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13 councillors on Wirral Council’s Planning Committee agree to site visit over controversial Saughall Massie fire station planning application (APP/17/00306)

                                                 

Wirral Council’s Planning Committee 22nd June 2017 (the site visits item starts at 2:38)

Cllr David Elderton (right) proposing a site visit for-planning application APP/17/00306 at Wirral Council's Planning Committee meeting on the 22nd June 2017

Cllr David Elderton (right) proposing a site visit for-planning application APP/17/00306 at Wirral Council’s Planning Committee meeting on the 22nd June 2017

Prior to Wirral Council’s Planning Committee meeting starting yesterday evening, the sprung floor bounced as over a hundred people came through the doors into the Civic Hall at Wallasey Town Hall.

Most were there to see what would happen to planning application
APP/17/00306
(which was an amended planning application following the refusal of application APP/16/00985). Application APP/17/00306 was a revised planning application for a new fire station in Saughall Massie on greenbelt land owned by Wirral Council.

Those present patiently sat through the Chair’s regular speech about procedure, followed by approval of the minutes of the last Planning Committee meeting and a request for any declarations of interest to be made.

Finally, nearly three minutes into the meeting came the moment many were waiting for.

Councillor David Elderton (Conservative spokesperson) pictured above requested that the Planning Committee agree a site visit for planning application APP/17/00306 before a decision was made on it.

He explained that the layout and size had changed since the previous application.

The Planning Committee agreed for a site visit to be held on the 18th July 2017.

So what is a site visit?

It’s an opportunity for the Planning Committee to visit the site and see for themselves the site that the planning application is about.

Below is what happened at the site visit for the previous planning application (that was refused) that is related to this one held on the same site on the 13th December 2016.

Planning Committee (Wirral Council) Site Visit (APP/16/00985).

A time of day for the site visit has not yet been finalised, but Wirral Council will request that the applicant Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service “peg out” the proposed outline of the building and site.

The planning application is then expected to be determined at a Planning Committee meeting scheduled to start at 6.00 pm on the 20th July 2017 in the Civic Hall at Wallasey Town Hall, Brighton Street, Seacombe, CH44 8ED.

Related to this matter, ward councillor Councillor Blakeley has also proposed a notice of motion on the green belt that will be discussed at the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on the 5th July 2017 in Committee Room 1 at Wallasey Town Hall, Brighton Street, Seacombe, CH44 8ED starting at 6.00 pm. His notice of motion calls upon Wirral Council to “confirm its unconditional guarantee to protect Wirral’s green belt and further resolves that it will not release or allow Council owned green belt land to be developed under any circumstances.”

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Councillors vote 2:1 to hold meeting about complaint about Cllr Reecejones in private

                                      

Standards Panel (Wirral Council) 15th June 2017

Standards Panel (Wirral Council) 15th June 2017 L to R Cllr Reecejones, Shirley Hudspeth and Surjit Tour

Standards Panel (Wirral Council) 15th June 2017 L to R Cllr Reecejones, Shirley Hudspeth and Surjit Tour

After the bizarre scenes last year at a public meeting of the Standards Panel where the press were barred from the meeting there was another meeting of Wirral Council’s Standards Panel yesterday.
Read More…

Will Wirral Council receive £300,000 windfall for greenbelt Saughall Massie Fire Station site if planning application APP/17/00306 is approved?

                                            

Dan Stephens (Chief Fire Officer) (left) answers questions at a public consultation meeting in Saughall Massie to discuss proposals for a new fire station

Dan Stephens (Chief Fire Officer, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service) (left) answers questions at a public consultation meeting in Saughall Massie in 2015 to discuss proposals for a new fire station

In a 20 page planning report on a revised planning application for a fire station in Saughall Massie, councillors on the Planning Committee have been recommended to approve the application.

The report fails to mention that Wirral Council owns the land, and following a First-tier Tribunal case between myself and the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority, it was revealed that Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority had set aside £300,000* to pay Wirral Council for the land as part of the project. Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority also predict they will receive £200,000* from the sale of West Kirby Fire Station and £350,000* from the sale of Upton Fire Station.

*estimates of sale prices for Upton Fire Station, West Kirby Fire Station and the land at Saughall Massie owned by Wirral Council were made by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority based on prices in October 2014 (Upton Fire Station and West Kirby Fire Station), see Appendix H to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority report CFO/101/14) and January 2015 (Upton Fire Station, West Kirby Fire Station and land at Saughall Massie, see Appendix F to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority report CFO/003/15).

