The Wirral Society – Annual Report   2015 – 2016

Report ImageI am pleased to present this Report on behalf of your Executive Committee, summarising some the Society’s activities in this, its 88th year.

March 2015 – February 2016

Your Committee has again worked hard on the Society’s behalf over this past year, to comment on or oppose issues that would affect both the Peninsula overall, or specific sites.

 Casework

Planning Issues affecting the Peninsula

  • National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF): It is pleasing to report there continues to be no discernible impact of this major change in Policy on the Peninsula during this period.  We still maintaining close touch with CPRE (being CPRE District Committee for the Wirral), and are pleased to maintain strong links with this organisation.
  • Liverpool City Region: Although it’s early days, the Society has been considering with CPRE Lancashire the implications of this new Regional arrangement possibly taking over the final decisions on planning issues, from Central Government, which, if it comes about may be a mixed blessing.
  • Planning initiatives: Local Plans: The Society responds to opportunities afforded by our two local Councils to comment on these major documents, which will set the planning framework for the coming years.

Planning issues at a local level

Neighbourhood Plans: The Government appears to be placing greater importance on towns having their own Neighbourhood Plans.   Plans in such places as Neston have progressed well, thanks to its historic Council.  However, the Society continues to be concerned at the progress in Wirral Borough, notably in Hoylake, where boundaries appear to be questionable and are not proven against boundaries of surrounding Neighbourhood Plans.  The Society has responded to the Hoylake Neighbourhood Plan raising issues of validity and has engaged a CPRE planner to provide a reasoned “planning law” response.

Planning Applications

The Society has commented on many Applications in this year.

  • Further Industrialisation of Wirral’s seascape by Wind Turbines  – Extension to Burbo Bank Wind Installation, Liverpool Bay:  With the knowledge that DONG Energy has successfully received permission for the use of land at Seacombe, for the final fabrication of wind turbines, we have now had to accept that we will, during the next year, see a further 32 added off the coast at Meols. This adds to the current 30 off Burbo Bank, New Brighton and once completed, will give residents and visitors a view of some 290 turbines visible from the Wirral, on a clear day.
  • Major housing development at Ledsham Road, Great Sutton: Sadly, it is not possible to record a similar outcome for this major Application for the eventual development of some 2,000 houses on good agricultural land.  Redrow has now begun construction of the 1st Phase of this major development, comprising 145 houses.
  • Proposed new Refinery at Eastham: The Society has been in close contact with the Eastham Village Preservation Association, regarding this proposal.  It would appear the main concern is the strong possibility of heavy vehicles using the road through the village as the quickest route. We understand the application has been referred to Government, as it is considered to be a National Infrastructure Project.  Further information is awaited.
  • Former Biscuit factory at Moreton: The Society has supported the Company in its plan to build houses on the site of this factory. A new planning Application is in the process of being submitted where it is being demonstrated that the land is unlikely ever again to be required for employment purposes. As part of that support, the Society is anxious to see that the presently derelict Water Feature by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, on the roadside boundary of the site, is restored, and to this end Elizabeth Davey has applied on the Society’s behalf, to have it Listed.

Green Belt Applications

As usual, many Applications have had Green Belt implications, notable amongst them this year have been conversions of ‘barns’ in farmers fields to houses, all of which the Society has objected to.

  • Proposed Equine Centre, off Welsh Rd, Childer Thornton: This proposal for anEquine therapy centre for autistic people in the Green Belt would be funded by the construction of 15 houses.  This presents something of a moral dilemma – but should the centre be sold, Planning Approval stays with the land and the scheme could fold for any reason after permission being granted.
  • Proposed new Fire Station at Saughall Massie:  The Society, together with local residents and local Councillors, have been very concerned about the proposal to close both West Kirby & Upton Fire Stations, and build a new one on Council-owned Green Belt land at the end of the by-pass.  There have been major cuts in revenue-funding to the service prompting the Fire Chief’s proposal to have one station nearer to West Kirby & Hoylake (but further from Upton & Woodchurch etc.).  We cannot see the justification for spending several million pounds of taxpayer’s money on building such a facility one mile nearer the coastal towns, and located next to an extensive sheltered housing development.   This is the Fire Service’s second proposed site and follows after the Fire Service tried to locate this replacement station in Greasby, uniting that Community in total opposition to a ‘Community’ Fire Station being imposed on them.
  • Proposed Golf Resort, Hoylake: This is another Green Belt proposal, which is going through pre- Application stages.  The Society, whilst welcoming economic development has, amongst other concerns, serious doubts about the validity of the developer’s need for ‘enabling development’ of some 100+ luxury houses, to help fund the development.  The Society cannot see how Wirral Council will be able to accept luxury-housing meeting the Green Belt test of ‘Very Special Circumstances’.  However, the land is mostly Council owned, and the Council is ‘keen’ to raise money.

Historic Buildings & Conservation Areas at Risk in the Wirral Peninsula –

The Society has continued to maintain contact with local Councils, in seeking new uses for redundant buildings.

  • Burton Manor – Since the closure of this educational establishment, the future of the Grade II Listed building has remained a cause of much concern to the Society and village residents.  The Committee has been maintaining a close watch on proposals for its future use and also seeking reliable information as to the condition of the building, which has now been empty for several years.
  • Proposal for changing traffic flow in Hamilton Square, Birkenhead: The Society made strong representations concerning proposals by Wirral Council, to allow make changes which would have allowed traffic to flow in front of the Town Hall.  This proposal attracted much criticism and it is good to note the proposal has now been dropped

Initiatives

We continue to meet with a senior officer of Wirral Council, who has been willing to act as a central point of contact over planning and regeneration issues.  It is hoped a similar arrangement can be agreed with Cheshire West Council in due course.  A number of issues have been raised, including:

  • Retrospective Planning Applications: Enforcement action taken by Wirral Council, where applicants have disregarded the terms of their planning permissions.  The Council continues to address the backlog – but it was a surprise to learn that the Council has to pay all the costs of any action it takes.
  • Planning Applications arising from perceived gaps in Council Plans.

