Wirral Council planning officer decides environmental impact assessment not required for controversial Saughall Massie greenbelt fire station planning application

Wirral Council planning officer decides environmental impact assessment not required for controversial Saughall Massie greenbelt fire station planning application

Wirral Council planning officer decides environmental impact assessment not required for controversial Saughall Massie greenbelt fire station planning application

                                              

photo 15 Land off Saughall Massie Road Saughall Massie 13th December 2016 SAVE OUR GREEN BELT SAY NO TO THE FIRE STATION banner
photo 15 Land off Saughall Massie Road Saughall Massie 13th December 2016 SAVE OUR GREEN BELT SAY NO TO THE FIRE STATION banner

The Saughall Massie fire station saga, already as long as Beowulf but with less dragons, reached another stage in the planning decision-making process this week.

The developers asked Wirral Council for a screening opinion as to whether the proposed two bay fire station with car parking and landscaping constituted “EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment)” development.

Wirral Council replied in a decision letter that their screening opinion is that an environmental impact assessment will not be required.

No date has been set for a Planning Committee decision on the revised linked planning application (after the first one was refused last year), but a decision is expected on this revised planning application by mid-September 2017.

The nearby Girtrell Court site received permission for demolition in late April 2017. The Girtrell Court site nearby (although it does not have main road access) is roughly the same size as land Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority want in the greenbelt for their new fire station.

Applications for planning permission in the greenbelt can be refused if other suitable alternative brownfield sites are available.

One of the justifications for a new fire station in Saughall Massie is the proposed Hoylake Golf Resort.

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21 Conservative councillors request public meeting to discuss halting Girtrell Court closure plans

21 Conservative councillors request public meeting to discuss halting Girtrell Court closure plans

21 Conservative councillors request public meeting to discuss halting Girtrell Court closure plans

                                           

Bernard Halley (left) talking about Girtrell Court at the Wirral West Constituency Committee 11th February 2016 L to R (foreground) Bernard Halley, David L to R (background) Graham Hodkinson, Cllr Matthew Patrick
Bernard Halley (left) talking about Girtrell Court at the Wirral West Constituency Committee 11th February 2016 L to R (foreground) Bernard Halley, David L to R (background) Graham Hodkinson, Cllr Matthew Patrick

21 Conservative councillors have requested a special meeting of Wirral Council councillors to discuss the future of Girtrell Court. Based on promises that the replacement service would be “equal to, or better than” Girtrell Court, the councillors point out that the twenty bed service at Girtrell Court is being replaced by a ten bed unit.

Therefore they do not believe that replacing a twenty bed service with a ten bed service is “equal to, or better than” Girtrell Court and call upon the Council to reverse its decision to close Girtrell Court.

The public meeting to discuss the future of Girtrell Court is expected to take place on the evening of the 14th November 2016 in the Council Chamber at Wallasey Town Hall, Brighton Street, Seacombe, CH44 8ED. It will start at either 6.15 pm or when the previous meeting to discuss the future of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority finishes.



Updated 16/11/2016 You can watch what happened at that Extraordinary meeting of Wirral Council held on the 14th November 2016 to discuss Girtrell Court below.

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Extraordinary Meeting, Council (Wirral Council) Girtrell Court 14th November 2016 Part 1 of 2

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Extraordinary Meeting, Council (Wirral Council) Girtrell Court 14th November 2016 Part 2 of 2

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What did Bernard Halley tell Wirral councillors about a 7,000+ petition against the closure of Girtrell Court?

What did Bernard Halley tell Wirral councillors about a 7,000+ petition against the closure of Girtrell Court?

What did Bernard Halley tell Wirral councillors about a 7,000+ petition against the closure of Girtrell Court?

                                

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Council (Wirral Council) 11th July 2016 Agenda item 4B (Petitions) Petition of over 7,000 requesting Council halt closure of Girtrell Court

Council (Wirral Council) 11th July 2016 Agenda item 4B Petitions Bernard Halley (right) speaks to a petition against the closure of Girtrell Court
Council (Wirral Council) 11th July 2016 Agenda item 4B Petitions Bernard Halley (right) speaks to a petition against the closure of Girtrell Court

As you can hear in the video above, Bernard Halley had five minutes to address Wirral Council’s councillors on the subject of his petition requesting that the closure of Girtrell Court be halted.

“….” refers to parts which are unclear due to his distance from the microphone and background noise. DASS stands for the Department of Adult Social Services.


Benard Halley said, “Thank you Mr. Mayor. I would like to take this opportunity to address the issues in this petition.

The petition that we refer to is on on change.org and it is about the closure of Girtrell Court.

The current statistics which have been very carefully balloted are 4,778 Wirral postcode signatures, 2,211 UK wide signatures and a 101 worldwide signatures, so it’s getting quite a bit of notoriety.

I would say at this stage that I have absolutely no political affiliation whatsoever, so I’m not grinding any of the traditional axes in this room.

In fact, I don’t want to be here. I don’t want, I don’t relish being regarded as a troublemaker, I would much rather support DASS in all their endeavours but this is an issue of principle that has to be followed through.

