Councillors defer decision on 2 planning applications for site visits and approve 7 others

Councillors defer decision on 2 planning applications for site visits and approve 7 others

                                          

Cllr Anita Leech (Chair of Wirral Council's Planning Committee) at the Planning Committee held on the 20th April 2016
Cllr Anita Leech (Chair of Wirral Council’s Planning Committee) at the Planning Committee held on the 20th April 2016

I’m going to try to return to brief reports on public meetings of Wirral Council starting with the Planning Committee meeting held on the 20th April 2016 starting at 6.01pm in Committee Rooms 1 & 2, Wallasey Town Hall, Brighton Street, Seacombe, CH44 8ED. Timings next to agenda items are for the two video clips of the meeting.

Continue reading “Councillors defer decision on 2 planning applications for site visits and approve 7 others”

Martins (389 Upton Road) ask for an alcohol licence; the Merseyside Police Sergeant insists video of a public meeting is erased

Martins (389 Upton Road) ask for an alcohol licence;the @MerseyPolice Sgt insists video of a public meeting is erased

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Licensing Act 2003 subcommittee 8th May 2014 Martins 389 Upton Road, Noctorum (Martin McColl Limited) Councillor Mike Sullivan (Labour), Councillor Steve Niblock (Chair, Labour), Councillor Mike Hornby (Conservative)
Licensing Act 2003 subcommittee (Wirral Council) (Wallasey Town Hall, Committee Room 3) 8th May 2014 Martins, 389 Upton Road, Noctorum (Martin McColl Limited) Councillor Mike Sullivan (Labour), Councillor Steve Niblock (Chair, Labour), Councillor Mike Hornby (Conservative)

Martins (389 Upton Road) ask for an alcohol licence; the Merseyside Police Sergeant insists video of a public meeting is erased

                         

Sometimes public meetings take such a bizarre turn, I couldn’t do justice to what happened at them without providing a transcript. However you first need to know a little about this “public meeting”. As detailed in the published report a application for a licence (from Martin McColl Limited) to sell alcohol at a newsagents at Martins, 389 Upton Road, Noctorum (which is in Claughton ward although it is across the road from Bidston & St James ward and very near Upton ward) had been received by Wirral Council. Martins don’t currently sell alcohol and the shop is run as a newsagents/grocery store.

The application was to sell alcohol from 6am to 11pm (seven days a week) for consumption off the premises. There had been a representation from a local business and a petition signed by ninety-four people against the application being granted. Both the petition and representation related to existing problems with youths in the area of the newsagents.

Merseyside Police were also objecting to the application on the basis of a current problem with antisocial behaviour in the area of the newsagents and the likelihood that this would increase if the licence was granted. Another ground of objection from Merseyside Police was that they didn’t feel that the applicant had sufficiently demonstrated how crime and disorder would be prevented at the premises in the future should the licence be granted.

Unusually a representation had also been received from Wirral Council’s Environmental Health department which related to the prevention of crime and disorder and public safety.

The meeting was supposed to start at 2pm, although it didn’t. The councillors and council officers were in the room at 2pm, but they seem to insist on having a long talk with each other before the meeting officially starts. For some peculiar reason (which is different to all other public meetings held at Wallasey Town Hall) they insist everybody comes in at once and won’t even allow you in the room five minutes a few minutes before the meeting starts (which is necessary to set up a tripod and turn a camera on in time for the meeting to start). I’ve asked a Wirral Council officer why, they just state because of the regulations. There’s nothing in the regulations that states everyone has to go into a public meeting at once, in fact the regulations just state the hearing has to be held in public (subject to Regulation 14(2)).

Anyway after what was a long time of waiting of about fifteen minutes everyone was asked to come in (which takes a few minutes in itself as there was me, Leonora, two petitioners, Sgt Barrigan (Merseyside Police), the applicant’s representative, the “area manager” and a Wirral Council officer working in Environmental Health). The meeting started and here is a transcript. Officially the first two items are appointment of Chair and declarations of interest.