Contact with local MP’s

  • New Ferry: The Society has been seeking ways to support Ms Alison McGovern’s initiative to look at how ailing town centres, such as New Ferry, can be re-vitalised.  (Possibly re use the ideas in Hoylake)
  • Wirral West Constituency:  The new MP, Ms Margaret Greenwood, has been briefed by Society members, on key issues of concern, re loss of Fire Station and loss of farm fields for the Hoylake Golf Resort .

‘Eyesores’

  • The ‘Streetscene’: The Society continues to try and support the local Councils, in their work to prosecute illegal advertising on public and private land & property, by reporting instances of such material being posted
  • Former Champion Spark Plugs factory:  The Committee has continued to press  Wirral Council to help resolve the problem of the untidiness of this site. We are pleased that enforcement action has been taken to get the various tenants of the site, to sort out their signage.
  • Illegal fly tipping & Litter – Rail embankments in Birkenhead: Efforts were made during this year to try and get Network Rail to clear these embankments of rubbish.  Whilst the company was agreeable to deal with the problem, little appears to have changed during this period.
  • Street furniture and roadsideA5117 Shotwick: A successful plea was made to the Highways Agency to tidy up the area and remove discarded cones by the Shotwick turn-off.
  • A540 – ‘Two Mills’ junction:  A similar plea has been made to Cheshire West Council to tidy up this junction, which looks ‘down at heel’.  The validity of the ‘Police Enforcement Cameras’ signage’ has also been questioned.

Other Initiatives

Unauthorised destruction of woodland at Noctorum: The Society had taken a lead role in seeking to ensure that the perpetrators of the felling of these statutorily-protected trees, were brought to account.  The Society was pleased to note that Wirral Council did successfully prosecute the perpetrators, but unfortunately, only a nominal fine was levied and there was no requirement to replant, which was disappointing.

Other Activities

  • Summer Meeting – We held a most interesting and well-attended Summer Meeting at Hooton Park, to visit the World War One Hangars used by the Royal Flying Corps.
  • Victor Smith Memorial Lectures – It’s good to report again, that the Lectures have been well supported, which continue to make the evenings especially pleasurable occasions. The Committee is again most grateful for this support, to Lilian Potter for her organisation and to Wallasey Golf Club for again making its splendid Clubhouse available for these events, this year. The combined lecture and ‘Hot-Pot’ supper was held at ‘The Wallasey Golf Club and was also a great success.
  • Wirral Conservation Area Forum:  The Society has a representative on this Committee, which is doing sterling work to help Conservation Areas in Wirral Borough. It has been especially gratifying that they have produced a Guidance Leaflet for those owning, or seeking to own, a property in Conservation Area.  Help is also being given to those Areas, which don’t have active help.

Award

Civic Design Award

This Award has been recently introduced to recognise outstanding restorations or of well-designed new buildings in the Peninsula. The Award in this year was made in recognition of the excellent flat development in Wallasey Village, by Messrs Hardman.

Society Support

  • Subscribing members – We are most grateful to you for continuing to subscribe to the Society’s work.  We are always keen to increase our membership, as this provides funds for us to fight to preserve the Wirral and raises our profile with Councillors and MPs.  Could I ask if you would encourage anyone you know, who might be interested in supporting our work, to join the Society?  We have copies of a Leaflet & Application Form available for this purpose.  Please contact Avril Wilmshurst, who will provide you with what you need.

Executive Committee

Committee members – May I, on your behalf, thank all the Committee members for their commitment and hard work during this year. We have been especially pleased to co-opt two new Committee members this year from South Wirral; Mr Alan Passmore from Neston and Mr Nick  Hebson from Ellesmere Port

Wirral Society Representation

I am grateful to the following members for representing us on various other groups during this period:

  • Yvonne Sanne (CPRE Cheshire Branch Executive)
  • David Casement (Wirral Tree Wardens)
  • Neil Parry (CPRE Cheshire Branch Planning Forum & Wirral Coastal Partnership)
  • DianaLane (Wirral Coastal Partnership & Merseyside Civic Society)
  • Audrey Platt (Wirral Conservation Area Forum)
  • And to others for attending ‘one-off’ meetings and staffing events on behalf of the Society, notably the Wirral History Fair. and Elizabeth Davey & Yvonne Sanne for distributing Society literature at West Kirby Farmers’ Market

Publicity & Membership

My grateful thanks also to:

  • ‘Wirral Matters’: Judith Railton, who has put so much effort into preparing the most interesting editions this past year. We also thank Jim Hunter, for his topical cartoons.
  • Web-site: Nick Lauro and to Neil Parry for their work in maintaining it.
  • Membership: Avril Wilmshurst, for her invaluable work in maintaining our Membership Records.
  • Visits & Speakers:  Diana Lane for her organisation of our meetings for members’.
  • Administration:  My thanks to David Casement for his efforts to ensure all the paperwork for our meetings is available

That concludes my Report for this period.  Thank you again for all for your support.

Rod Tann, Chairman

February 2016

Society Accounts

We have made the Society Annual accounts available to download from this website in PDF format.