We have been given access to new, previously secret emails from Liverpool City Council through a published Freedom of Information (FOI) request, which reveals the negotiations between Redrow Homes and the Council to try to sell off Sefton Park Meadows and secure planning approval for luxury housing before the recent local and mayoral elections.
The Council response has been published on the WhatDoTheyKnow website. The published Council response can be accessed at the link below.
What Do They Know Click on the link titled 448646 Delahunty att1 150716.pdf
Top level council officers, including Andy Wallace, a senior development manager, were trying to get a timetable for sale of Sefton Park Meadows and a revised planning application approved before Liverpool voters went to the ballot box, knowing that this would have been a major issue for local people. Redrow were threatening to withdraw from the sale if a timetable could not be agreed. The information shows that council officers struggled to get an accurate valuation on the Meadows – that would not be legally challenged- and were waiting until after the elections to start the negotiations again.
The WhatDoTheyKnow website published this information on 15 July 2016. It covers email correspondence from 14 December 2014 to 30 March 2016.
What We Found Out:
1. Redrow / Liverpool City Council kept secret their negotiations all last year and early this year, despite repeated requests from Meadows campaigners for information on the sale and planning application. Local councillors were not kept informed despite similar requests.
2. Redrow’s offer valuation of £4 million for this significant heritage green space differs greatly from the £10 million promised by the Mayor of Liverpool.
3. Redrow’s land valuation method is in doubt and not agreed by the council. Their own valuation services confirm the complexity of the site and that accurate valuations will be costly to undertake.
4. ‘Radio silence’ since March 30th 2016. The negotiations were halted due to the forthcoming local elections in the knowledge that any sale would become politically toxic, despite Redrow threatening to withdraw their offer.
5. The Save Sefton Park Meadows campaign has been discussed at the highest Council levels. Their awareness of the huge public commitment to the Meadows shown by ‘ need to tone it down’ and ‘language too strong’ emails. Officers were very concerned over formal complaints about Mayor Joe Anderson’s intervention into the quasi-judicial planning process and sought internal legal advice to respond to the Save Sefton Park Meadows campaign.
6. Formal questioning by Cllr Richard Kemp last year to get negotiations out in the open were secretly discussed but his demands were ignored and no information was made public.
The Save Sefton Park Meadows campaign group now demands to know exactly where the proposed sale is up to. Transparency and accountability should be paramount in all Council matters, especially in the matter of parks and green spaces developments, which have such a high level of public interest in the city.
A new and important planning document – the draft Liverpool Local Plan – is scheduled for discussion at the Regeneration Committee meeting on 28 July. This will then be published for public consultation in August. The Strategic Green & Open Spaces Review Board Final Report (Chaired by Simon O’Brien) will also be out for public consultation a week or two after the draft Local Plan.
We will be providing links and ways for EVERYONE to comment on both of these as soon as we can.