Wirral Matters, Summer 2017 Published
Our Summer issue of Wirral Matters is now available. You can download a PDF copy of this edition from our archives.
Our Summer issue of Wirral Matters is now available. You can download a PDF copy of this edition from our archives.
The Society tries wherever possible not to get directly involved in Party Politics, but the attitude of respective Parties to matters which are of direct concern to the Society have, of necessity, to be taken into account.
On Wirral, we face both the threat of losing our precious Green Belt to unnecessary building development and the potential exploration for coal using ‘Fracking’ drilling technology under the Dee Estuary. In accordance with our parent body, CPRE, we stand to try and protect the Wirral environment against the loss of our Green Belt and damage by exploring our precious estuary we share with North Wales from damage caused by UCG exploration. Therefore, we feel it is our duty to highlight each Political Party’s GE2017 manifesto statements on these issues.
Green Belt: Maintain the existing strong protections on designated land like the Green Belt, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Shale Gas: Develop the shale industry in Britain.
Green Belt: warns that the green belt is “under threat”, and promises to “defend and extend existing environmental protections”, without specifically citing the Green Belt among those protections. Labour also pledge to prioritise brownfield sites for development.
Shale Gas: Ban Fracking.
Green Belt: does not include a mention of the green belt, but pledges to “significantly increase the amount of accessible green space … and create a new designation of national nature parks to protect up to one million acres of accessible green space valued by local communities.”
Shale Gas: Oppose Fracking.
Green Belt: Protect our countryside and prioritise brownfield rather than Greenfield or agricultural land for new housing.
Shale Gas: Invest in shale gas exploration.
Green Belt: Strong protection for the Green Belt, National Parks, SSSIs and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Shale Gas: End Fracking.
These are brief summaries and it would seem there is cross-party consensus on the value of our green spaces. However, the fact that a body like CPRE can see no reason for being less proactive is a reminder that we must remain vigilant, despite what the manifestos say!
As expected, the Merseyside Fire Authority has lost no time in spending yet more public money in submitting another Application to Wirral Council to build in the Wirral Green Belt. They have carefully moved the car parking around the building, which they consider will meet residents’ objections and the Planning Committee. However, the Application would still require the operational fire station to be built on protected land close to sheltered housing and just a mile from its Upton station, against resident’s objections. We cannot understand why it is possible for such re-Applications to be made, which barely differ from a previously refused Application. Whilst we have objected most strongly to this new Application, we are however under no illusions that despite all objections, the Planning Committee will give its approval this time around.
There is an application for a housing development, the funds from which will be ‘Enabling development’ to facilitate the restoration of the 14th Century Storeton Hall, which is a Scheduled Historic Monument. ‘Enabling Development’ seems to be the new phrase designed to persuade the Planning Authority to agree to ‘Very Special Circumstances’ to allow building in the Green Belt, where it would otherwise not be allowed.
There are proposals by a ‘Retirement Complex’ developer to develop flats, assisted living accommodation on a former farm, located within the Wirral Green Belt, in this historic village. We have contacted the two opposing groups and hope that they work together and that we can assist in opposing the Application when it arrives.
The Society has been pleased to note that local Councillors have now decided to oppose the 15-year long Council sponsored (taxpayer funded) Hoylake Golf Resort. However, we remain concerned that they seem instead to be backing a smaller scale scheme, which had been put forward in the locality, some years ago. We trust this will not be taken forward. The website www.hoylakegolfresort.uk has many interesting revelations.
Our contact from the Dee Estuary Birding group advises that the scrape remains largely empty and the dry spring weather has meant that the mud has been rapidly drying out making it a sad sight. Nevertheless, some shallow water does remain and this has attracted small numbers of birds including Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks and Shelducks – demonstrating just how important site this site is for our bird life. As the group now has a good understanding of how the scrape was emptied and why it is not refilling, they are confident it can be restored relatively easily. They are hopeful this work can be carried out in time for the returning Black-tailed Godwits in late July; this being one of the most important sites in the country for this species.
We are also advised that at a meeting of the Local Wildlife Sites Partnership in January, the decision to make a large portion of the Hoylake Langfields, including Gilroy Scrape, into a Site of Biological Interest (SBI) was temporarily put on hold whilst more data on bird numbers was gathered. Now this data has been acquired it is expected that SBI status will be given the go-ahead, later this year.
The Conservative group on the Council has been able to call a special Council Meeting, to seek clarification from the Council Leader on his recent statement supporting the Wirral Green Belt and the apparent conflict relating to various Council support for possible developments in the Green Belt. We await the outcome of that meeting with interest.
The Society has been approached by the Caldy Society to support them over an approach from a development company which is interested in developing the triangle of land bounded by Caldy Road, Telegraph Road and Stapledon Woods, for housing. It is a large area and, if successful, would be looking to build at least a hundred and probably more houses there. As the fields are in multiple ownership, there would need to be unanimity in wishing to sell their respective portions of land. With the land being within the Wirral Green Belt, we will be advising the Caldy Society, that the developer would have to be able to make a very good case for proving ‘Very Special Circumstances’ to build there – but we must take such possibilities seriously, in these uncertain times.
