Decision on controversial planning application APP/16/00985 (Saughall Massie Fire Station) delayed as councillors call for change of venue, site visit, special meeting & more transparency
Updated on 30th November 2016 by JB: The site visit is scheduled for 11 am on the 13th December 2016. Contrary to what was said at the Planning Committee meeting reported below, the Planning Committee will then meet at Wallasey Town Hall on the 15th December 2016 starting at 6.00 p.m. in order to decide on this planning application.
Last night’s Planning Committee at Wirral Council was another event in the long running political saga that is the attempts to start a new fire station at Saughall Massie and close Upton Fire Station and West Kirby Fire Station.
Committee Rooms 1 and 2 which were the venue for the Planning Committee at Wallasey Town Hall were both full (standing room only as you can see from the picture above) and Committee Room 3 in another part of the building was being used as an overflow.
Dan Stephens QFSM (Chief Fire Officer for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service/Chief Executive for the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority) was looking very smartly dressed in what I will describe as his ceremonial uniform. He was there with what I will describe as an entourage of people from Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service including Ria Groves (Trainee Solicitor) and Colin Schofield (PFI Project Manager (part of his job is to manage the Saughall Massie Fire Station project)). Dan Stephens QFSM and his entourage stood near the door.
Also present were the three local councillors for Moreton West and Saughall Massie ward (Cllr Chris Blakeley, Cllr Steve Williams and Cllr Bruce Berry). They have opposed this planning application along with groups such as the Saughall Massie Village Conservation Area Society and the Wirral Society.
The vocal and public disagreements about this political issue between Cllr Chris Blakeley and Dan Stephens QFSM are mainly already on the public record, well documented and have been reported on by myself before and others, so I’m not going to rehash in detail the rather long history of the matter here.
I will briefly state however that Wirral Council withdrew its offer of land for this at Greasby which is what led to Saughall Massie being proposed. The effect of that is it has given some people hope that people power can overturn the previous cross-party political consensus behind it.
Also I had better point out that there was a rather long running First-tier Tribunal case in which I was the Appellant about the financial breakdown of expenditure for the new fire station first at Greasby, then Saughall Massie.
Present at the Planning Committee was Alan Rundle who had exchanged letters with Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority about a proposed judicial review before the Greasby plans were abandoned for very similar issues to those that the First-tier Tribunal (in case EA/162016/160054) covered.
However in summary, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority have estimated £300,000* to pay Wirral Council for the land and an estimated £550,000 from the sale of the fire stations at Upton and West Kirby. To build a new fire station will cost an estimated £3.7 million (I’m not including the figure for the land in that), with £1.5 million offset by a government grant. The complete capital cost breakdown was not made public prior to the two twelve-week consultations (first on Greasby, then on Saughall Massie) that Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service ran on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s behalf.
* estimates were made for sale and purchase prices in 2015
For those who were turned away from the Planning Committee meeting (which was also what happened at some of the consultation meetings) video I took of last night’s Planning Committee meeting is below. However as the Saughall Massie Fire Station planning application has attracted a certain degree of public interest I include a transcript of what was said at the meeting on the matter below too.
The discussion starts at agenda item 3 (site visits) which starts at the 4m:26s point in the video above.
CLLR ANITA LEECH (CHAIR): OK, are there any requests for site visits? Steve?
CLLR STEVE FOULKES: Errm Chair, sorry with your indulgence and err errm with some trepidation, errm I’d like to move site visits on two sites errm.
The least err controversial one I think might be item 13 which is err Pipistrelle Rise which is well-known to Planning Committee and has one with a varied planning history, it’s a very unusual site given it’s site levels. So I’d therefore request that we have a site visit before we make any decision on that matter.
The next one is errm item 9, which is the err fire station, as you referred to Chair. I think it’s fairly obvious to any elected Member the level of concern and the public interest in this debate and I think it would be better for all elected Members who are making that decision to be forewarned, forearmed with an actual site visit and the layout of the area.
Secondly I think it will be plenty of time for us to get arrange as they said in Jaws, “I think we need a bigger boat!” Err, I think we need a bigger room, if we can arrange that in time for the next err meeting it would make it better for the public to engage with us.
I don’t expect people to be in a standing position for any length of time, I find it errm, it is of a matter of great public interest that we do have a site visit. I’m hoping errm, if we have brought you out on a winter’s night for to no avail, but it’s not unusual that applications of this type to have a site visit, so I will move a site visit on that matter.
CLLR IAN LEWIS: Chair?
CLLR ANITA LEECH (CHAIR): OK, can I take you first?
CLLR IAN LEWIS: Chair, I endorse what Councillor Foulkes has said, but particularly in terms of where we have the meeting next time to discuss the fire application, can I suggest that we try and find a venue in Moreton/Saughall Massie to allow as many people as possible in that area to attend?