You are closing a service which whilst not perfect, enjoys the full confidence of parents and carers against their clearly expressed wishes.

Confidence that is held in Girtrell Court is vital when you ask us to entrust our loved ones to a third party.

Your process so far as carers are concerned have been flawed from the start. You decide an end product closure and then work backwards to find a solution that fits.

We find no evidence whatsoever that users called for change. We have objectively polled Girtrell Court users using an open question poll document and their data contradicts the …. . I challenge the Council to make full disclosure of their case to the scrutiny committee for independent evaluation.

Mr Phil Davies has repeatedly used the phrase, “equal or better”. That begs the question who decides what is equal or better? Surely it should be the users of the service?

Well Mr Davies you are a long way from equal to or better at the moment.

You have a potential building and a potential service provider. You do not have a service specification and terms of the contract which is absolutely vital for carers. We want to know that this is not a flash in the pan. There is no comparable staffing ratio data. There is no confirmation that users will have equal to time allocation, there is no information on the range or extent of user activities necessary to equal Girtrell or is this new service going to be just a baby sitting service?

In short you do not have or are far from the complete package which will enable anyone to evaluate equal or better.

Recent correspondence and press releases including emails from your Chief Executive claim that the closure decision has been made in partnership with carers. This is categorically untrue.

None of the carers have agreed to the closure of Girtrell Court.

Carers, including myself have often argued on the comparative virtues of three properties and provider combinations but with the sole motivation of ensuring any alternatives that originated was the best out of the limited choice available.

This was not and is not an agreement or approval for Girtrell Court closure.

The property chosen has some virtues but and this is a big but, the …. is on three floors and even with a lift there are concerns over evacuation capability in the event of a fire.

I am told that one of the principal reasons for closing Maplehome was an identical concern over evacuation capability.

Please do not use this as a Tory versus Labour slanging match which has characterised every debate on Girtrell.

Both propositions have occurred under the remit of DASS, so why is what was unacceptable then suddenly acceptable now?

I come to timescales. We were told at the start that the end of March was unachievable. My position cited the end of September as a possible appropriate date.

Now work on the property is unlikely to be completed by the end of November at best and only then can the Care Quality Commission’s approval be sought. So even with a fair wind, it might be the end of December it seems optimistic.

This ill-managed project has caused worry, distress and concern not only to service users, but to their carers. Many of whom are much older than I, have greater burdens to carry and who do not need Wirral Borough Council subjecting them to 9 months or more of added stress.

We come back to the starting point, you should have and could have used this financial year to plan and a design for a replacement service, while allowing users the confidence that Girtrell will continue seamlessly until an equal to or better than service can be constructed.

Instead, you reverse engineered a flawed solution which does this Council and its officers no credit whatsoever.

The petition has attracted over 7,000 signatures.

If you should ignore this level of public support moreover to do so by muscling your own councillors using a three line whip to stifle those points of view with compassion and conscience is a travesty of democracy for which this Administration should be truly ashamed.

(loud applause and cheers from the public gallery)

The bare minimum for the hard pressed carers should be afforded is consultation on the full package solution as I identified earlier.

If I may read a portion of the petition because it is pertinent, “Our demand is simple, retain the excellent Girtrell Court and its professional caring staff until the Council has researched carer and cared for needs, analysed, researched, costed and fully consulted on the suitability of any replacement offering.”

Solution before dissolution! Thank you for your time.

(loud applause and cheers from the public gallery)”


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Who asked Surjit Tour to gag a debate on Girtrell Court by councillors?

Who asked Surjit Tour to gag a debate on Girtrell Court by councillors?

                                

Cllr Chris Blakeley explaining his notice of motion on Girtrell Court to Wirral Council councillors at a public meeting 14th March 2016
Cllr Chris Blakeley talking about Girtrell Court at the Council meeting held on the 14th March 2016

This morning I submitted an internal review request to Wirral Council as a Freedom of Information request I’d made over twenty days ago hadn’t yet been responded to.

Remarkably quickly I received an answer both to the internal review request and the original FOI request.

It shows that an unnamed councillor made a query of Surjit Tour before the Council meeting held on the 14th March 2016 as to whether the Girtrell Court motion should be debated at all.

Surjit Tour’s opinion (a copy of which is below) was that Standing Order 17 prevented it, but that councillors could choose to suspend Standing Order 17 and debate it anyway. A copy of his advice to councillors over the attempt at preventing a debate on Girtrell Court is below.


Dear Councillor

A query was received over whether the Notice of Motion (NOM) relating to Girtrell Court submitted by Cllr Blakeley (appearing in the Council Agenda published on 4 March) should be debated by Council at its meeting on Monday, 14 March given that it formed part of the Budget debate and final Council Budget Resolution on 3 March. The proposal/issues relating to Girtrell Court were debated at length by Council at Budget Council. Council has therefore had the opportunity to fully consider this matter. A point of order has been raised as to whether the NOM can therefore be debated within such a short period of time after Council having settled its view on the subject matter. The point of order is a legitimate one.

