Letters to The SoS

We ask The Secretary of State to ‘Recover’ Leverhulme’s Planning Appeal

Green belt land at Pensby overlayed with text from a typed letter

Those following the Public Inquiry invoked by Leverhulme Estate’s Planning Appeal to build unneeded new housing on Wirral green belt under their ownership, will know about the many requests sent to the current Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove, asking him to ‘recover’ the Planning Appeal. If he chose to use his powers, this would effectively stop the appeal process and uphold Wirral Council’s decision to refuse the Leverhulme application.

Wirral Council and Wirral West MP, Margaret Greenwood, have both asked for intervention by the Secretary of State to ‘recover’ the appeal.

In addition to ordinary members of the public writing to ask for the same action, we have also made our own representation to the SoS, as have the Cheshire branch of CPRE. In the interests of recording this action, we have decided to publish both letters below:

Letter From our Chairman

Dear Mr Gove

I write on behalf of this old-established amenity Society, whose main aim is to seek the best for this Peninsula.  

This letter adds to the many you have already have received from local organisations and individuals, including one from Rt Hon Margaret Greenwood MP.  You will also have received a letter recently from our colleagues at the Cheshire Branch of CPRE; the content of which we fully endorse. 

The main thrust of those letters has been the concern at the “Planning Conflict” situation now being experienced in Wirral Borough.    The Inspectors undertaking the Examination of Wirral Borough Council’s submitted Local Plan have had to have their work delayed, in order to hear a major Appeal by a property company- Leverhulme Estates – against refusal of 7 Planning Applications.  

These are for the construction of unwanted and unnecessary housing in the Wirral (Borough) Green Belt, prior to any definition of “Housing Need” from the Local Plan.   These Appeals seek to directly overturn the Council’s laudable strategy for the Local Plan of focussing on urban re-generation, assisted by the 5th purpose of a tightly drawn Green Belt boundary. 

The Green Belt here on this peninsula is especially valuable, as it is for geographical and administrative purposes, effectively an island.  There is no room for outward expansion or for a “land swap” of the Green Belt.  

We recognise the Planning Inspectorate is correctly fulfilling its obligations to hear such Appeals within a set period.  However, in this case it is delaying the Local Plan Examination itself and hearing these Appeals before the Local Plan at Examination causes a direct conflict between the two procedures.  Given that this then is a major example of ‘Prematurity’, may we now also add our voices to those who have asked you to intervene, please, even at this late stage?   It is now our understanding that you may indeed now be considering whether these Appeals should be recovered for your decision.  We would, of course, very much support this move.   

In conclusion, we would add two points – that:

  1.  it seems strange to us that the Inspector hearing this Appeal must surely be aware that the Prime Minister and you, yourself, have made it clear there should be no building on the Green Belt.   Given this to be the case, why can this still be an option open to the Inspectorate?  
  2. the reference made in CPRE’s letter to the great imbalance between population survival rates in the east and west of the Borough, makes the Council’s concentration on an Urban Regeneration strategy focussed on the east  of the Borough must be an opportunity not to be missed – especially given it would be fully in line with your Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ Strategy.

Thank you. 

Yours sincerely

Rod Tann


Rod Tann

Letter From Cheshire CPRE

Dear The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP

Request to recover the Leverhulme Planning Appeals for determination by the Secretary of State.

CPRE Cheshire has a long standing interest in Green Belt planning policy designation for the aim of keeping land near to our major conurbations permanently open.  We recognise its value to preventing sprawl and supporting regeneration and we are minded that the Government has a commitment to protect it. 

The seven applications are for 788 dwellings (there is another application for 240 dwellings at Rigby Road (Site H), which were refused by Wirral Council on 10th of February 2023) and Phase One of a much bigger ambition to deliver 7,750 dwellings in the Green Belt of Wirral. 

CPRE considers the appeals are premature, as the submission version local plan is at examination.  Matters being discussed at the Inquiry are relevant to the examination relating to the housing requirement and the housing land supply. 

All elected Council Members support the regeneration focus of the emerging local plan.  If allowed the local plan and specifically the Birkenhead Regeneration Framework will be undermined.  This is a long term ambition of the Council in partnership with Government, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Homes England, major private developer partners, registered providers, and many other stakeholders, including those in education, health, transport, importantly local communities.   

CPRE is part of Wirral Green Space Alliance a group of +30 environmental and civic groups who have engaged with the local authority during the various consultation stages over the past seven or so years.  The local plan evidence base shows there is not a genuine need for the proposed housing in the following applications, in any case there are alternative sites, and the harm arising does not trigger very special circumstances.  The Census 2021 data, which is 2 years old and verified shows that there is less high growth than anticipated.  The principle of using the most up to date data of integrity must be upheld, a position supported by the Office of Statistical Regulation and other leading demographers.

The population of Wirral has strongly objected with + 26,000 representors writing to oppose the harm to Green Belt and other harms arising. People living in the east of Wirral die on average 12 years earlier than those who live in the west.  It is important that the spatial plan is able to strategically steer investment and new development. 

The suite of applications represents a significant departure from national and local planning policies and were refused on sound planning grounds.  CPRE Cheshire therefore requests the following decisions are recovered:

Site A APP/W4325/W/22/3313729 (LPA OUT/22/00946) Land East of Glenwood Drive, Irby,

CH63 1JD 290 dwellings and associated development, 17.4 hectares.

Site B APP/W4325/W/22/3313734 (LPA: OUT/22/00941) Land East of Dale View Close, North

of Gills Lane, Pensby 92 dwellings and associated development, 4.0 hectares.

Site C APP/W4325/W/22/3313737 (OUT/22/00942) Land East of Thorncroft Drive, North of

Gills Lane, Pensby. 15 dwellings and associated development, 0.8 hectare.

SITE D APP/W4325/W/22/3313741 (LPA: OUT/22/00944) Land West of Barnston Road, North

of Gills Lane, Wirral. 153 dwellings and associated development, 7.3 hectares.

Site E APP/W4325/W/22/3313743 (LPA: OUT/22/00943) Land at Milner Road and Barnston

Road 120 dwellings and associated development, 8.4 hectares.

SITE F APP/W4325/W/22/3313775 LPA ref: OUT/22/00945 Land West of Raby Hall, Raby Road,

Raby Mere, CH60 0NN 38 dwellings and associated development, 3.3 hectares.

Site G APP/W4325/W/22/3313777 (LPA: OUT/22/00947) Land East of Raby Hall Raby Road,

Raby 80 dwellings and associated development, 3.7 hectares.

If allowed, the extent of harm will be significant, and in CPRE Cheshire’s view the implication for future decisions would be profound. 

CPRE Cheshire is aware that Margaret Greenwood MP, Wirral Council and others have also requested the decision be recovered. The public interest in this case is extremely high.

Please contact me without delay if you would like to discuss any information concerning this request. 

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Clarke


Jonathan Clarke

It seems that the collective action has worked and according to the Wirral Globe, the Government are actually considering the request. We can only hope the SoS follows through with a decision reflecting the need to keep Wirral’s ‘green lungs’ untouched by concrete, asphalt, breeze-block and brick.

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