerns Cllr Steve ‘Foulkesy’ Foulkes the Chair of  Wirral Council’s Planning Committee seeking a site visit to the Durley Industrial Estate to check the suitability of the location for yet another McDonald’s. Well it’s better than having to go to work isn’t it Foulkesy?

We can safely assume that Foulkesy won’t be popping into ‘Total Fitness’ gym while he’s there but he might well pop in to Wirral Council’s Highways depot . After all he might want to meet up with some chums who were willingly  involved with him in a political smear campaign and have been actively involved in protecting his and Cllr George Davies sorry arses ever since . But in return for what we ask ourselves? We don’t know whether Foulkesy will  be meeting up with old acquaintances for sure because, as we can see from this Freedom of Information request titled Organisational breakdown of highways and transport division   , Wirral Council are curiously reluctant to identify details of staff currently working within the Highways department. We are only allowed to know the name of the Interim Director at the top of the tree because he is the only public servant who earns over £50K…

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The reminder of Foulkesy’s  long standing dishonesty makes us want to once again question his suitability to be Chair of any Committee, let alone the Planning Committee. If any Wirral Council Committee requires the Chair to be like Caesar’s wife and above suspicion it is this particular appointment.

We’ll know if there’s been any jiggerypokery with this planning application if Maccy D’s incongruously opens up on an industrial estate and introduce a ‘Sorrento Burger’ in tribute – made from 100% British bully beef (guaranteed no foreign muck and with a hot and fiery sauce)…

 

Plan Mad

 

Plan Mad

There is currently no end to this planning madness on Wirral. Indeed we failed to include in our Dead Wrong story the fact that Wirral Council have plans for the Local Plan but actually no Local Plan. The latest excuse reported to Monday’s that in January/February  2017 Wirral Council had asked its ‘retained consultants’ – Lichfields (assisted by Lambert Smith Hampton) – and wouldn’t it be nice to have permanent staff able to do this ? – to prepare a Borough-wide Wirral Employment Land and Premises Study [Wirral ELPS]. However they’ve only just got round to agreeing the findings of the Wirral ELPS be used to inform the content of the Council’s ’emerging’ Local Plan ! So what took them so long to come to this decision ? Apparently it’s become a case that help is now needed for those on Wirral who can’t ELPS themselves!

For your enjoyment the full transcript of the now legendary ‘Dead Wrong’ speech read by Cllr George Davies in the style of a six year old reading ‘Janet & John’ appears in the minutes. Read here : Dead Wrong Cabinet minutes

Somehow we don’t think that this will rank with MLK’ s ‘I have a dream’ or JFK’s ‘ Ask not what your country can do for you…’ as one of the world’s great orations.

The same speech (this time credited to Wirral Council ‘leader’ Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies appears here in this Place North West article : Wirral hits back at Javid intervention. This article  is worth perservering with for the ‘expert view’ of  Sebastian Tibenham , executive director at Pegasus Group, who has sympathy for both sides but basically concludes that Wirral Council have brought threats of intervention on themselves by acting in the way that is oulined in our first paragraph or as he more eloquently puts it :

 In short, the polarised issues in Wirral blur into an average state of indifference.   

And so when it comes to planning on Wirral it’ remains a case of another day , another artist’s impression . This time  Business Up North  reports :   Wirral waters developer submits planning application for £6m office block

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Wirral Waters developer, Peel Land and Property, has formally submitted a planning application to Wirral Council to build a stunning office block.

Situated on Tower Road, the £6m three-storey development will be aimed at Wirral’s small business community.

The ground floor will include an incubator facility for the region’s entrepreneurial sector, while the two upper floors will feature Grade ‘A’ level office accommodation throughout six suites.

We love the sound of ‘an incubator facility for the region’s entrepreneurial sector’. Her Ladyship asked whether this was a pop up birthing centre for busy have-it-all businesswomen. However it’s probably be more like a variation on the Wirral Chamber of Commerce’s Sheds down the road.

All fine and dandy you might think but as far as we’re concerned it’s the usual case of Peel securing yet more public money to kick start yet another opportunistic , ad-hoc private development as “the project is supported by a grant from Liverpool City Region’s Single Investment Fund and the backing of Wirral Council” – and that’s what happens when you don’t have a ‘Local Plan’

Finally we’ll be keeping a close eye on some controversial planning decisions which have been brought to our attention including one affecting one of Wirral’s Grade II listed properties, an architectural practice with links to a local councillor who has some interesting connections and a 1960’s toxic landfill site.

