Chairman’s Update, October 2019

Rod Tann’s Autumn Roundup

As we slip into Autumn, the Society’s Chairman, Rod Tann, writes on current issues facing Wirral’s fragile balance between concrete and countryside.

Over to Rod…          

The Wirral Society aims to take an interest and act wherever possible, on environmental issues wherever they arise in the Peninsula.  Here are some current issues which affect us in the NW corner of Wirral

Wirral Waters

Artist_impression_of_Wirral_Waters_design
One of the many artist impressions of what Wirral Waters could look like.

Regular readers will know of the continuing support this Society has for the enterprising developments being put on stream by Peel Land & Property at the Wallasey / Birkenhead Docks.  We were pleased to see that contracts had been exchanged for the first housing development, which will comprise 500 apartments and 100 ‘affordable’ homes; work is due to start later this year.  We are particularly pleased to see that the scheme has received warm support from Wirral Council.

Councillor Hackett, the Leader of the Council, quoted in the Wirral Globe, sums it up well when he says, “This is a fantastic result for many different reasons.  It kick-starts development at Wirral Waters, helping to transform Birkenhead’s dockland and attracting new businesses and visitors to the area. It also provides the homes on a key brown-field site, limiting any potential need to release Green Belt land.”

We hope the Council will continue to provide Peel, and other companies, with similar positive support to bring vacant land in the urban area of the Borough back into use.    

The Stables and Adjacent Glebe Land, Rectory Road, West Kirby

The Society has been made aware of the possible sale of this land by the Diocese of Chester, following an approach by a property developer to build a care home on the site.

Glebe-field_West_Kirby
Glebe Land at West Kirby, targeted by developers for planning permission.

We understand that Glebe land exists to support the finances of the diocese and as a charity the Diocesan Board of Finance was required to maximise income for the Diocese. However, although we gather it may be some time before any transaction takes place, we will be reminding the Diocese that this land and its buildings is recognised under the Council’s Unitary Development Plan as an especially important part of the West Kirby Old Village Conservation Area.   As such, this attractive area is much enjoyed by visitors and residents alike and is an integral part of what makes the town such an attractive place.

We are aware St Bridget’s Parochial Church Council has already made an objection and has suggested there may be scope for the land to be taken over by the community.  We will be strongly opposing any building development on this land as indeed we hope the Council will should it receive such an application. 

Glebe-field_from_Rectory_Road_West_Kirby
View of the Glebe land from the stables.

Hoylake Foreshore

Hoylake_Promenade_near_old_lifeboat_station
Grass clearing at Hoylake. Swimming against the tide?

We learned that Hoylake Village Life held a public presentation at the Old Town Hall, Hoylake, entitled: ‘A Sustainable Vision for Hoylake Beach’. The presentation looked at the underlying issues and coastal processes that are influencing current changes on the North Wirral Foreshore at Hoylake, such as sand accretion and beach level rise, reductions in tidal reach, and how future beach management activity needs to respond to these changes. The question asked was, ’Do you think local councillors, the Local Authority and Natural England should develop a more economically and environmentally sustainable Beach Management Plan for 2020-2030 and for future generations?’

HVL have produced a very interesting document which you can download containing some good information about the current state of the beach and exploding some local myths about the grasses.

Proposed Hoylake ‘Golf’ Resort:

We were pleased that Wirral Council has decided not to enter into a separate agreement to lend £26m to the Nicklaus Joint Venture Group (NJVG) to help fund this Celtic Manor project. If, as it seems, the Council is set on increasing the distance between itself and the developers, then should a planning application be submitted, the Planning Officer would now be able to put forward a recommendation free of any constraints.

It is worth repeating that should such an application be submitted containing the current proposal which required breaching the Wirral Green Belt with a 160+ housing development, this should surely in itself be sufficient to lead to an automatic recommendation to refuse permission.  We can see no case for any exceptions to be made on such a proposal, either by the Council or, on Appeal, by the Government’s Planning Inspectorate. We hope the developers will now seek Pre-Application Advice from the Council and save themselves a lot of money!

However, it is disturbing that the Council entered into an agreement with NJVG earlier in the year, which appears to tie the Council into the project as a whole.  Our understanding is that if the Council were to go back on this agreement, then it would cost us, as taxpayers, some £20m. The legality of the scheme and any arrangements with NJVG must surely be investigated by an independent authority.  Also, it still remains of much concern that the Council became involved in the first place, in a major development in the Green Belt, contrary to its own Local Plan.

We have also been trying to establish the position of the Trustees of the West Kirby Charity, which owns key parcels of land between Hoylake and West Kirby. So far, we have had no response to our enquiries.

Farmland_at_Hoylake
Farmland at Hoylake still under threat from the mysterious obligations of a Development Agreement we were never supposed to see.

Proposed Flood Defence at West Kirby

We continue to be concerned that the proposed £3m West Kirby Promenade Wall does not appear to have been assessed for its impact on tourism and hence footfall to the local businesses.  Will this scheme have an impact upon the town’s attractiveness to day-visitors?  We have heard that a reduced footfall has already been felt in West Kirby with the closure of two bank branches.

Rod Tann