We hope everyone reading this is in good health during these very strange times. Despite the difficulties and fears which come with a pandemic like Corona Virus, we are still acting as a Society and trying to keep everyone in the loop about changes to Wirral’s landscape, as well as its man-made features. Therefore, we are happy to be able to bring you a summary on what we have been doing over the past few weeks.
Here is a summary of items we are currently monitoring and acting upon, where we feel it is necessary.
Wirral Council’s Draft Local Plan Consultation
At present, the Council is progressing with its “Issues and Options” Consultation for the Draft Local Plan (Reg 18). We welcome the Council’s ‘Preferred Option’ of retaining the Green Belt and developing the many acres of brown field land. However, the Council still considers it has to go along with the Government’s target of 12,0000 new houses over the plan period with one assume some 20,000 to 30,000 new residents.
As such the Council is still including the ‘option’ of destroying Green Belt land in the Borough with housing. It is not clear where the additional “social infrastructure” to support this massive influx of people will be coming from and how the Council would pay for additional “social costs”.
With the Corona Virus outbreak it is not possible to say how this will progress. In light of the new situation, the Council decided to put back the closing date for responses. We hope as many people as possible responded to that consultation.
Other Wirral Borough Matters
There have been very few Green Belt planning applications notified to us. Perhaps all is quiet until the Local Plan is sorted (if ever).
Hoylake Golf Resort
Whilst all has gone quiet on this proposal – which has been running now for some 20 years, we are still worried that the developers will somehow find the money it needs to develop the site, from private sources. This follows Wirral Council’s withdrawal of financial support last year. The development agreement between our Council and the developer NJVG (from 2016) is still valid until the end of 2022.
Hopefully, now the Council has declared a ‘Climate Change Emergency’ it will realise the value of this Green Belt farmland and will keep it undeveloped and available for essential food production – which will then in turn encourage the owners to invest in improving the land.
The Wirral Society has approached the West Kirby Charity who owns the land that would provide the access to the housing estate and Golf Resort from Saughall Massie Road. It has sought an explanation as to why it signed up to the Hoylake Golf Resort, and why it was necessary, given the Charity already had more funds than it was able to distribute.
Former Rock Ferry High School
We have been concerned to learn of a recent fire, which damaged a part of this Listed Building. The building is empty and currently forms part of a planning application to convert this building into flats, along with building new flats on part of the surrounding land.
It is always of especial concern when historic buildings sustain such damage, as it has been know for places to be deliberately damaged, in order for their Listed Building status to be removed, so the site can be cleared. In this case we would like to think this was not so, as it is currently still owned by Wirral Council. It is disappointing though, that more effort has not been put into providing sufficient security arrangements, which might have prevented such a situation occurring. We are hopeful the key historic internal features were not affected. It is now reassuring to note that scaffolding has been erected around the affected area of the building.
For many years now, the relationship between local environmental groups and the Estates managers who act on behalf of the Trustees, has not been good. However, the Society, and other voluntary groups were pleased to be invited to attend a meeting of voluntary groups. This was initiated by agents, comprising an ecologist and a landscape architect, on behalf of the Trustees of the Leverhulme Estates. The purpose was to discuss future land management issues.
The agents accepted that the groups had strong if not total objections to development but wished to explore how they could better manage the large amount of remaining green spaces.
However, the opportunity to share common concerns and ideas was welcomed, recognising that the Trustees own most of the open land in Green Belt on the Wirral Peninsula. The meeting was well attended and proved to be very positive.
The voluntary groups made it clear that this was not a consultation and was not to be interpreted as any endorsement of the development plans. The advisers to the Trustees are aware that they need a better planned and managed green infrastructure and have a great deal of work to do, to mend fences with local groups.
We are optimistic that this occasion might be a turning point in relations, although recognising that the Trustees will be under great pressure from the big builders to support the removal of as much of their land as possible from the Green Belt, so to facilitate house-building.
Threats to Local Urban Green-Spaces
The Society has been advising various local groups of people who have become aware of a potential threat to areas of open land within the urban area.
These, for the most part have been school playing fields, which appear to have either become, or will become, surplus to requirements. We are keen that both Councils’ policies are directed towards any new developments being concentrated within the urban area. However, we also recognise that in doing so, retaining certain open spaces within the urban area is also important to many local people. Whilst public parks are protected, many spaces eg. playing fields, are not.
