Former Cllr Crabtree receives 12 week suspended sentence for phone call


Cllr Jim Crabtree (February 2016)

Cllr Jim Crabtree (February 2016)

Yesterday, former Cllr Crabtree received a suspended 12 week prison term (suspended for a year) and a restraining order for what he said during a phone call to Cllr Louise Reece-Jones last year.

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Would you feel picked on if you had to make three journeys to renew a Blue Badge and then got a parking ticket?


Penalty Charge Notice

Penalty Charge Notice

This is a tale of my wife’s dealings with Wirral Council over the past forty-eight hours.

Yesterday she went to the One Stop Shop in Conway Street, Birkenhead to renew her Blue Badge. Despite Wirral Council having proof on their records that she receives the high mobility component of DLA (which entitles her to a Blue Badge) the renewal was refused on two visits.

After she came home (upset) we both rang the Central Action and Duty Team (part of Wirral Council’s Social Services). After four minutes we were mysteriously cut off, so had to ring back and explain again. The person we were talking to said she would email the One Stop Shop and call us back.

We were called back at around 5.30 in the evening and it was suggested that she go back to the One Stop Shop today (which she did). She parked in the Oliver Street off-street car park displaying her Blue Badge.

While she was in the One Stop Shop (where her Blue Badge did get renewed at a cost to her of £10 (Wirral Council insisted they’d send it through the post)) at 10:19 am a civil enforcement officer (seemingly oblivious to her Blue Badge displayed) issued her with a Penalty Charge Notice allegedly for contravention code 40.

Contravention code 40 is for parking in an on-street disabled parking bay without displaying a valid disabled persons badge, where contravention code 87 is the one that should be used for off-street car parks.

It’s physically impossible for a car that the PCN states is in an off-street car park to be at the same time parked in an on street bay.

When asked for comment Wirral Council’s press office stated, “we can’t comment”.

However Leonora Brace said, “I don’t want them [Wirral Council] picking on me.”

So, there you go, has Wirral Council’s attitude changed? Are disabled adults just a cash cow to them? Or am I just getting angry because it’s my wife that they’re managing to upset? Or is this just as Wirral Council would put it, an example of a “private sector head with a public sector heart”?

Updated 15.1.2017 9 days after an appeal was submitted Wirral Council have been in touch on the 13.1.2017 stating that the case has been put on hold, will not progress further until a decision is made, but due to the high volumes of challenges this may take up to 4 weeks.

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Will a planning appeal over the Saughall Massie fire station fail due to incorrect legal advice to councillors?


Originally this bundle was going to be published in a different way, but instead it will be published as an exclusive in serial form on this blog.

I’d better start by declaring an interest as the Appellant in First-tier Tribunal case EA/2016/0054, which is about an Environmental Information Regulations 2004 request for the estimates of capital costs involving a new fire station first at Greasby, then at Saughall Massie and the sale of fire stations at Upton and West Kirby.

Despite the bundle being 480 pages in total, there are hundreds of pages missing from it (such as the transcripts of the public meetings involved, communications between the 2nd Respondent (MFRA) and the 1st Respondent (ICO) etc).

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How was the planning application for a fire station at Saughall Massie (APP/16/00985) introduced to Wirral Council’s Planning Committee (part 1)?


Wirral Council’s Planning Committee 19th December 2016 starting at agenda item 6 ( APP/16/00985: Land adjacent to Saughall Massie Road, Saughall Massie, Wirral)

Over a hundred people were in the Civic Hall for a public meeting of Wirral Council’s Planning Committee held last week at Wallasey Town Hall to hear what the Planning Committee would decide on planning application APP/16/00985. This planning application was for a single storey two bay community fire station with accommodation, offices, meeting space, external drill, training facilities and car parking on land adjacent to Saughall Massie Road in Saughall Massie.

The applicant was Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service.

A 21 page report on the planning application by Wirral Council planning officers recommended that the Planning Committee approve the application subject to referral to the government minister.

Councillor Anita Leech (Chair, Wirral Council's Planning Committee) 15th December 2016 planning application APP/16/00985

Councillor Anita Leech (Chair, Wirral Council’s Planning Committee) 15th December 2016 planning application APP/16/00985

After the Chair of the Planning Committee Cllr Anita Leech (pictured above) introduced the item, Matthew Parry-Davies (a manager from Wirral Council’s Planning Department pictured below) explained that the planning application had been subject to a site visit by councillors on the Planning Committee two days earlier (as reported on and filmed by this blog).

Matthew Parry-Davies (Wirral Council) Planning Committee 15th December 2016 planning application APP/16/00985

Matthew Parry-Davies (Service Manager (Development Management), Wirral Council) Planning Committee 15th December 2016 planning application APP/16/00985

Planning permission was sought for a single storey two bay community fire station, together with operational and welfare accommodation, offices and meeting space, external drill and training facilities and associated car parking.