Making Plans For Wirral

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Following yesterday’s masterful Masterplantastic story we bring you an immaculately timed letter from  Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Housing , Communities and Local Government which tells us what happens when a council has ‘visions’ rather than ‘plans’ !

As you may remember last November we brought to your attention Wirral Council’s failure to produce a ‘Local Plan’ and Javid’s warning that there would be government intervention if Wirral Council leader Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies couldn’t get his house in order : Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail .  Wirral Council was one of 15 council’s who received such a warning with  Javid making this sabre rattling statement :

…today is the day that my patience has run out.

Those 15 authorities have left me with no choice but to start the formal process of intervention that we set out in the white paper.

By failing to plan, they have failed the people they are meant to serve.

The people of this country who are crying out for good quality, well-planned housing in the right places, supported by the right infrastructure.

They deserve better, and by stepping in now I’m doing all I can to ensure that they receive it.

Now it would appear that Wirral Council has excelled themselves by being one of only 3 remaining councils who now face intervention for “persistent failure over many years to get a Local Plan in place”  For further details : Three councils

The full shameful letter from Javid to Pip can be read here :

Wirral Plan

Meanwhile a Wirral Leaks commentator going by the name of ‘HeadBallRoll’ writes to us to say :

After a series of mealymouthed excuses as to why highly paid council officers and their political paymasters couldn’t actually cut and paste something resembling a Local Plan by 31st January 2018 – as they were too busy hiding behind their 20/20 Vision and pledges rather than meeting a statutory requirement by which they can be held to account . Maybe the chosen few were too busy scoping golf courses, closing children’s centres, farming out council houses to private property developers … or simply not paying attention? So it’s been around a while, ending up with 15 councils warned by the angry Slaphead Javid.  But even nearly three years’ notice wasn’t enough for the senior, blind, bumbling incompetents shuffling around lost, bumping into each other, muttering, tripping over files, in the dusty, unused Wirral planning office.

And let’s face it, 33 months is  nowhere near enough notice to get their shit together (after 13 years of not having a ‘Local Plan’ !)  Presumably the other dozen LAs scraped through because they had enough about them to focus, gather the remnants of good practice and apply the last surviving vestiges of planning nous into cobbling some crappy document together in time.

But not here.  It seems they’ve sat around, twiddled their thumbs and hoped the horrible Tories would either go away, forget, or not go through with it.

Despite the BIG proclamations, the BIG egos, the BIG senior salaries, they’ve messed up BIG style.  It’s one BIG cock-up.

This being Wirral though, where abject failure and disaster have long become customary bedfellows, like night follows day, or falling off a log, it doesn’t soften the blow.

But hey, as long as those bumper salaries are not cut off and continue to come in on pay day, where’s the incentive to do your jobs, lol?

So chaos is now expected and planned for at ‘most improved’ Wirral. (Who remembers the Children’s Services OFSTED catastrophe that overpromoted social worker and CEO Eric Robinson  knew about months in advance, only to dive under his desk, head in hands, dribbling and doing bugger all to stave it off?)

And what of the grafting junior staff of the Planning Department, doing their utmost to at least be professional and hold the fort?

Monday morning will arrive, and they’ll find themselves intercepted, scapegoated, placed into the line of fire and reaping the consequences of years of failure by their bosses and councillors – who will have had just enough prior notification to give it all a timely body swerve…. That’s the type of ‘planning’ they’re very good at. Avoidance measures, whilst junior bods and lackeys are left to pick up the pieces. 

So it’s not just Children’s Services, Social Services, Highways Services that have collapsed into an abject, irretrievable mess.We can now add the Planning Department to the long list of shame.

Of course the upshot of all this is that Wirral’s ‘Local Plan’ could now come under the auspices of the Liverpool City Region as Javid warns in his letter:

 

My officials will also begin formal discussions on the options of inviting the Combined Authority for the Liverpool City Region to prepare a Local Plan for Wirral and on the possibility of directing an accelerated Joint Plan, as part of considering whether to use my statutory powers and if so which ones.

Could this have been part of  Pip’s ‘Masterplan’ all along ?  To evade accountability for an unpopular ‘Local Plan’ and subsequent planning decisions – ” It wasn’t us who approved a golf resort etc;  – it was the Liverpool City Region!”

 

Public Service Announcement : Parking Fines

Aldi

We’ve received this message from one of our readers:

Hi , I’ve just had notification from Wirral Council Planning that Parking Eye the company that issues parking ‘fines’ for Aldi in Prenton have been operating illegally. Parking Eye have never applied for planning permission for the ANPR? Cameras and/or signage.
Therefore anyone who paid £40 for an overstay should request their money to be returned.
Wirral Council are granting Parking Eye retro planning but no mention of prosecution for illegal operations over the last ten years.
CLAIM YOUR ‘fine’ MONEY BACK NOW

ANPR = Automatic Number Plate recognition. If Parking Eye didn’t have planning permission for ANPR is that a Data Protection breach on the part of Wirral Council?

