News From Our Green & Pleasant ‘Asset Rich/Cash Poor’ Borough
Wirral Council’s Planning Department is trying to avoid being put into ‘Special Measures’. It, along with 14 other English Councils, was named last year by the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) as not having met its ‘Local Plan’ deadline. The Council had been given until the end of January to offer its reasons for not meeting this requirement. The Council has now submitted its explanation. We hope it is accepted; if not, we all, as Council Tax payers, will have to bear the extra burden of covering the cost of employing Government planners or planning consultants to complete the work.
Government Intervention on Green Belt Applications
The Society has asked Margaret Greenwood MP to enquire of the DCLG why it has all but abandoned acting as the ‘backstop’ for significant Planning Decisions in cases where Councils’ approvals have been given for building in the Green Belt. This is especially important when Applications are made by the Council itself (or when it may also be linked in to another Public Authority eg. the Fire & Rescue Service). Councils, as well as being the Planning Authority, could also own the land in question, and /or be its developer. Mr Javid, the Secretary of State, has responded to recent submissions saying that the Government wants to encourage ‘locally’ made decisions. We consider this reply unsatisfactory as it allows Councils’ unchecked freedom in such cases.
The Gilroy Scrape, West Kirby
We gather that since the last issue, there has been no progress on securing the future of this site for wading birds. Questions have been raised with Wirral Council and replies are awaited.
Possible Review of Wirral Green Belt
Wirral Council is concerned that it has many outstanding Planning Permissions for land that have been approved, but not yet built on – the greatest number being at ‘Wirral Waters’. The Society has recently met with Peel Holdings, to clarify concerns that the company was ‘Land-Banking’. We were encouraged to learn that the Company was not holding onto land in order to increase its value, and that it has 12 projects it plans to bring forward in the coming year, three of which are for housing. We are hopeful that, with Council support, these projects can be made a reality during this year.
Proposed Hoylake Golf Resort
This issue continues to be a major concern to the Society. Over the last 2 months there have been three significant meetings. The first was a public meeting called by Margaret Greenwood MP, following many concerns raised with her by local people. The meeting was well supported by Wirral residents who raised questions and heard speakers from Stop Hoylake Golf Resort Action Group, (SHGRAG), Hoylake Village Life (HVL), Cllr Davies and Mr D Ball from Wirral Council. Ms Greenwood offered to be the intermediary for written questions to put to the Council for a response.
It was disappointing that one week later, the Council’s Cabinet met to discuss its current Golf Resort Plans and approved the Funding and Phasing Strategy submitted by the Developer, including a plan for the Council to borrow £26million which it would then lend to that Developer.
At the most recent meeting, representatives from SHGRAG and HVL met with senior members of the Council’s planning /regeneration team to discuss HVL’s alternative Wildfowl and Wetland Centre proposal. Also attending were the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, the Merseyside Environmental Advisory Service and the Golf Environment Organisation. Various actions were agreed and these will be covered in more detail in the next issue.
Whilst the meeting was considered useful, the SHGRAG remain concerned that the Council will continue to press ahead with its proposals for the golf resort and associated housing:- 2 golf courses with hotel and training facility together with 160 Band H houses and a new link road. There is no certainty, either, that the council will give serious consideration to alternative proposals, or despite assurances, will give stakeholders and the community adequate opportunity to shape and influence the final design of the resort.