A previous application for a fire station was refused by Wirral Council’s Planning Committee on a 7:6 vote last year. An appeal of this planning application refusal to the Planning Inspectorate was considered but abandoned.

Wirral Council’s Planning Committee meets next week on Thursday 22nd June 2017, starting at 6.00 pm to consider the revised planning application in Committee Room 1 at Wallasey Town Hall, Brighton Street, Seacombe. It is expected that a site visit will be requested at this meeting which if agreed will delay a final decision on the planning application to a later meeting of the Planning Committee (expected to be on the 20th July 2017).

As the planning report states, the petition of objection to the planning application has grown to 4,034 signatures and there have been 324 objections to the new application at the time the report was written.

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Posted by: John Brace | 9th June 2017

How did general election night in 2017 go on the Wirral?

How did general election night in 2017 go on the Wirral?

                                            
Accredited Observer John Brace Electoral Commission 2017 7857

Accredited Observer John Brace Electoral Commission 2017 7857

I was always planning on publishing a report on the first general election I have been an election observer for and this is it.

Polling station – Holy Cross Catholic Primary School (AC – Birkenhead Constituency (Bidston and St James ward))

When I visited this polling station along with my wife (who was also an election observer), we were both there to vote.

So I told the Poll Clerks who we were and our addresses. Unfortunately they initially didn’t give us ballot papers as one of them was too tired to look up our address properly. We live in Boundary Road and the poll clerk instead of looking at the page for 134 Boundary Road to mark the register, was instead looking at a different page for a different part of Boundary Road where there is an elector with the number AC 134 instead. This caused a delay in receiving our ballot papers.

They were apologetic about it.

The Count (Wirral Tennis and Sports Centre)

We then walked the short distance to the count centre which was to be held inside the Wirral Tennis and Sports Centre.

Unlike in May, for the Mayoral and Claughton byelection, the gate to the footpath was padlocked, so we went round to the entrance to the car park.

We were immediately stopped by Wirral Council’s Community Patrol who insisted we wait by the entrance to the car park (this was while Wirral Council staff, councillors and others arrived unchallenged).

I explained we were both election observers accredited on an individual basis by the Electoral Commission and therefore entitled to attend the count. I showed them our photographic ID.

Obviously this was a part of elections Wirral Council hadn’t planned for or expected as Community Patrol insisted we wait while they find someone.

We waited for about 15-20 minutes (which is fine for myself but Leonora after the walk from the polling station was suffering a little from the standing as there was no chair to sit on). Even the police officer was feeling sorry for her!

Eventually Kate Robinson started walking in our direction with two men either side from Community Patrol.

We walked towards them.

We then had to explain again that we were election observers accredited by the Electoral Commission, here was our ID etc.

She wanted to look at our ID and didn’t seem happy with our presence.

She insisted we wouldn’t be allowed to use recording equipment in the count. I pointed out that in my opinion wasn’t a lawful instruction and that we only had to follow lawful instructions from the election authorities. I pointed out that in my view it breached the Human Rights Act 1998 and asked for the name of her manager to appeal the decision to. She said that was Eric Robinson (Acting Returning Officer) who she said wasn’t there.

I pointed out that I didn’t have recording equipment on my person anyway. I had an iPad to use but that was for making notes as I have a writing disability (that makes it painful to write).

She then gave us both a short lecture about not telling anyone anything at all about what happened during the count for “secrecy” reasons.

Anyway, she went with us to where people were checking in by the turnstile and it was insisted (despite me pointing out earlier about the writing disability making it painful to write) that I write our names and individual observer numbers on the attendance list.

We were then instructed to go through the turnstile, which Leonora pointed out she couldn’t do as it’s impossible for someone with a walking stick to go through that design of turnstile. So she went round through another side door instead.

We then walked down a corridor past the refreshments area. Unlike election counts in previous years where the tea and coffee had been free (but a voluntary donation suggested) Wirral Council was charging for drinks and food this year. From memory hot drinks were a £1.

It is also to be noted (unlike the Mayoral count and Claughton byelection in May) that this time the whole Wirral Tennis and Sports Centre was closed to the general public from 6 pm on the Thursday to 6.30 am on Friday morning (the tennis hall where the count was held was closed to the public from Monday to Saturday).

