The Bickerstaffe Record
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Bickerstaffe Thoughts, Cotterill on the Council

It’s official – Bickerstaffe’s fallen off the Council map

08.11.08 | Comment?

Well, it does now seem to be official – Bickerstaffe Ward has fallen off West Lancashire District Council office map.  Well, to be fair, it is the bulgy bit at the bottom with only 2,500 people so I suppose it’s easy enough!

The confirmation that we’ve been ‘lost’ comes in the form of the recent consultation events held in Skelmersdale and Ormskirk to discuss the new Local Development Framework for West Lancashire (LDF) which will replace the (2006-16) Local Plan when it has been agreed (the Council is behind schedule on this (see page 3 article for the excuses), as you might expect given the inadequate resourcing of the whole planning department). 

Basically, the new LDF will set out what can and what can’t be built in

West Lancashire for the next 15 years or more, and in Bickerstaffe Ward pretty obviously the biggest issue is about what land might or might not be moved out of the greenbelt to provide land for industrial development.   Top of the ‘hit list’ for developers in Bickerstaffe are the fields to the North of Skelmersdale in South Lathom Parish, the land adjacent to Simonswood Industrial Estate in Simonswood Parish, and the area near the old colliery in Bickerstaffe.  In addition, while the area of land bought by Edge Hill University does not lie in Bickerstaffe Ward, decisions on land use potential will be of interest to residents on Scarth Hill Lane, as will decisions about land on White Moss Road (to the south of the M58 motorway) will be to residents on Skelmersdale Road and near Four Lane Ends. The emailed noticed on 01 July for the events stated that there would be two relevant local events, one in Skelmersdale covering Skelmersdale &Eastern Parishes, one in Ormskirk covering the Market Towns & Western Parishes.  I wasn’t clear from this how Bickerstaffe Ward, which lies neither to West nor East but to the South of District see ward number 4 on this Council website map, though note that it actually has the wrong ward boundaries for Bickerstaffe)  would be addressed, so I asked the following question by email:

“Is Bickerstaffe a western or eastern parish for these purposes?”

I got the following reply:

“Strictly speaking Bickerstaffe is normally considered an eastern Parish.  However, as Bickerstaffe borders both Skelmersdale and Ormskirk you are free to attend either session if you wish, as we will deal with rural issues at both sessions, as well as issues for the main urban areas and you can feed into either Forum with any particular issues you may have.”

I duly stated in the Summer ’08 Bickerstaffe Record that residents should feel entitled to attend either event. 

I couldn’t make the Skelmersdale session, as I had another meeting, so duly attended the July 31stmeeting in Ormskirk.  There was a presentation about things like house population levels, house prices and itinal planning issues covering all the areas indicated, EXCEPT Bickerstaffe Ward.  Then we were asked to split into groups to discuss the various issues, and I was asked to attend the Ormskirk group, which was interesting enough, but where there was NOTHING ABOUT BICKERSTAFFE WARD.  It wasn’t just me – the clerk and Chairman of Bickerstaffe Parish Coouncil along with other residents from across the three parishes of the ward were there, and the whole set up ignored us all.   The day after this debacle this is what I wrote this to the Planning Department:

“I feel I must write to express my dissatisfaction at the way Bickerstaffe Ward, inclusive of its three Parishes, has been excluded from the LDF consultation process to date.  I note that x (name omitted for courtesy) has ‘beaten me to it’, and I am grateful for x’s copying me in to the email (I return the courtesy).  I share many of x’s sentiments.

You wrote to me on 02 July (below) indicating that issues concerning Bickerstaffe Ward could be covered at both Skelmersdale and Ormskirk sessions.  Because of a clash of meetings I chose Ormskirk and was disappointed to find no opportunity to discuss issues of local concerns to my constituents, other than Edge Hill.  I know that there were other Bickerstaffe Ward residents present, not least representative from South Lathom and also including the Chairman and Clerk of Bickerstaffe Parish Council.  The clerk tells me had phoned WLDC earlier that same day and been assured that Bickerstaffe would be covered.

X has indicated the principal concern regarding South Lathom.   There are also substantial concerns and issues relating to Simonswood and Bickerstaffe parishes which we need to be able to feed early into the consultation.  For this not to happen will be a considerable disservice to my constituents, and it is certainly something I would need to pursue with vigour.

Can I ask therefore that one or more specific meetings be set up, on the same basis as the meetings that have just taken place, for Bickerstaffe Ward, to make up for the shortfall to date.”

The Planning Department has, in reply,  asked me to provide some information on the issues and that it will then ” “take those into account and then see if a meeting would be productive”. 

That’s a start, I suppose.  I will be following up till we get satisfaction on this.  This is an important matter, as it will set the tone for landuse for the next 15 years or more – I cannot allow the continued under-resourcing of the Planning Department, and the subsequent shoddiness of some its important work for the long term, to remove the ‘voice’ of Bickerstaffe Ward residents in what is one of the most important policy areas they will face in years.

There was much talk at the Ormskirk meeting about the need to retain a buffer between Ormskirk and Skelmersdale conurbation, such that they retain their own distinct identities.  Not only is Bickerstaffe that buffer right now, it also has residents with as much right to a say as the rest of West Lancashire. 

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