What better way to kick off the year's campaign activities than taking part in (yes, you've guessed it) YET ANOTHER CONSULTATION!
Again, we know we ask a lot of you by encouraging you to take part in these, but we only share the ones that are most relevant to our cause to Save Rimrose Valley.
This one's particularly important as it's all about how we use and develop our land across the Liverpool City Region (LCR), so it couldn't be more relevant.
It will only take a few minutes of your time and it closes on Friday 16th February, so please be quick!
You can read all about the Spatial Development Strategy - and this consultation here.
The link contains a shortcut to this hefty document, which makes good bedtime reading and we're highlighting it for those of you who love this level of detail:
In reality, this short video is a much quicker and easier way for you to understand what this is all about:
Which survey should I complete?
It's entirely up to you, but we'll be responding to the longer version as an organisation, as are the likes of our local and regional branches of Friends of the Earth, the Wildlife Trust and CPRE.
To keep things simple (and to save you time) we believe that responding to the short survey is the most effective way for you to get your point across and this is what the following guidance relates to.
It's really easy to complete, taking 5-10 minutes, so just follow these simple steps, with our pointers noted in italics, where relevant:
Page 1: You must give your consent to your response being used, on the basis that it is completely confidential
Page 2: Indicate whether you agree or disagree with the LCR's plans across numerous areas by clicking the relevant box. More info is available on each option, if you want it. We've let you know how a member of our team responded, but this is obviously specific to you and your opinions. (We've also provided an explanation of each choice, but there's no opportunity to capture this at this point)
For homes, we somewhat disagree as many local authorities, including our own, are allowing building on vital green belt land. This not only loses essential green space, it generates more and more traffic, as we are seeing in the communities around Rimrose Valley resulting from large housing developments in recent years. If the LCR is relying on these plans, this isn't good. We know we need new homes, but much prefer the use of brownfield sites or, better still, regenerating existing housing stock instead of demolishing it.
For growing the economy, we somewhat disagree. The 'need' for hundreds of hectares of industrial, storage, distribution, offices etc makes absolutely no mention of protecting green space in the process, which we believe is an oversight. Plans for such sites would need to be considered on a case-by-case basis. For example, if land were being acquired for an inland hub to ease transport to and from the Port of Liverpool and take HGVs off our roads, this could be a good thing, but the environmental and social impacts must be fully considered.
For regenerating and reusing land, we strongly agree with prioritising brownfield sites first, for the same reasons as set out in 'homes' above.
For providing services and facilities, we somewhat agree. This is because plans to deliver more active travel (walking and cycling) networks, and to improve our passenger and freight rail services are top of our list too! Better internet connectivity and electricity network are great too. BUT the example of improving roads is concerning. If this is doing a better job of maintaining what we have; great. If it's for new road, or road-widening developments, we oppose these on the grounds that the LCR's efforts should be focussed on traffic reduction, not making it easier and easier to drive from A to B. It undermines the LCR's own efforts on public transport and active travel.
For towns and city centres, we strongly agree with plans to breathe new life into these, reducing our need to travel in the process!
For green spaces and waterways (protecting parks, playing fields, coastline) clearly we STRONGLY AGREE!! We particularly like the line... "It is crucial that green and blue infrastructure is not only protected but where possible improved or expanded so that these benefits can continue". Couldn't agree more!
For relationship with the rest of the world i.e. becoming an international gateway for tourism and goods, we somewhat disagree with plans to support growth of the airport, maritime port, freeport, cruise liners etc. This is because the line "...whilst not harming the environment, local communities or our net zero ambition" comes across as an afterthought. For too long, these entities have taken precedence over our environment and the health of wellbeing of our communities. Sadly, there is nothing (yet) to suggest this will change. Our communities have had enough of dealing with the consequences of "growth" unless/until is can be shown to be truly sustainable.
For River Mersey & Coast we somewhat agree. The goals are commendable but we would need to see the full environmental impact assessment for projects like tidal energy and increases in shipping. Improving water quality is clearly supported.
For culture and tourism we strongly agree. With an emphasis on public transport and active travel, what's not to love?
For rural areas, again we strongly agree. This is because there is a clear acknowledgement to protect green belt, agricultural land and to improve transport links.
Page 3: Here, you indicate whether you agree or disagree with various development principles. These are short and sweet so we won't provide a running commentary for each one, but there's a section at the bottom where you can add further comments. THIS IS YOUR OPPORTUNITY TO TALK ABOUT YOUR VIEWS ON THE OVERALL SPATIAL DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY (SDS) The below example is one submitted by a member of our team. We recommend adapting this to reflect your own priorities and concerns. Please do so rather than copying and pasting, or it risks being rejected as a duplicate response.
It isn't possible to achieve all of the above without compromise. I believe that for too long this compromise has all been on the part of the environment and our communities' health and wellbeing. If the SDS is to be truly sustainable and representative of how we need to be acting in an era of climate emergency and a public health crisis in our urban areas, rather than favouring development (and developers) I believe that there must be stronger protections for green space and biodiversity. Terms like "Minimise negative impacts on health" are concerning. The SDS should be taking steps to eradicate the impacts of the built environment on our health. Otherwise, it assumes that the pursuit of economic growth is more important than the health and wellbeing of LCR citizens and that (for example) cases of asthma, bronchitis, COPD, cancers, heart disease, obesity and dementia are all acceptable consequences of "growth", which they are not. One of the principles is to "help recover and protect our natural environment and habitats". Far too many developments which are approved by the member local authorities do the exact opposite of this and green space is fair game. I am looking for an SDS which actively opposes and prevents such developments; whether they be from the local authority, or central government in order for this document and this exercise to have genuine value. A perfect example of this is the government's proposed Port of Liverpool Access Road in Sefton. Opposed by the council and MPs, I want the City Region to feel empowered to formally join opposition to this project through it being completely incompatible with an SDS built on sustainability and social fairness.
Page 4: You have the opportunity to provide some demographic information about yourself, if you wish to. If not, simply choose "Prefer not to say".
Page 5: An opportunity to provide contact details, if you wish to be kept updated
Page 6: An opportunity to enter your email address if you wish to receive a PDF copy of your response, then you're good to go. Click Submit.
Page 7: Confirmation message
And that's it!
A a reminder, please, PLEASE make your response personal to YOU. This is how it will have the most impact. If you want to talk about trees, birds and pollinators instead of transport, fill your boots! Also, if you want to talk about Rimrose Valley and any other green space you care about, go for it!
It's YOUR consultation, so talk about what's important to YOU.
Our response as an organisation will be more detailed, but by taking part in the shorter version of the survey, we hope this article encourages as many of you as possible to respond.