Action on Fly-Posting by Wirral Council
Wirral Council is at last taking action to reduce the amount of flyposting that takes place on street furniture in the Borough. We have written to Wirral Council, thank it for taking this action and asking for it to continue its efforts.
We have asked that it should, as a Council, set a good example by instructing schools and recreational establishments under its control to desist from fly-posting on their buildings and railings. We are also writing to Cheshire West & Chester Council, to encourage its street-scene team to similarly enforce planning regulations
The Society would like to explore whether there are alternative ways for organisations – many of which are Registered Charities – to advertise their events in a less unsightly manner.
National Lottery Initiative – Approach to Society
The Society’s Committee recently hosted a visit from a consultancy representative commissioned by The National Lottery Community Fund. The commission being to carry out research to help understand the needs and challenges of small organisations around the UK.
We described how our Society operated and informed of the small grants this Society occasionally give to local groups which seek to improve or maintain their local environment. We suggested ways in which we thought The Fund could give special help to such small-scale community organisations citing especially, the many ‘Friends’ groups which operate in the Wirral peninsula.
The Friends of Wirral Parks Forum (Wirral Borough)
This Society tries, wherever it can, to encourage ‘outside’ groups that form in the peninsula, and to provide modest financial assistance where it can.
Over the last few years, we have supported the work of the Friends of Wirral Parks Forum. This voluntary organisation, established in 2014, is a meeting point and voice for individuals, groups and organisations interested in maintaining and enhancing parks, green spaces and beaches across Wirral.
Like many similar organisations, it has relied on a small number of individuals prepared to serve on its committee. At the AGM in February no new members put themselves forward for election, so it seemed as if the Forum would fold as the existing committee intended to stand down en-bloc.
Fortunately, following the intervention of Professor Robert Lee, it was decided to carry on, at least for the present, and a further meeting was arranged for March. It is hoped, that with more input from groups the Forum will continue, perhaps with a less specific title, since not all the members represent Parks, one suggestion for a new name being Wirral Parks and Open Spaces Forum. With so many issues common to Wirral’s open spaces it would be a pity if the Forum foundered
West Kirby: Proposed Anti-Flooding Measures
The proposal to erect a tidal barrier on the promenade, aimed at reducing the impact of storm surges, has been under consideration now for a number of years. However, we learn that questions re now being asked about its cost-effectiveness.
It has never been apparent how successful it could be, given it could not be watertight, and would more likely retain water when the tide had gone out. Additionally, most of the houses and parks are already well defended with strong walls and raised front gardens. Built during Victorian/Edwardian times, there was an understanding that being on the promenade next to the sea would mean building appropriately to mitigate a flood risk!
Cheshire West and Chester Council Area
Compared to Wirral Borough, there is much less planning activity, probably due to the fact that CW&C have an up to date Local Plan…whereas Wirral Borough does not!
Burton Manor: Update on Progress of Bringing the Manor Back to life
When the planning application was lodged, the Society was impressed by the proposals for the restoration of the Grade II Listed Building.
The latest information we have, is that work is almost complete; the scaffolding which completely hid the building was taken down last summer, and Russell Taylor Holdings, an international recruitment agency, the company for whom the work is being done, moved its staff in last year.
There are still some rooms to be taken over on final completion of the building. The ballroom has been made available for local events. Site works have begun for the housing which is to be built either side of the main house and out of view. Throughout this period the Friends of Burton Manor Gardens have continued to maintain the grounds, particularly the walled kitchen garden, and they will continue to do so. A new gateway has been constructed in the sandstone boundary wall to provide pedestrian access to the complex of buildings accommodating the various businesses which have been established there over the years.
Publicising the Society
Illustrated Talks on Wirral Peninsula-Related Topics
Our Chairman, Rod Tann, is willing to take bookings for talks about our area. Recent talks he has given include a talk to Wirral Historical Society on the subject ‘The challenge of Protecting Wirral’s Open Spaces’ and he was also able to record a verbal version for the Wirral Talking Newspaper. He has also spoken to the Wallasey Civic Society on the subject of ‘How Sandstone Shaped the Wirral’.
Anyone interested in booking Rod can reach him by using our contact page on this website.