Skelmersdale residents could soon be able to play on the 3G football pitch next to the former Glenburn school. That’s if West Lancashire College remove the remaining obstacle to stopping a community group running the facility say Our West Lancashire, the Borough Council’s Independents.

Councillor Adrian Owens says that a new Skelmersdale community group including people involved in the town’s primary schools have received an in principle agreement from Lancashire county council to lease the all-weather pitch at Glenburn. The community group has identified the start-up funding required but now West Lancashire College are the stumbling block.

Cllr Owens continued, “We understand that West Lancashire College own the access road and car park adjacent to the 3G pitch which would be needed for access and parking for users of the pitch. The College are citing ‘health and safety’ reasons for refusing to allow use of the access road and car park. The Community Group commissioned a report from me, as a health and safety professional which clearly showed how the everyday and low hazards from what is essentially a piece of tarmac could be adequately controlled.”

“Nothing infuriates me more than for health and safety to be used as an excuse. West Lancashire College should be ashamed of themselves and I’m calling on them to re-consider their decision. “The County Council want to use the site for redevelopment in the long term but they have been positive and agreed that a short term lease would allow this excellent facility to be used in the coming few years. The Community Group have the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to operate this facility at affordable rates for the people of Skelmersdale. All it needs now is for West Lancashire College to back their local community in a simple, no-cost way.”

Supporting Cllr Owens’ call, Our West Lancashire activist, Blair Piggin added, “The tragedy we risk here is losing the most precious resource in those adults (and young adults) who commit their time and effort to run these grass roots teams. The longer this is dragged out, and ‘health and safety’ is used as a catch-all excuse, the more the pitch deteriorates due to improper use and neglect. There will come a point when Skelmersdale will lose yet another valuable community resource to neglect – one that cost us as taxpayers over £650,000 in the first place.”

Tackle our looming student town funding gap.

Student landlords do not pay for the local public services their tenants use because student accommodation is currently exempt from business rates and student households are exempt from council tax. Yet, student landlords have need of the police, fire and other services 365 days a year while their tenants generate much need of local council services, e.g. extra street cleansing, waste management, and environmental health demands (noise abatement and poor housing conditions).

Missing workers in West Lancashire

West Lancashire currently loses £1.3 million in council tax annually from student accommodation which is exempt from council tax. Presently, the Government provides a grant to cover this loss, at least in part. However, there will be no grant funding by 2020 meaning further reductions in local services. Inevitably, this will mean fewer street sweepers, more litter, longer waiting times for customer service.

Students are a very welcome part of our community and our local economy, but live in concentrated areas of the Borough in densely populated conditions. This has a big impact on services in these parts of the Borough.

Student households should continue to be exempt from council tax, as students are on low (and loaned) incomes.

Student landlords are profit making businesses, and should pay properly for the demands their business model makes on public services.

How your Council Tax is spent

Therefore, councils should be given powers to bring student landlords within the scope of business rates in the same way that hotels, self-catering and holiday lets are within the scope of business rates and this petition is to be sent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer requesting this change.

Agree with us that we can’t afford to loss £1.3 million from West Lancashire? Sign our petition here.