The Bickerstaffe Record

Being Labour, Cotterill on the Council, Planning applications

Lord Derby steps in

03.18.11 | Comment?

Lord Derby’s agent has sent out a very interesting letter to councillors about the Local Development Framework strategic options selection process, which the Tories have been trying to manipulate for short political gain.   This is the key sentence:

[The Estate] wishes to draw to the attention of Cabinet members that, in its view, the document does not accurately reflect the comments made by the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny committee which recommended that the document should seek comments on the merits of the Ormskirk Site.

This is a reference to the Overview and Scrutiny committee meeting held on 3rd February, which carried the following resolution:

A.   That in relation to the decision of Cabinet the Committee does not ask for a different decision.

B. That, when considering the Options document at Cabinet on 15 March 2011 in respect of Preferred Options B and C, Cabinet be requested to indicate that views may also be given, through the consultation process, on the rejected Option A.

Lord Derby’s estate is quite correct. 

The Cabinet papers for the 15th March meeting are not in accordance with the Overview and Scrutiny meeting’s decision. I’m pretty sure Labour members will be raising a challenge on this at the forthcoming Overview & Scrutiny meeting on 30th March, just as it challenged the previous Tory dodginess on this matter.

For the administration simply to ignore the instructions of the committee like this is another indication that the Tories attitude to local democracy is based on the ‘when it suits us’ principle.

Perhaps more interesting, though, is the decision by Derby’s estate to go set out its concerns about the legitimacy of the Tory administration in this way. 

It’s not rocket science to work out that the Estate, as the owner of most of the land in question with the Ormskirk strategic site, has a huge vested interest in seeing that option adopted.  The difference in value between greenbelt and that can be sold for other uses is obvious.  So it’s fairly obvious that the Estate will be pushing this option through the consultation process.

What it also suggests, though, is a very contentious public enquiry in 2013, at which the Estate will be quite prepared to raise questions about how and why the Tory administration decided to reject the Ormskirk site option out of hand, before proper public consultation.

If the Tories have any sense, they’ll bite the bullet now, accept that they shouldn’t have played politics with such an important issue, and ensure that the Ormskirk option is given clear equal status for the forthcoming consultation process (May/June 2011), notwithstanding the stupidly manipulative decision by Cabinet in the first place.

In so doing, they will then act within the spirit of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s decision, rather than simply ignore it, and they may avoid problems further down the road.

All Labour has ever wanted from this process is a level playing field, where the people of West Lancashire are treated like adults and allowed to judge on the three options originally presented.   We may in the end get that, but it will be a great shame that it may come about because of a stern letter from a landowner, rather than because the Tories are interested in what people think.   That will really show us who has the power.

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