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK (Chair)
I’m Councillor Steve Niblock and I’m the Chair of the Subcommittee this afternoon as are my councillor colleagues who will be determining the application. Could I first ask that all mobile phones are switched off or turned to silent please? Thank you and also before we open it’s not the planned fire drill so if the alarm does go off go out of those doors, turn right immediately and assemble in the car park over the road, ok?

There is an issue that has been raised a number of times within the Council with regards to filming of committee meetings and therefore I need to ask all those present if they consent to being filmed and if not errm, the reasons where they do not wish to be filmed and then it’s up to the Committee to make a decision with regards to that particular recommendation.

So, the issue being round if we could introduce ourselves, and then we could deal with that ..

MARGARET O’DONNELL
Chair, sorry to interrupt, just I think the film is running now, so that might defeat the purpose.

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK (Chair)
OK, is it possible to pause that film?

JOHN BRACE
OK.

END OF TRANSCRIPT OF PART ONE

The applicant’s representative raised an objection to the meeting being filmed and said he was at the meeting with the Area Manager. He said he had not been told about the filming issue before the meeting and had not received instructions on this from his client.

Sergeant Barrigan of Merseyside Police said he had no objections to the meeting being filmed. The Wirral Council officer from environmental health said he had no objections to being filmed. The petitioners said they had no objection to being filmed.

The Chair asked Merseyside Police, the petitioners, the Wirral Council officer from Environmental Health and the public to leave whilst the councillors received advice from their legal adviser on the filming issue.

=======================================================================================================
Everyone waited outside in the corridor. Margaret O’Donnell came out and spoke with the applicant’s representative out of earshot. After talking with Margaret O’Donnell the applicant’s representative talked with Sergeant Barrigan about police officers wearing cameras. Sergeant Barrigan said in the corridor that he didn’t wear a camera or body armour as both pieces of kit would slow him down if he was chasing after a suspect and put him at a disadvantage.

Eventually after a long period of time Merseyside Police, the petitioners, the Wirral Council officer from Environmental Health and the public were invited back in to Committee Room 3.
=======================================================================================================

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK (Chair)
Once the errm the Committee has decided whether or not to make this meeting in camera.

EITHER APPLICANT’S REPRESENTATIVE OR AREA MANAGER
There are two issues that cause me concern in relation to the errm, to the errm, to the errm, filming, not knowing what would happen to the film afterwards. Personally there is a matter which is referred to in two of the representations, more than one, errm, which is, errm, in two of the representations, which is currently I think it’s a matter before the courts in relation to those two issues affecting business. I’m not sure what questions you want to ask, in relation to that, but it’s not a matter that I have confidence on. Others the potential for prejudice if widely reported it could prejudice of that matter.

The second errm, is that, one, arising from that I have assumed that on were there any questions regarding security at this, these particular premises err as a result of that other issue which we believe err will address some of the concerns that were expressed, hopefully all those concerns that were expressed by Environmental Health and again that going into the public domain it would potentially defeat the the the security element so on that basis you will adjudicate the matter based on our concern that that could leak into the wider public domain. So for those two reasons around, I would prefer not to do it. Obviously it’s a determination for the Committee to decide on the regulations on what would be the overall regulation that would cover the matter. I would prefer that the matter wasn’t recorded and reported externally.

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK (Chair)
OK, Sergeant Barrigan, do you have any other objections or a view errm with regard to this matter being an exempt item?

SERGEANT BARRIGAN (Merseyside Police)
I think the point Mr Grant makes in relation to the potential sub judice issue is valid, although it’s not a prosecution errm that is being conducted by Merseyside Police. Errm, the other issue in relation to security I think is more valid. The enforcement action that is being conducted by Environmental Health resulted out from some issues in relation to security that is not subject to the representations and some proposals from Mr. Grant and his guys and I don’t think it’s appropriate that that information goes into the public domain because it could muck things up in the future errm and on reflection taking that into consideration I would request that the Committee hold it in camera.

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK (Chair)
OK?

Mr ???? (Environmental Health)
We’ve established that.

COUNCILLOR STEVE NIBLOCK (Chair)
OK, that’s closed, now there there’s no one else objecting? I’m going to ask for another adjournment now.