Continuing, he said that the site was in the green belt and as such the development applied for constituted, “inappropriate development”. Having regard to national planning policies and Wirral’s Unitary Development Plan and policy GB2 which set out guidelines for development in the green belt, such inappropriate development should be refused unless “very special circumstances” had been put forward that would outweigh any potential harm to the openness and character of the green belt.

Mr Parry-Davies explained that there were not a national or local definitions of what constituted “very special circumstances” and as such each [planning] application needed to be judged on its individual merits.

Referring to the applicant’s case, he stated that the need for a new fire station in this greenbelt location centred on the unavailability of suitable alternative locations outside of the green belt and the need to provide the best achievable emergency response to west Wirral locations.

Mr Parry-Davies said that Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority were rationalising their property portfolio of operational fire stations arising from cost efficiencies which resulted in the closure of fire stations. As a result of this either West Kirby Fire Station or Upton Fire Station would have to close as a result of budget cuts, with Upton Fire Station remaining crewed because it covered a more extensive area.

It was the applicant’s case that the provision of a new fire station in this location to cover both the West Kirby and Upton coverage areas, would result in a reduction of response times to west Wirral by an average of two minutes.

He mentioned a link between response times and the level of damage to property, severity of injury and the likelihood of death. The quicker the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service could respond, the less likely major damage, significant injury or fatalities would occur. Closing West Kirby Fire Station and Upton Fire Station and building a new fire station at this location, would result in faster than average response times which could mean the difference between the level of damage and/or the severity of injury or even death.

Mr Parry-Davies said that the new location would allow Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service to maintain acceptable response times and it was argued that this demonstrates very special circumstances that outweighed the potential harm to the greenbelt.

Commenting on the site, he said that the site was opposite residential properties on Saughall Massie Road to the north and Woodpecker Close to the east. The nearest residential properties were 281 Saughall Massie Road and numbers 68, 70 and 72 Woodpecker Close. Mr Parry-Davies wanted to spend a little time explaining the relationship between the proposal to the residential properties and he was putting a different plan up for councillors to see.

Referring to the appliance bay, he explained that the appliance bay was the part of the fire station where the fire engines would be housed. The operational bay was the other side of the proposal where the meeting rooms, sleeping accommodation, kitchens and those sorts of things would be.

So firstly, the properties that front on to Saughall Massie Road which were 286 to 296 Saughall Massie Road. These were thirty metres to forty metres from the site perimeter. 296 Saughall Massie Road was located fifty-five metres from the front of the operational and welfare part of the proposals and fifty-nine metres from the appliances bay which would house the fire engines.

These distances decreased slightly with 288 being fifty metres from the operational bay and fifty-seven metres from the appliances bay before increasing again as you move east along Saughall Massie Road.

The blank elevation of 281 Saughall Massie Road which was a bungalow was located thirteen metres at its closest point to the perimeter of the site and thirty metres to the operational bay. The appliances bay would be forty-five metres from that property but sits behind the operational bay.

Numbers 68, 70 and 72 Woodpecker Close would have their front elevations facing the site and they were bungalows. These properties were sheltered accommodation for elderly people. At its nearest point 68 Woodpecker Close is fourteen metres from the site boundary, number 70 is fifteen and a half metres and number 72 is seventeen metres from the boundary.

Number 68 Woodpecker Close is thirty-two metres from the operational bay, number 70 is thirty-four metres and number 72 is thirty-five metres away. The operational bay sits between those properties and the appliance bay, acting as a buffer for the appliance bay where the fire engines would be housed.

A sprinkler and generator compound, the area edged red on the plan is located in the southeast corner of the site, located twenty-five metres from the rear elevations of 47-51 Woodpecker Close. These properties were located over forty metres from any part of the proposed buildings.

The training yard was the yellow hatched area of the plan which would be located to the rear of the bays and would be over fifty metres from the nearest residential property. He pointed out a retractable training tower located at the southern part of the site. Training would typically be carried out at monthly intervals, during the working day without the use of sirens. The training tower would fold down when not in use to minimise its impact on the green belt.

A noise assessment had been submitted with the application, which had examined noise sensitive receptors including residential properties. Measures were proposed to minimise noise impact, although the fire station would be operational twenty-four hours a day, the yard would only be used when returning from an incident between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am and would only be used for operational and training purposes between 9 30 in the morning and 4 30 in the afternoon. Sirens would only be used at times when there was significant road traffic and at night restricted to calls where life was at risk. A number of conditions were proposed should the application be approved, to avoid and or minimise noise impacts.

In terms of highway movements and the impact on the safe use and flow of the highway, the development is likely to generate low levels of vehicle movements onto the adjacent network and are therefore unlikely to have significant impact on traffic conditions in the area.

The Saughall Massie Conservation Area boundary site thirty-five metres to the north-west. However given the use of materials proposed, existing vegetation providing screening and distances involved, it was not considered the proposals would adversely impact on the Saughall Massie Conservation Area.

