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Planning for Housing Growth

Planning for Housing Growth - the" M55 Hub"There is a conspiracy afoot to develop huge swathes of green land for housing in Fylde.

It is driven at the root by Government, but is being secretly and enthusiastically embraced by some of Fylde's top Politburo members.

This awful rape of good Fylde farmland is being launched from four fronts.

Government believes the North West is not contributing sufficiently to national wealth. (although they sugar that pill by saying it's just that we could enjoy a better lifestyle if we were wealthier). They measure economic productivity in something called the GVA (Gross Value Added) to the national economy by a region. If anyone wants more info, there are oodles of examples of this strategy being promoted at regional level. (Just put 'GVA per head' into Google).

This has led to Government's view that to increase our economic output we need more workers, which in turn means we need more houses to put them in. Note these are not houses for local families, they are for in-migrants to be attracted to the North West Region to boost our economic production.

The new Regional Spatial Strategy (Government's plan) for the North West says that, in Fylde alone, we need 5,500 more houses by 2021. When you think there are around 30,000 average (property Band 'D') sized houses in Fylde at the moment, you can see the increase is probably in the region of 20% more houses.

Or put another way, it's equal to about two more towns the size of Kirkham.

But Government has realised that even this 5,500 extra won't be enough to boost our economic output sufficiently, so they introduced the Growth Point scheme which will change the recently announced draft Regional Spatial Strategy almost before the ink is dry on it.

We broke news of this a while back. Essentially, Fylde was - in our view - conned by its officers and by Blackpool, into supporting Blackpool's part in this bid without Fylde Council having been involved in the preparation, or knowing enough about it. Our last full article on this was about the Tithebarn scheme in Preston 'Growing Pains' but in Fylde we most recently referred to it Snippets - November 2008 when planning consultants David Lock held a mock 'consultation' to help them to justify what officialdom is planning.

And what is planned is scandalous.

The Central Lancashire and Blackpool scheme plans an extra 20,079 houses. This is a further 25% on top of what is a ridiculous extra number devised for the Regional Spatial Strategy.

The first sum of our taxes to fund this lunacy in Central Lancashire and Blackpool (£5,273,281) has recently been released to the Growth Point scheme by Government who said it would "enable local authorities with ambitious plans for growth to invest in the essential services that need to accompany the building of new homes, from transport links and schools to the regeneration of town centres and the provision of parks and other green spaces."

The formal report of the Growth Point Scheme's first mock consultation has now reached counterbalance. It has some very interesting comments made by the 'stakeholders' - people that were selectively invited to participate. Comments put forward at the meeting are presented as bullet points from the three syndicated groups - they include comments such as:

"drainage a major issue. Sewage and foul water is being catered for with the expansion of the Fleetwood sewage works (by 2011). The main problem is surface water which is entering the combined system. All new developments will have to look after their own surface water"

"land assembly and ownership are issues. CPO [compulsory purchase of land from those not wanting to sell it or not wanting to sell it at a low enough price] may well be required."

"housing should support inner core regeneration [this probably means housing around the M55 hub should fund the re-development of central Blackpool] and this should be reflected in housing typologies"

"the majority of the site is in flood zone 1. However surface water drainage is a key issue. Existing systems cannot accommodate further loading and diffuse pollution should be prevented. SUDS will be required throughout to ensure no increase in surface water drainage than at present and to control infiltration"

"enhancements to Wild Lane as the main link to St Anne's form part of the Queensway proposals"

"green belt is located south of division lane. The RSS requires a wholesale review of the green belt which may form part of the Core Strategies;"

"coalescence of Blackpool and Lytham St Anne's would be strongly resisted at a political level. However integration is a key strategic issue"

Note that last comment, and prepare now to man the barricades to repel boarders.

The report concludes with the following telling comment from the consultants:

"Having consulted stakeholders and key landowners within the M55 Growth Point Area, David Lock Associates will generate a number of master plan options for evaluation.

Through a workshop process involving Blackpool Council, Fylde Borough Council and Lancashire County Council, the options will be narrowed down and tested.

A preferred option master plan will then be subject to rigorous technical testing and development appraisal. The refined master plan will be published in conjunction with a full report to explain the process, outcomes and resulting conceptual master plan. This will then inform Blackpool and Fylde's emerging Local Development Frameworks."

Note that in none of this is there any intention to consult the public. Quite the contrary, it is taking place behind closed doors, in secret, and being deliberately kept from the electorate who pay the wages of those who believe they know better than we do.