=======================================================================================================

Merseyside Police, the petitioners, the Wirral Council officer from Environmental Health and the public left to the corridor leaving the three councillors with some Wirral Council officers. After a long wait, people were invited back in (for the third time!).
=======================================================================================================

When everyone returned, the Chair Councillor Steve Niblock said that they had heard representations from the applicant and Merseyside Police and were excluding the public (see regulation 14(2) from the rest of the subcommittee meeting due to court proceedings.

For the purposes of this decision (see regulation 14(3) Sergeant Barrigan, the petitioners, the applicant’s representative and the area manager are all classed as “members of the public” and should have left. However they didn’t. Leonora and I proceeded to the door only to find my way blocked by Sergeant Barrigan insisting that before I left (since the redesign of Wallasey Town Hall Committee Room 3 has only one way in and out) that I delete the video footage on my camera of the public meeting! I deleted the second clip but refused to delete the first. Sergeant Barrigan wouldn’t let us leave until he got the ok from Councillor Steve Niblock that this was alright! I wonder if after we left Sergeant Barrigan (as is recommended) made a note of this conversation (conducted loud enough that everyone in the room could hear) in his notebook and if so what he put in these notes! A transcript of the second deleted video clip is above. This is a letter from 2010 Andrew Trotter, Chief Constable of the ACPO Advisory Group. I will quote from the relevant parts:

“There have been a number of recent instances highlighted in the press where officers have detained photographers and deleted images from their cameras. I seek your support in reminding your officers and staff that they should not prevent anyone from taking photographs in public. This applies equally to members of the media and public seeking to record images, who do not need a permit to photograph or film in public places. ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officer’s) guidance is as follows:

  • There are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital images in a public place. Therefore members of the public and press should not be prevented from doing so.
  • We need to cooperate with the media and amateur photographers. They play a vital role as their images help us identify criminals.
  • We must acknowledge that citizen journalism is a feature of modern life and police officers are now photographed and filmed more than ever.
  • Unnecessarily restricting photography, whether for the casual tourist or professional is unacceptable and it undermines public confidence in the police service.
  • Once an image has been recorded, the police have no power to delete or confiscate it without a court order.

If you require further guidance please refer to the ACPO website or contact my Staff Officer Robin Edwards at robin.edwards@btp.pnn.police.uk.”

I know this ACPO guidance was agreed at a national level, but does anybody know of any locally agreed policy of Merseyside Police that applies to the situation of being instructed by a police officer to delete video footage from a camera without a court order? Should I keep a copy of Andrew Trotter’s letter on me for future meetings and will politicians just use the reason of excluding the public from a public meeting to circumvent the regulations in the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 (which will have the force of law at some point in the next few weeks) which place a legal requirement on local councils to permit filming at their public meetings?

I am reminded of rule 1 of the National Union of Journalists Code of Conduct which states “A journalist:

1. At all times upholds and defends the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed.”

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Planning Committee rejects plans for 4 houses in Noctorum Dell (OUT/13/01184)

Planning Committee rejects plans for 4 houses in Noctorum Dell (OUT/13/01184)

Planning Committee rejects plans for 4 houses in Noctorum Dell (OUT/13/01184)

                        

Cllr George Davies (Claughton) tells the Planning Committee why he thinks they should reject plans for four houses in Noctorum Dell

Cllr George Davies (Claughton) tells the Planning Committee why he thinks they should reject plans for four houses in Noctorum Dell

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Planning application OUT/13/01184 starts at 6:20 in the video above.

Despite a recommendation from planning officers to approve plans for four houses in Noctorum Dell, after hearing representations from the lead petitioner, a representative of Condy & Lofthouse Architects Ltd and Cllr George Davies (Claughton), the Planning Committee decided unanimously to reject the plans due to the impact on the character of the area (policy HS4), drainage concerns (policies GR7 and HS4) and because it would have an impact on the character and environmental qualities of Noctorum Ridge (policies HS4 and SPD2).

The lead petitioner said, “Many residents are elderly, frail or vulnerable like myself. My husband suffered a stroke ten years ago, he will not cope with the disturbance that this will cause and I as his carer neither will I. As a Council you have a duty of care to your public and the people who vote for you to be in the position that you hold.”