*LOUD CHEERING AND APPLAUSE*
CLLR IAN LEWIS: Can I explain why Chair just for a moment? Clearly the number of people here tonight would be you know they’ve come along to take part in the democratic process to see how they make a decision.
There will be other people in that area, who haven’t been able to get here.
To drag everybody, these people again late December, can I propose we try and find a venue nearer to the site to consider this application, as an exceptional application?
CLLR ANITA LEECH (CHAIR): I think you know the only thing that I would say you know and I totally agree with what you’re saying there and if we can do that we should but in terms of we need to have the right systems in place, wherever it’s going to be.
We need to have the visual and the sound system, if we could find a venue
that will support that, then I’m happy for it to be there.
CLLR IAN LEWIS: OK, thank you very much.
CLLR ANITA LEECH (CHAIR): We may actually need to consider whether it’s a one item agenda,
CLLR IAN LEWIS: Yes, ok.
CLLR ANITA LEECH (CHAIR): as well so we will look into that. So we’ll see if we can find a venue, that is suitable and if we can then we will move it to that area.
CLLR IAN LEWIS: OK, thanks Chair.
CLLR ANITA LEECH (CHAIR): David?
CLLR DAVID ELDERTON: Yeah thanks Chair, just to endorse I totally support it, the move to
MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC: We can’t hear you!
CLLR DAVID ELDERTON: controversial development, which will give a full opportunity for people to see
CLLR ANITA LEECH (CHAIR): David, David, sorry David could you start again?
CLLR DAVID ELDERTON: Apologies for that, errm I totally endorse the move by Councillor Foulkes to have the site visit for number nine. It is essential that we get the widest possible publicity and transparency in making sure we end up with the right decision. So I do endorse that.
My quick reason for speaking at this time of course is to ask for a site visit on item twelve, which is Stone Hive, Darmonds Green, West Kirby. That is it looks a simple site in
terms of the application agenda we’ve got but it’s far more complex than it would appear on paper. So no doubt we will benefit from having a site visit for that particular development before we make a decision to approve or refuse it. Thank you Chair.
CLLR ANITA LEECH (CHAIR): OK, are there any others? OK, if I could just read those three out that have been requested and get Committee’s approval?
MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC: Excuse me, can I ask a question?
CLLR ANITA LEECH (CHAIR): Sorry no you can’t ask.
MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC: It’s just about site visits.
CLLR ANITA LEECH (CHAIR): If I don’t cover it, then I’m sure we’ll get someone to cover the answer for you, but I may very well cover it in a moment for you.
MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC: Can I just mention the site visit, …
CLLR ANITA LEECH (CHAIR): I’m sorry, I’m sorry, if, I’m sorry can I, can you just listen to what I’m about to say and then if it’s not covered then we’ll get somebody to cover it for you.
MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC: OK.
CLLR ANITA LEECH (CHAIR): Agenda item 9 which is land adjacent to Saughall Massie Road, errm agenda item 12, which is Stone Hive, Darmonds Green, West Kirby and agenda item
13 Pipistrelle Rise, Noctorum. Are the Committee happy to have all those as site visits?
CLLR ANITA LEECH (CHAIR): can I suggest that we have a site visit on Tuesday 13th of December? And we’ll meet at the Town Hall at 10 am?
MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC: What time?
CLLR ANITA LEECH (CHAIR): There’s, we will be meeting at 10am and then going to the various sites, so there will be a different time allocated for each of these sites. It’s normally twenty minutes to half an hour for each site, depending on how long we’ve got to travel, but it will be publicised and the agents will be advised of exactly what time that will be.
And the ward councillors will be also be advised.
CLLR CHRIS BLAKELEY: Chair, can I just raise a point to raise what’s been raised by Councillor Lewis, if you’re going to use a one item agenda for the fire station at a err location nearer to the site, in Saughall Massie, will the site visit
still be on the 13th? And will the meeting then, when will the meeting be?
CLLR ANITA LEECH (CHAIR): Err, well we don’t know all of that detail at the moment so, Councillor Blakeley because we don’t know whether we’ll be moving the venue, whether it will be a one item agenda, so as soon as we are aware of that we will make it known.
CLLR CHRIS BLAKELEY: Thank you Chair.
CLLR ANITA LEECH (CHAIR): OK, thank you. As the lady was asking the question, has your question been covered?
MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC: Can I, I think if we do have a meeting whether here or Saughall Massie, we’ll be doing comparisons with the Upton fire station and I don’t know about West Kirby, but certainly it refers to Upton so maybe we should consider visiting both of those, if you’re able to ..?
CLLR ANITA LEECH (CHAIR): We can only consider the one application, which is before us I’m afraid.
MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC: OK.
CLLR ANITA LEECH (CHAIR): Thank you for your comment. Anybody who would like to leave now, please feel free to do so because we will not be discussing those items this evening and thank you for your attendance.
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