Substantial weight must be given to any harm these proposals would have on the green belt by virtue of the permanent loss of openness and any visual harm that may result. Councillors on the Planning Committee must be satisfied that very special circumstances exist that outweighs any harm caused by inappropriate development. The reduced response times enabling Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service to attend emergencies in parts of west Wirral would be two minutes quicker on average and has led to a finely balanced recommendation of approval.

A number of measures proposed in terms of site layout, boundary treatment, together with planning conditions outlined in the report, serve to mitigate against any harm to residential amenity. On balance the application was recommended for approval and there was a qualifying petition of objection.

The Chair Cllr Anita Leech thanked Mr Parry-Davies for his presentation. As there was a qualifying petition of objection she asked if the lead petitioner would like to come forward?

Cllr Steve Williams (Moreton West and Saughall Massie) explained that the lead petitioner did not wish to speak.

The Chair thanked him for that and explained that as the lead petitioner hadn’t spoken, then the applicant wasn’t able to speak according to the constitution.

She asked if the ward councillor would like to come forward and speak and asked him to give his name before he started.

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Why did hundreds of residents go to a Planning Committee site visit on the Saughall Massie fire station proposal?


Planning Committee (Wirral Council) site visit (APP/16/00985) Saughall Massie fire station, land adjacent to Saughall Massie Road

Planning Committee site visit to land off Saughall Massie Road 13th December 2016 Left Cllr Steve Foulkes Right Cllr Anita Leech Chair-min

Planning Committee site visit to land off Saughall Massie Road 13th December 2016 Left Cllr Steve Foulkes (Planning Committee) Right Cllr Anita Leech (Chair, Planning Committee)

In a muddy field on a cold winter morning, Wirral Council’s Planning Committee met to visit the site for a proposed fire station in Saughall Massie on Wirral Council owned land just off Saughall Massie Road.

Many local residents and the three local councillors (Cllr Chris Blakeley, Cllr Bruce Berry and Cllr Steve Williams) were there to observe what happened on the site visit.

The only person there with a placard in favour of the planning application was vastly outnumbered by those with placards opposing the planning application for greenbelt reasons.

Cllr Anita Leech, Chair of the Planning Committee opened the site visit by apologising for being late and explained the purpose of the site visit and the procedure that would be followed. She asked a planning officer to introduce the planning application.

Matthew Parry-Davies (who works in Wirral Council’s planning department) explained that the planning application was for “a single storey two bay community fire station”.

He explained that access to the fire station (if planning permission was granted) would be from Saughall Massie Road. Mr Parry-Davies described the distances to the nearest properties on two different sides of the site.

The outline of the proposed building had been pegged out. A question was asked of Mr Parry-Davies as to where vehicles would exit and enter the proposed fire station.

Cllr Anita Leech (Chair of the Planning Committee) asked if any ward councillors for the area had any questions.

Cllr Chris Blakeley (a councillor for Moreton West and Saughall Massie ward) pointed out that the pegs that were laid out were for the building only, not the curtilage of the site.

Therefore the area of the pegs didn’t include the training area or car park and that if the pegs had been put round whole of the proposed development it would appear much bigger.

There was applause for Cllr Chris Blakeley from many of the residents.

Once the applause had died down, he pointed out that the nearby properties were sheltered accommodation. He referred to a survey of the people in the sheltered accommodation which had shown 85% opposed to the planning application.

Cllr Blakeley received more applause.

The Chair of the Planning Committee asked if any councillors on the Planning Committee wanted to ask questions.

A question was asked by Cllr Kathy Hodson and an answer was given by Matthew Parry-Davies.

After another point was made, Matthew Parry-Davies pointed out that the pegs marked out the footprint of the building. He added that there were different pegs that showed the outline of the site proposed.

The Chair then asked Members of the Planning Committee to look at the boundaries of the site that were in the planning application.

Moving away, the Planning Committee discussed the proposed development around the building, such as the car park. There was a lot of pointing at this point. Distances and elevations were referred to by Mr Parry-Davies.

After more discussion and pointing the Planning Committee returned to its original spot.

The site visit ended with the Chair, Cllr Anita Leech thanking everyone for their attendance and that she may see some of them on Thursday evening.

Pictures below this article are of the green belt site, banners and people present for the site visit.

Wirral Council’s Planning Committee will meet to decide on planning application (APP/16/00985) for a fire station on land (owned by Wirral Council) adjacent to Saughall Massie Road in Saughall Massie at a public meeting starting at 6.00 pm on the 15th December 2016 in the Civic Hall, first floor, Wallasey Town Hall, Brighton Street, Seacombe, CH44 8ED.

photo 1 Land off Saughall Massie Road Saughall Massie 13th December 2016

photo 1 Land off Saughall Massie Road Saughall Massie 13th December 2016

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