As nothing appeared to be happening, following the recent granting of planning permission for new housing on this site, we have been in touch with the Company’s Agents to find out if any progress is being made. We are told the site has been advertised to house-builders, who have had until the end of April to bid for the option to develop the site. The successful bidder is due to be announced in a few months time, and the Agents expect that site-development work will begin early next year. It was confirmed the important Water Feature alongside Pasture Road is definitely an integral part of the redevelopment proposal. This Application has the full support of the Society, as it puts much-needed housing into the urban area, where it belongs, and hopefully will help bring more economic prosperity to Moreton itself.
The local Rugby Club is applying to sell off some of its land for housing to enable the club to continue financially. We have objected as the Green Belt is not to be used as a ‘cash cow’ just because an enterprise in in difficulties. We fear that there will be a repeat of the problem in a few years time and yet more Green Belt will have to be sacrificed. This application is ‘muddied’ by the inclusion of a replacement ‘Community Facility’ for which Wirral Council seems to have been able to pledge some £350,000….if it decides that the planning application should be approved. There are many issues that worry us about this application.
A major change will have taken place on 4th May, when the ‘Metro Mayor’ is elected as part of the introduction of the new Liverpool City Region. The Region includes the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, along with 5 Boroughs north of the River Mersey. This new Combined Authority, under the control of the Metro Mayor, will have significant planning powers in its role of Strategic Planning Authority over the Region.
Amongst those powers will be the overall identification of land suitable for development, notably for new housing. The Mayor will thus become a key player in directing the type and location of development across the 6 Boroughs. We have been encouraged to note in election prospectuses that each of the candidates has pledged to protect the Green Belt and direct new development onto previously-used (‘Brownfield’) land. We hope that those candidates proposing ambitious house-building targets will still be able to honour their commitment to maintain the existing Green Belt, especially in Wirral Borough.
“Things come in threes” So the saying goes, but in this case, we have no less than four worrying Greenbelt issues to contend with at the time of writing.
Wirral Council’s very own ‘vanity project’ rumbles on, threatening to remove a large piece of Greenbelt land between Hoylake and West Kirby for a so-called ‘Golf Resort’. We, along with many other people in the locality believe the idea is doomed to failure and is actually part of a more elaborate plan to remove the land from the Greenbelt for future housing expansion. This would be a long, drawn out process, but removing the Greenbelt status with outline planning permission would be the first step to a very lucrative goal. Call us cynical if you like, but we’ve been watching Wirral change since the 1920s and this has many hallmarks of a different, long-term plan.
However, in an unexpected twist, we saw Wirral’s current council leader, Phil Davies publically declaring his support for Wirral’s Greenbelt against Government housing targets. Our Chairman, rightly so, wrote to Councillor Davies welcoming his statement to support the retention of our Greenbelt and recognising the difficulties in satisfying unrealistic housing targets set by central Government. Although we welcome his open commitment to protecting Wirral’s Greenbelt, we do find it at odds with the council’s current investment policy to remove a large swathe of land from Greenbelt and build a golf course, Hotel and ‘luxury’ houses in its place. We can only hope our council have a change of heart and echo the commitment of their leader’s words to retain the few green jewels left in Wirral’s crown. In the meantime, we ask supporters of Greenbelt to sign the online petition against Hoylake Golf Resort.
Far from being welcomed by the local community, the saga of this proposed ‘community’ Fire Station continues, despite being refused planning permission in December 2016. Although we welcomed the Wirral Council Planning Committee’s decision on the matter, we were quite alarmed that the majority of the Planning Committee did not put the retention of the Greenbelt as a major deciding factor.
They were certainly correct in identifying the negative impact it would have on adjacent residents in sheltered housing accommodation, but we find their overlooking of the Greenbelt issues quite worrying. It seems that the Planning Committee are mainly concerned with judging any resubmitted application on the content which addresses improving the negative impacts the original plans had on local residents. However, there seems to be little concern shown amongst the committee for their obligations to Wirral’s own UDP and National Planning Policy Framework regarding the building on Greenbelt.
Merseyside Fire & Rescue Authority have also applied to have ‘Jenny’s Wood’ (a piece of land home to a wood of young trees on the surrounding Greenbelt) to be exempt from an Environmental Impact Assessment which is another hurdle that slows down the planning application process. Environmental Impact Assessments are the responsibility of those making planning applications on sensitive areas and we believe that having had their original plan rejected, they should not be exempt from any part of due planning process when the loss of precious Greenbelt is at stake.
The Wirral Society will continue to play their part in trying to ensure that the decision-makers on this unwanted application are made well aware of the many reasons why the move to this site is both unnecessary and unsuitable. You can register your opposition to the resubmitted plans on the council’s planning portal and we ask as many readers to do so to send a clear message supporting the retention of the Greenbelt.
We learn from the Eastham Village Preservation Association that a piece of Greenbelt lying within the ancient Eastham Village is under threat from housing development.
Old Anselmians Rugby Club wish to redevelop land they own inside Eastham Village with a view to building 21 houses, a new clubhouse and 150 space car park, plus a new access road. Eastham Village is also a Conservation Area, which makes any such application doubly contentious.
Thornton Hough Community Trust inform us that the Greenbelt within their area is under threat from Leverhulme Estates who have plans to build a ‘Continuing Care Facility’ at the heart of the village. Anyone who has visited Thornton Hough knows that it is quite like a time capsule to old Wirral, probably very much in keeping with the era of ‘Nomad’ himself, Norman Ellison.
Some things are better left untouched and Thornton Hough is certainly well worth protecting so we would ask people to support the village Community Trust and sign their online petition against any future development of the village.