On 20th October 2021 Sefton’s Planning Committee considered an application by Crossfield Developments Ltd to regenerate the former Telegraph House site in Crosby Village with new shops at the ground floor and 74 apartments on the upper floors.
The £13.5m scheme would bring much needed jobs and houses into the Village, in accordance with the Council’s Local Plan and the Investment Strategy. The Council was not required to contribute financially to the scheme, which was to be totally privately funded. In fact, the Council stood to receive £204,000 as a contribution from the developer towards affordable housing.
The scheme was widely publicised and received support from a large number of residents and the local press. Most importantly it was recommended for approval by the Council’s professional Chief Planning Officer.
However, whilst the Conservative members of the planning committee supported the scheme the Labour majority voted to refuse the application.
Their arguments were that it lacked amenity space, even though the developer would provide a roof garden for residents. Additionally Coronation Park and Alexander Park are a short walk away. The Labour councillors were concerned about limited car parking for residents, even though the Council is promoting a green agenda and is currently holding a consultation on the Village car park re-design. They also criticised the lack of affordable homes in the scheme but ignored the fact that one of the conditions of any planning consent would require the developer to provide £204,000 towards affordable homes elsewhere in the vicinity.
These are the same old arguments which were raised when the Labour councillors refused the application for nearby Central Buildings, only to have their decision overturned by the Planning Inspector after incurring legal costs in trying to defend the indefensible. Again, the Committee had gone against the Chief Planning Officer’s recommendations.
The Labour councillors simply do not learn from their previous mistakes and continue to ignore the well-reasoned recommendations provided by the Chief Planning Officer.
In June this year, Sefton Council submitted a £19.2 million bid to the Government's Levelling Up Fund which included plans for Crosby town centre for a modern building, incorporating a new library, heathcare facilties and town centre living with 30 apartments above the community hub.
This bid was publicly supported by both the Leader of Sefton Council and by the local MP. However, if the Labour members of Sefton’s planning committee have their way the scheme will be refused planning consent for the same reasons they used when discussing Central Buildings and Telegraph House.
This handful of Labour councillors is a disgrace. They refuse to take the advice of their professional Officers, ignore the views of local residents and use a perverse logic which will kill-off the opportunity for the Council’s own £19.2m development, if the levelling-up bid is successful.
Civil servants in Whitehall must surely be looking at the attitude of these Labour councillors and will seriously wonder why the Government should put £19.2m into a scheme which this small caucus of rogue councillors will seek to reject.
The approach taken by these out-of-step councillors is outrageous and it is as if they do not want to see regeneration of the derelict sites in Crosby Village. Are they politically opposed to investment by the private sector or do they simply wish for Crosby Village to further deteriorate into an economic wasteland?
They need to realise that Sefton’s track record in obstructing and frustrating private investment will rebound. Developers are able to freely operate nationwide and will seek to work with positive and imaginative councils when choosing where to locate their new shops, health centres and housing. With behaviour such as that of Labour’s planning committee, Sefton Council will be very low on the list of councils with which to do business.