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!
“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.
1. Hoylake Golf Resort
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.
2. Saughall Massie ‘Community’ Fire Station
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.
3. Eastham Greenbelt Issues
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.
Following the Burton Manor Friends recent AGM, we have been informed that there was a presentation during the meeting given by the new developers for the Burton Manor site & College building. The developers in question, are the same group who are building the Dee View houses & apartments on the Alexandra Hall site in Heswall and their proposal for Burton Manor Continue reading “Burton Manor News”→
It has been brought to our attention about two petitions that are currently running against Wirral Council, one opposing the proposed Hoylake Golf Resort and the other regarding the introduction of car parking charges at Wirral’s Country Parks.