The count itself was being held in a large room in the leisure centre called the tennis hall which is usually tennis courts. The netting to catch balls around the sides was still in place, but the floor covering had been covered with a white floor covering kept together with tape.

One half of the hall was for the count for Birkenhead and Wallasey constituency and was also where ballot boxes arrived.

The other half of the hall was used for the Wirral West and Wirral South constituency counts and a raised stage for the platform for announcing the result.

Both halves of the hall had a projector and a screen showing the BBC election coverage.

In the middle in the raised area up steps was an area for the media where they had their video cameras set up and other equipment. From memory the Wirral Globe, Liverpool Echo, BBC, Radio City and others from the media were all there.

At 10.00 pm Eric Robinson (Acting Returning Officer) announced over the PA system that the count of the postal ballots would start. Around this time the BBC announced the result of the exit polls.

A short time later, the ballot boxes started arriving from the polling stations. Counters sat at flip down tables, with baskets on the table and paper clips.

Just before 11.00 pm I went for a walk past the Wallasey constituency tables and somebody dropped a large number of ballot papers on the floor. Thankfully they were bundled in bundles of 25.

The Birkenhead and Wallasey counts went quicker, therefore a result was expected earlier.

By twenty past twelve, Kevin McCallum (Head of Communications) (I had asked him earlier for turnout figures) told me that the turnout for Birkenhead was 67.9%.

A result in Birkenhead was announced at around 1:10 am, Wallasey at 1:45 am, Wirral West at 2:03 am and Wirral South at 2:12 am.

We had made earlier requests to film the speeches of the candidates after the result was declared but this was denied.

The candidates returned were Frank Field (Birkenhead), Angela Eagle (Wallasey), Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) and Alison McGovern (Wirral South).

Mayor of Wirral Ann McLachlan announced the results for the Birkenhead and Wallasey constituencies. Stephen Burrows (High Sheriff of Merseyside) announced the results for Wirral West and Wirral South constituencies.

Here are some quotes from the speeches we would have liked to have shown you. Frank Field referred to it as a “disaster for the Prime Minister”, Angela Eagle said that the “country rejected Theresa May” and referred to her [Theresa May] as a “vampire avoiding the sunlight”, Margaret Greenwood referred to a “stunning victory” and Alison McGovern thanked many groups of people including the people reporting on the count.

There were also some speeches from the second placed candidates who in summary congratulated the winning candidate and then went on to make various political points.

Once all four results were declared, people started to go home.

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In response to my petition 2 1/2 years ago what changes are now proposed to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s constitution?

                              

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority 25th May 2017 left Cllr Dave Hanratty (Chair) right Janet Henshaw (Clerk to the Authority)

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority 25th May 2017 left Cllr Dave Hanratty (Chair) right Janet Henshaw (Clerk to the Authority)

A long time ago (December 2014) I started a petition about Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority in relation to their policy and constitution on the matter of filming public meetings.

The petition started off just being myself and Leonora, but also attracted 7 online signatures (total 9, 7 online and 2 in paper form).

The petition called for a change to MFRA’s constitution and filming policy and went on the agenda of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority meeting on the 16th of December 2014.

Due to a visit by royalty the time of that meeting was changed from 1.00 pm to 11.00 am. Although I was invited to speak at the meeting I wasn’t told formally of the change of time. So I wasn’t present as I didn’t know the meeting was starting 2 hours earlier than planned.

The councillors at that meeting resolved:

“a) The petition be noted;

b) The Authority’s awareness of the protocol and procedure developed following the introduction of the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014, and its publication on the website for anyone wishing to attend or record proceedings be noted; and,

c) The Clerk be instructed to include any amendments to The Constitution, including revision of what is acceptable to the Authority as a petition, as part of the annual review, and provide with a covering report to the Annual Meeting 11th June 2015.”

Two years later, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service have proposed to councillors a new draft constitution which includes a minimum number on petitions of five.

I might point out that (c) was agreed by councillors to prevent a petition of two signatures being on the agenda. It seems to have ignored the fact that their constitution requires 7 working days notice before the meeting, so in those 7 working days the number on a petition can change!

So in the end my petition is likely to have caused a constitutional change (2 and a half years later), just not to the bit of the constitution that myself and the petitioners requested changed!

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