The relevant Standing Order to consider is:

Council Procedure Rules: Standing Order 17 – Rescission of preceding resolution (page 156 of the Constitution)

(1) No decision of the Council (including a decision taken by a committee or panel under delegated powers) may be reconsidered by the Council on a notice of motion within six months of the date of the earlier decision unless the notice of motion (under Standing Order 7) is signed by 17 members of the Council. If that motion is rejected by the Council neither it nor one to the same effect can be considered by the Council for six months.

(2) No resolution or recommendation (other than a procedural resolution) made by a committee or panel during the course of a meeting shall be rescinded or amended by the committee or panel during the same meeting or any adjournment of it unless there are reasonable grounds for believing that all of the material information was not available at the time that the resolution or recommendation was passed.

Unfortunately given the timetabling of Budget Council and Ordinary Council this month, it has meant that Notices of Motion for the 14 March Council meeting needed to be submitted by 5pm on Monday, 29 February. This was ahead of Budget Council and any final Budget decision being made by Council on Thursday (3 March).

It is important to establish the status of the NOM in this case. I am of the view that NOM received was valid. At the material time, namely the deadline for when NOMs needed to be submitted (Monday, 29 Feb), there was NO decision made by Council in respect of the subject matter detailed within the NOM in question. The outcome of Budget Council meeting could not be assumed – that included any approval of the position as outlined in the Cabinet Budget Proposal in respect of Girtrell Court.

All valid NOMs are considered by the Mayor who determines, with advice from me, which NOM should be debated or referred to Cabinet or a Policy and Performance Committee (or other committee). The Mayor prior to Budget Council agreed for this NOM be debated.

At Budget Council the issues and matters relating to Girtrell Court were debated fully and that included the subject matter appearing in the NOM presented by Cllr Blakeley.

Standing Order 17 seeks to limit Council having to debate(by way of a notice of motion) the same decision within six months of it being made (unless a NOM is signed by 17 members of the Council). Whilst it is accepted that the Notice of Motion in question is not seeking to reopen the entire Budget Resolution approved by Council, it does seek to revisit a key aspect of the Budget Resolution that has been settled within it. The Notice of Motion was correctly submitted and was valid at the time of submission but has in effect been superseded by the Budget Council debate and Budget Resolution that was subsequently passed.

At the time Standing Order 17 was drafted the prevailing circumstances before us were not envisaged; and in fairness would have been extremely difficult (if not impossible) to predict with any degree of reasonable certainty.

Upon considering the application of Standing Order 17 and the NOM proposed by Cllr Blakeley, I am of the opinion that Standing Order 17 in its current form does prevent the NOM being debated at Council on 14 March – despite the Council Summons stating otherwise. However, as the NOM was valid at the time of submission it was also correct for it to have been included in the Council Agenda, published on 4 March. The Agenda should however have stated that the NOM was not to be debated by virtue of Standing Order 17. It is appropriate that this clarification/correction is made at Council on 14 March – and I will duly do so.

It would be remiss of me not to also advise that because the NOM appears correctly on the Council Agenda, any Member can move a motion (properly seconded) and seek the suspension of Standing Order 17 and seek permission from Council for the NOM to be debated. The Council has discretion to overcome the constitutional restriction imposed by Standing Order 17. Council would therefore be the final arbiter of this issue.

I apologise for any confusion caused by the NOM being confirmed as one to be debated on the Council Agenda.

Should you have any queries regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards

Surjit Tour
Head of Legal & Member Services
and Monitoring Officer

Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council
Department of Transformation and Resources
Town Hall
Brighton Street
Wallasey
Wirral
CH44 8ED

Tel: 0151 691 8569
Fax: 0151 691 8482

Visit our website: www.wirral.gov.uk

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Wirral Council valued Girtrell Court land and buildings at £3,402,880.00 in March 2013

Wirral Council valued Girtrell Court land and buildings at £3,402,880.00 in March 2013

                                               

Cllr Phil Davies (Leader of the Labour Group) speaking about Girtrell Court at the Extraordinary Council meeting (4th April 2016)
Cllr Phil Davies (Leader of the Labour Group) speaking about Girtrell Court at the Extraordinary Council meeting (4th April 2016)

One of the questions raised during the consultation on the closure of Girtrell Court was what would happen to it if it was closed. Wirral Council’s Director of Adult Social Services Graham Hodkinson told the Liverpool Echo last year that the Girtrell Court site could be used for extra care housing, “There is an increasing demand for extra care housing and the site of Girtrell Court is ideally suited for this purpose which will help support the aging population whilst delivering financial benefits to the council.”

The 2012/13 asset register assigns a value to the buildings of £2,422,880.00 and land of £980,000.00 (total £3,402,880.00) valued on the 11th March 2013 (as part of its regular quinquennial or five yearly valuation).

Wirral Council’s valuation of Girtrell Court was provided in response to a Freedom of Information request made by well-known former Conservative councillor Ian Lewis for Wirral Council’s asset register.

Wirral Council’s first response was to refuse Ian Lewis’ request on grounds of commercial confidentiality.

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