Thousands of people in Formby are expected to sign leaflets and questionnaires as a push to convince the Planning Inspector and Sefton Council to reconsider a massive mixed-use site, which includes a £5 million sports facility, continues.
Hugh McAuley, the owner of Formby Play Sports Ltd, says hundreds have already backed his plans to redevelop land south off Altcar Road into a venue capable of hosting football, tennis, rugby, netball, volleyball, boxing and fishing.
But he says more signatures are required for Formby to stand a chance of creating sports facilities for both current and future generations.
It comes after proposals put forward by Mr McAuley and leading UK regeneration specialist St. Modwen to redevelop the land into sports facilities – all enabled through a major new employment park plus some retailing and leisure uses – were left out of Sefton’s Local Plan by an independent Inspector from the Planning Inspectorate earlier this year.
As it stands the council is consulting on the change to remove the proposal from the Local Plan and has given Mr McAuley, St. Modwen and the community until 3rd August to gather responses.
Dad-of-four Mr McAuley, a Formby resident, has been using the consultation period to deliver leaflets and questionnaires to schools, homes and shops and intends to continue canvassing support by raising awareness of the matter in the village.
Formby Football Club owner Mr McAuley also aims to bring the club back to life through the scheme.
He said: “The community is very much rallying behind this scheme – everyone believes in it. And why wouldn’t they? This is a scheme that is nothing but good as there are so many links to sport, exercise and general health and wellbeing, not just for youngsters, but adults too.
“A lot of children in Formby are even filling out the forms we have been issuing. They clearly want the council to reconsider the original decision, as do parents, teachers in the area, as well as the older generation.”
It also comes after almost 500 people signed the e-petition entitled ‘Sefton Council: YOUR HELP is needed if you want more jobs, shops and sport in Formby’.
Mr McAuley set up the e-petition after his scheme was the only one submitted as part of the Sefton Local Plan which has been proposed to be excluded by the Inspector. It’s a proposal Mr McAuley hopes to reverse.
He said: “To me there’s no sound planning reason as to why this scheme was dropped in the first place.
“The building of thousands of houses was accepted in the Local Plan. But these amazing sports facilities, which form part of a mixed-use site, haven’t been accepted.
“It’s a one-off chance to provide sporting facilities for our children. Formby FC, which sadly no longer exists, would also be re-born and the whole scheme could create more than 1,000 jobs.”
He added: “We shouldn’t have to do what we are doing at the moment – there’s a lot of hard work going on. But we are doing it because we care for Formby and its future.
“Surely, all these people who are filling out our leaflets and questionnaires in the village aren’t wrong, and we hope that their opinions are listened to by the Inspector and Sefton Council.”
The scheme, if reconsidered and accepted by the Planning Inspectorate, will be delivered by Hugh McAuley and St. Modwen.
Will Martin, planning manager for St. Modwen – North West, said: “We fully appreciate the support which this scheme has gained from the local community and would like to thank all those who have already signed or written in support.
“We fully believe that with further community support and addressing the comments made by the Inspector, this proposal which encapsulates a proposal which can bring benefit to the community and encourage health and wellbeing can be again rightfully included within the Local Plan.”