So in fact, the wholly undemocratic Growth Point Scheme for Central Lancashire and Blackpool (which has been subject to no public consultation or examination to date) is now expected to shape and influence the new 'Local Plan' for Fylde.

This is absolutely disgraceful, and it is all going on in secret behind the scenes because those involved know (and admit) this is something the public will not want. Only once it is all decided will residents be allowed to know what is happening.

You can download the Lock Report here (pdf file). We also have video clips of the three groups discussing their 'plans' for the area. If anyone would like to see them let us know and we will see what can be done to help.

Whilst we recognise it must obey the law, Fylde Council is setting plans now  that will horrify local people when they are made public.

Strategic Housing AreasWe have had sight of, and obtained a photographic copy of, a pre-release plan originally emanating from Fylde Council showing "Potential Urban Housing Extensions" and produced by "Strategic Planning and Development" at Fylde. We understand these site boundary lines may have already been prepared by developers.

Anyone living in St Anne's, Lytham, Warton, Wesham and Kirkham, can be very afraid, as can people north east and south west of the Whitehills Industrial area. If you live here, there are huge developments coming to a road near you.

You can see an enlarged version of the plan by clicking here.

We can be less sure of the longer term aim because the details are being kept from the public gaze, but we suspect that as well as the plan to create a new road from Whitehills to Cypress point across the moss, (the so called Lytham St Anne's Link Road) there are wider plans to link a new road system from this road through the back of St Anne's, past Lytham and Warton to join up with the Freckleton by-pass.

If this happens, it will set a new line which will in time become the limit of urban development, and see a great swathe of land opened up for development that could double or treble the size of Lytham and St Anne's.

Our children will not forgive those who allow this to happen.

Already, we detect rising anger in the community and the coming together of those opposed to the idea of such massive development.

So who is driving this at Fylde?

The answer is we don't know.

Given his public comments about plans already published for Wesham, and development in Fylde more generally, it's not going to be Politburo member Simon Renwick.

It's more difficult to tell with those Councillors who are members of the Development Control Committee because they are no longer allowed to express a view before the DC meeting takes place, but from what counterbalance knows of them, people like Queen Elizabeth Oades of Kirkham - who now speaks for many of the non-conservative councillors - wouldn't be in favour of over-development of the area. We also know former Leader Paul Hayhurst wants no truck with using Fylde's land to support the 'sick man of Lancashire' as he has described Blackpool on several occasions.

We think it's unlikely to be the present Chairman of the Development Control Committee Cllr John Bennett nor, given his recent rhetoric, is it likely to be the [Chairman of the Planning Policy Scrutiny Committee]  former Chairman of the Development Control Committee* Cllr Trevor Fiddler either - although he probably knows more about it than many.

To a lesser extent, we have heard comments in favour of developing green land put forward by Cllr Ben Aitken and by the Chairman of the Planning Policy Scrutiny Committee* Cllr Kevin Eastham, whose honestly held, but we think misguided, view seems to be that this option is the least bad solution - assuming the houses have to be built in the first place.

But the one we have heard speaking most in favour of this idea is the Commissar. As we reported near the end of Fylde's State 2007 he single handedly made the case for the moss road and the housing that he said would be needed to fund it back in 2007. Readers will also remember he was being personally copied in to the correspondence sent from Kensington to FBC about their Queensway development and the road, and his quotes to the press are always supportive of the road that is the key to this would-be unfolding disaster.

So long as he remains Leader, there will always be the threat of development.

Growth is second nature to his way of doing things. His whole strategy has been to sell things off; to sacrifice public benefits and assets to fund re-development. Whether it was part of Ashton Gardens that started his asset stripping spree, or the sale of land at Lytham that mostly funded the initial set up the Park View scheme there, or the plan to sell off the greenhouses in Ashton Gardens or the other five or more community owned sites to fund re-development of a white elephant new town hall, it's all to do with growth, change, and development. If you look back, his watchwords have been "vibrant and new." Rarely does his natural lexicon of  values embrace history, heritage or environmental matters.

So as long as he is leader, this threat of development will be strong. It may already be too late, the policies being cast behind the scenes now will set direction for several years, and be difficult to change even if someone were to take over from him in the next few months.

Dated:  12 January 2009

* UPDATE 12 Jan 2009
By a typographical editing error we unintentionally elevated the former Planning Committee Chairman Trevor Fiddler to the post  of Chairman of the Planning Policy Scrutiny Committee, This post is in fact now held by Cllr Kevin Eastham as now corrected above, and we offer our apologies to those concerned.


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