But then Wirral Council surely wouldn’t let someone operate without planning permission for 10 years would they ?  Of course they would ! As we’ve previously reported on the illegal marquees at Thornton Manor , this would seem to be par for the course when it comes to the impotent  and incompetent Planning Committee. Read the fully story here 

 

There Goes The Green Belt

Wirral green belt

Source : DCLG 2016

One of the very few things that remains attractive about Wirral is that it is relatively green.

However in the time-honoured tradition of brutalism Wirral Council seem to be exceeding themselves when it comes to concreting over everything that’s good about the place.

Specifically we’re talking about last night’s decision to approve the building of a fire station in Saughall Massie following pretend democratic processes involving public meetings and site visits.

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15425897.Campaigners_vow_to_fight_on_as_Saughall_Massie_fire_station_is_approved/

Yes, we know there’s more tedious bureaucratic processes to go through before the fire station becomes a reality but we’re sure we’re all agreed it’s the principle of agreeing to build on the green belt which is the issue. This decision will surely give the green light to build on other parts of the green belt and specifically the Hoylake Golf Resort. And what’s more it’s no good local Tories belatedly bleating about how unfair it all is!

The Planning Committee Chair is Anita Leech ( you do the punchline) and the Vice -Chair of the Planning Committee is Steve ‘Kindred’ Foulkes. So spare us the ‘feigned outrage’. We all knew what was coming next!

Indeed might we suggest that a fitting tribute would be that Foulkesy’s political career is entombed in motorway concrete. And the sooner the better!

Architecture and Morality

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Verity  has been doing a bit research following the viewing of John Brace’s coverage of last week’s Planning Committee meeting. The poor saps who turned up expecting a debate about proposals about Saughall Massie fire station were blindsided by bureaucracy and politely asked to leave by committee chair Cllr Anita Leech (and if ever there was an archetypal Wirral councillor name Anita has got it!)

 

Forgive us for ignoring (for now) the plans to build a fire station on the green belt. We’re more interested in plans to turn Birkenhead ‘s Charing Cross into even more of a vagrant destination than it already is.

The architects behind the latest plan to degrade Birkenhead town centre even further (if that were possible) is SDA Architecture on behalf of their client Dr Ahmed. SDA Architecture have an ignoble history of making such applications. This is even more surprising when you consider that one of their former directors is Cllr Paul ‘ Danceaway’ Doughty.

However Cllr Doughty appears to have to have passed the baton on his son as a conduit  for  landlords who want to turn properties into houses of multiple occupation and maximum profit . These are the current directors of SDA Architecture ( Doughty Jnr  is the one on the left ).
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It comes to something when even Birkenhead MP Frank Field rocks up to object about plans to turn a building on Charing Cross into a ‘dosshouse’. But then Frankenfield and his long -standing acolyte Cllr Jean Stapleton were only gegging in on Birkenhead & Tranmere councillor Pat Cleary’s call in on this particular planning application. It is frightening to think that if he hadn’t council officers under their delegated powers would have approved a 12 bedded hellhole ( but then they don’t have to live there – so why should they care?)

Doughty trio

Happier days when Jean and Frank didn’t have to ask awkward questions about yet another  lamentable Labour councillor who they’ve repeatedly turned a blind eye to.

Criticism was made during the Planning Committee meeting of a previous SDA Architecture application on behalf of Dr Ahmed to convert a former police station on Laird Street

Laird St - 12 bedsits

12 bedsits in this space? – would Cllr Doughty live in one of them? Just sayin’

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/laird-street-police-station-birkenhead-12113869

Frankenfield’s intervention in his lightweight seersucker (not a euphemism) is even more surprising when you consider that Cllr Paul Doughty tried to ingratiate himself with the local political powerbroker by nominating him for an award from the Mormons for upholding ‘family values’ . Once again, you really couldn’t make this shit up!

However what we’d really like to know is exactly what is Cllr Paul ‘Danceaway’ Doughty’s relationship with notorious flytipping facilitator Arthur Morgan?

http://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/11862308.INTOLERABLE__Businessman_who_helped_create____plague_of_flies____admits_letting_illegal_waste_be_dumped_on_his_land/

Surely it can’t be the same Arthur Morgan who has business interests with Pensions Committee chair Cllr Doughty ?

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/09898216/officers

We think we should be told!

Archiecture and Morality