EXCLUSIVE: What was in 138 pages of unpublished information on the proposals for a Greasby Fire Station and Saughall Massie Fire Station?
On my recent birthday I resolved to publish more unpublished material that was in the public interest.
As regular readers of my blog will know, I was recently an Appellant in a First-tier Tribunal case involving Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority over the Greasby (and now Saughall Massie) fire stations project (which also relates to the fire stations at Upton and West Kirby).
Whereas that planning application for a fire station had originally been down to be decided tomorrow at the Planning Committee it has been put back. There have been extra documents added to the planning application too. A 5 page bat survey has been added and 5 drawings have been revised which are linked to from here. The main difference is the green roofs that presumably are to look something like moss (presumably to reduce its impact on the openness of the greenbelt). If either of those links don’t work, just search for application APP/16/00985 here.
However, a few weeks after the Tribunal hearing, ICO sent me a copy of communications between MFRA and ICO in the lead up to the decision notice under dispute at the Tribunal. These cover the period 3rd September 2015 to 16th February 2016 and am republishing it as I’m a broadcaster and it’s relevant to previously published footage of these public meetings.
Although no final decision on the planning application or land transfer has been made, it seems MFRA was very keen that the amounts it had estimated for land sales and purchases were kept out of the public domain. The first two FOI reasons (section 44, then section 43) ICO rejected.
Admittedly some of the arguments MFRA made showed indicated that they hadn’t at that point watched the videos of what happened at the public meetings in question, once a DVD and transcripts were supplied (about a month before the hearing) they changed their mind over disclosure of the information.
Just for clarity MFRA (Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority) is the 18 councillors (plus a few statutory officers). It’s a different public body to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (which was a point that both ICO and the First-tier Tribunal managed to get wrong).
However the communications show that they intend to purchase the land at Saughall Massie in 2016 and possibly sell the other land in late 2017.
Obviously these timescales seem to have been put back a bit from what was originally planned at that time.
I seem to remember that it was said that Upton wouldn’t be closed or sold until its replacement was operational, therefore do people think that 12 months is realistic for building a fire station?
Here is what Cllr Adrian Jones (then Cabinet Member for that area) stated at a public meeting (which is at lines 3265 to 3324 of the transcript about Wirral Council’s position and isn’t it interesting that he states “we have to give planning permission” when surely that’s up to councillors on the Planning Committee?
CLLR ADRIAN JONES: I made the point of first being present at the err Greasby public meeting. Errm, and I heard err Dan Stephens, and then I reported back to the Leader of the Council and Phil’s Notice of Motion, that I’m happy to second it, err just to be perfectly clear in my decision.
And I want to give some clearly factual background information.
It’s err quite normal Mr Mayor for Council officers in our asset management department to be asked to identify the Council owned land by other public bodies and quite rightly businesses and that’s public information anyway
that is requested and the fact that we as a Council as we do as a thankless task.
The Fire Service in fact Mr Mayor approached us to identify Council owned land in the Greasby area and they were obliged by the government cuts to get by with fewer stations.
The Head of Asset Management is obliged when asked to identify land in Council control, and that means not making an offer!
No request has ever been to me Mr Mayor as it’s the Cabinet responsible for, err Cabinet Member responsible for asset management to make any decision on the transfer, sale or indeed the Merseyside Fire Service, if that sort of request had come to me, I would not have made the decision under delegated powers. I would have perhaps have consulted the councillors in Greasby ward with this.
The councillor errm err in Blakeley’s case, of course he was one councillor that Councillor [indiscernible – accent] has been talking about him
that the likelihood is that it’ll go direct for a Cabinet decision in a public session.
The Fire Service officers Mr Mayor came down I understand very strongly indeed in favour of central Greasby, now as the judgement that it had greater merit judged against response times and the risk for 26,000 of Wirral residents who they serve.
The Service is looking to embrace a range of new facilities currently 24⁄7 and very much in accordance with Eric Pickles’ wishes!
Errm, now for the last Mr Mayor. We have listened and have withdrawn the Greasby site. Whatever land is finally identified Mr Mayor, it’s the Fire Authority that has the orders for it in any case, and we have to give planning permission.
Err, the planning process is quite straightforward, it’s transparent and residents can object and raise their objections with councillors of all parties on that Committee. In the end granting of a planning consent is separate entirely, it is done through a motion if that is correct Mr Mayor and that is only indeed can be when people on the Cabinet and hose who are the people I’ve answered too.
Now, having heard the depth of feeling and emotion, that’s against the Greasby site,
our professional officers have identified four other potentially available alternatives and then there will be no question Mr Mayor, of any Council land being released until all these processes have been endorsed, and I think it is quite wrong of the Conservative councillors to attempt to make political capital on this and to imply to the wider public that offers were made when they know very well, it is costly and impossible for officers to have made offers!
I would have asked Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service for their response to the issues above, however as far as I can tell their press office has been under instructions not to supply comments to myself or this publication.
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