Councillor Stuart Kelly said that three-storey buildings would be out of character for the area and also highlighted concerns he had about flooding and drainage. Cllr Anita Leech also had concerns about drainage and the overbearing impact on nearby bungalows.

Cllr Denise Roberts (Claughton) moved refusal of the planning application, which was seconded by Cllr Denise Realey.

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Planning Committee (Wirral Council) (27th June 2013) OUT/13/0040 41 Noctorum Avenue, Noctorum, CH43 9RZ

A report on Wirral Council’s Planning Committee meeting held on the 27th June 2013 | OUT/13/0040 41 Noctorum Avenue, Noctorum, CH43 9RZ

Continued from Planning Committee (Wirral Council) (27th June 2013) OUT/13/0040 41 Noctorum Avenue, Noctorum, CH43 9RZ.

Cllr Denise Roberts: Using the justification of HS4, states that the environment around the home has a major impact on resident’s quality of life and it is important that new housing blends in well with that already built and creates a safe external environment.

However the backs of the houses will replace the boundary wall that housing will contrive and this will create a lattice, effecting a fundamental change to the area.

The proposed development does not sit happily with the pattern of existing homes and a large built wall will remove another green area in an established neighbourhood and change the nature of a simple municipal area of Wirral. Members I urge you to reject this application.

Cllr David Elderton: Thank you.

Cllr Bernie Mooney (Chair): Members of the Committee and to make representations by councillors on the Planning Committee at the site visit with me.

Cllr Denise Roberts: Chair, thank you Chair, although it was impossible to attend myself, I did actually go round yesterday and I’m just a little bit disappointed with officers actually actually granting this for approval, ermm, the reasons repeated in HS10 are that undue noise and disturbance that you know and loss of privacy and I just can’t see how on their own what somebody in a garden isn’t going to be undue noise and loss of privacy and I believe it would be an over development in that site.

Cllr Bernie Mooney: Steve.

Cllr Steve Foulkes: Chair, obviously errm, I have known the area since I’ve been extremely careful not to preempt any decision making process, errm and I can see that when actually we gained access to the property that the inviting nature of the rear garden.

Continues at Planning Committee (Wirral Council) (27th June 2013) OUT/13/0040 41 Noctorum Avenue, Noctorum, CH43 9RZ.

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Planning Committee (Wirral Council) (27th June 2013) OUT/13/0040 41 Noctorum Avenue, Noctorum, CH43 9RZ

A report on Wirral Council’s Planning Committee meeting held on the 27th June 2013 | OUT/13/0040 41 Noctorum Avenue, Noctorum, CH43 9RZ

Continued from Planning Committee (Wirral Council) (27th June 2013) OUT/13/0040 41 Noctorum Avenue, Noctorum, CH43 9RZ.

Cllr Bernie Mooney (Chair): Because you know, because, because the petitioner didn’t want to speak, errm, and so errm, that would mean that so… deny the ward councillor so if you would like to, if you would like to introduce yourself Denise, please.

Cllr Denise Roberts: Yes, Denise Roberts, ward councillor.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak. I would also like to thank a number of committee members that took the time to attend Tuesday’s site visit. As ward councillor, I take an interest in this planning application and asked for it to be taken out of delegation so you could be made aware of Member’s concerns and objections.

The proposed development for two dormer bungalows is squeezed into a decreasing garden, it’s incongruous with this built-up environment because of a mature residential barrier of houses with interlocking gardens. Supplementary planning guidance has been outlined states that all new housing developments should be set out with a private rear garden, interlocked with other rear gardens.

While the proposed dwelling will have interlocking gardens, the access road will require probably an area of an existing interlocking garden, if you take out a bit you have a security problem. UDP policies HS4 and HS10 on new housing and backland developments state that planning proposals should not result in a detrimental change to the character of the area, nor should there be a loss of privacy or a separate enclosure affecting the enjoyment of residents.

Means and justification in HS10 also state that the existence of large gardens does not necessarily form the scope for development and the size and appearance of gardens will be of great importance to the character of an neighbourhood.

Continues at Planning Committee (Wirral Council) (27th June 2013) OUT/13/0040 41 Noctorum Avenue, Noctorum, CH43 9RZ.