Council & Residents in Tense Q&A over Whiston Greenbelt

By on Tuesday, October 28, 2014

whiston_greenbelt_meetingOver 250 Whiston residents put the pressure on Knowsley Council last Friday over plans to release greenbelt for housing development.

At the 24 October meeting at St Edmund Arrowsmith Catholic Centre for Learning, the borough’s Local Plan came under scrutiny from protesters. Among the objections was the impact new housing would have on packed schools, overstretched NHS resources and a struggling local traffic system.

Lisa Harris, Knowsley’s Director of Regeneration and Housing, said the early release of greenbelt was out of the council’s hands, as non-protected brownfield sites were not becoming available fast enough to meet government housing targets.

“Pretty much [the government inspector] didn’t give us many options,” she said, “and therefore we felt we had no other choice.” She repeatedly said the council had no choice in the matter.

greenbelt_protesters_whistonShe added that council officers had argued against the inspector’s demands. Whiston Town Council has also come out against the plans.

Ms Harris also said Knowsley Council had gone beyond their statutory duty in allowing such an extensive public consultation.

Many residents were left unconvinced, however. One objected that only 1,411 of 6,658 households in Whiston were notified of the consultation by post.

Objectors also asked why Whiston needed 1,500 new homes, when the borough’s population was in long-term decline, from 172,000 in 1974 to the current 145,000.

Harris replied that the council aimed to attract more people into the area, a statement met with complaints that jobs and resources were already thin on the ground for existing residents.

On the question of the extra burden on infrastructure, she said neither the NHS, local schools nor the Highways Agency had objected to the plans. Any developers applying for planning permission would have a duty to assess the impact on infrastructure as part of their application.

Jeers of protest interrupted the debate throughout, with the panel and the public speaking over each other at several points.

The session ended on a particularly heated note, when a local commuter angrily decried the traffic problems at Tarbock Island, telling the council he would call them to account if peak-time congestion worsened due to new residential developments.

He also complained that the council were wrong to blame the government, citing communities secretary Eric Pickles’s recent show of concern over greenbelt development.

At this point, meeting chair Councillor Terry Byron repeated that the plans were “forced upon the council by the coalition government.”

He bluntly added, “They are the enemies here – not Knowsley Council.”

The allotted time drawing to a close, he then ended the meeting for “health and safety reasons.”

savegreenbeltsessionsmallSave Whiston’s Greenbelt

A grassroots campaign to save Whiston’s greenbelt has made itself visible throughout the town, with banners and placards, as well as green ribbons on houses and lampposts in support.

Volunteers have arranged a free session to help residents fill out consultation forms on Saturday 1 November. All are welcome to drop in to St Nic’s Church, Windy Arbor Road, between 12 noon and 6pm.

A donation to cover postage of the form is appreciated.

More information is available at savewhistonsgreenbelt.org.

All documentation relating to the Local Plan is online at www.knowsley.gov.uk, and residents can drop in to any Knowsley One Stop Shop or library to view the documents and learn more about the plan.

The deadline for objections is 14 November 2014.

See also: Council Plan to Give up Prescot, Whiston Greenbelt (1 October 2014)

Watch: Knowsley Council Q&A on Whiston Greenbelt

 Images: Gaynor Finney

4 Comments

  1. David Willisms

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Was it not said at the start of the meeting we had to close at 19.30 think if you take a look everyone was told that

    • Prescot Online

      Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 9:31 am

      Yes, that’s why I noted that the allotted time was ending.

    • Julie Parker

      Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      Hi David,

      Yes it was announced at the start of the meeting that there would be a 19:30 end however Tony ended the meeting by saying ‘now everyone has had their say so the meeting is closed, due to health and safety the meeting is closed’ He made this remark when it is clearly visible on the numerous photographs and video recordings that actually there were a number of people with their hands up waiting to speak so no, not everyone had their say. On that note my elderly father went in to Huyton Library yesterday afternoon to read the ‘hard copies’ of the local plan to be advised by staff there that ‘sorry, I’ve never heard of this before’

      One last thing David, as per the request of numerous residents from your ward on Friday night – will you be volunteering to assist your community to complete their consultation forms on Saturday at St Nics between 12-6????

  2. Paul Woods

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 11:30 am

    And you think an hour and a half was a sufficient amount of time to ensure everyone had their say?

    Just because people were told the meeting would finish at 7.30 does not make it right.

    The drop in event were 3 hours, so why wasn’t this event?

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