Our Involvement Responding to Wirral Council’s Consultation on its Draft Local Plan
In view of the crucial importance of the public contribution to this Plan, under Regulations 18 & 19, the Society continues to be heavily involved in responding to this Consultation –
- Involvement in coordination of voluntary effort – it is centrally involved in an ad-hoc group – the Wirral Green Spaces Alliance (WGSA) – set up especially to coordinate the voluntary response to the Consultation.
- Professional advice – through WGSA, it is also a major financial contributor toward obtaining such advice, and organiser of the special ‘Just Giving’ bank account. Professional advice is now considered essential to meet the situation, by the engagement of –
- a planner – who is employed through our affiliate body – the Campaign to Protect Rural England – to provide a written response to all the many questions posed in the Consultation document.
- a barrister – specialising in planning law – now made more necessary following Wirral Council’s engagement of similar legal support.
- Through direct meetings with the Council – Rod Tann, our Chairman recently attended a meeting organised by the WGSA with the senior officers and Lead Councillor from Wirral Council who are collectively responsible for the development of the Local Plan. WGSA aim was to –
- place on record the difficulty experienced by many people who had sought to become involved in the Consultation. The difficulties were mainly the awkwardness of negotiating the website, the sheer size and extent of documents, together with knowing how best to answer the many specialised questions being posed.
- emphasise WGSA’s main objective -to explore whether it was possible to work more closely with the Council in achieving a Local Plan for the Borough which everyone can be happy with. It was recognised by everyone that the chances of satisfying the Government Inspector would be much greater, should such mutual cooperation could be demonstrated when the Plan was examined
- confirm WGSA’s wish to give its support for Option 1b of the current Draft Plan, whereby house-building figures are ‘stepped up’ from the existing base with less than pro-rata growth in the first Five Year Period, making it easier to satisfy demand from ‘brownfield’ sites alone.
- make the point the Council’s main objective of confining future development to previously developed land could be achieved much more easily if it would have the courage to formally follow up Government advice to make the case for ‘Exceptional Circumstances’, aimed at reducing the grossly excessive starting figure of trying to build 12,000 houses over the 15 years of the Plan’s life, particularly as that figure would exclude most conversions, upgrades and replacements. Such an extremely high figure would relate to around 20,000 homes in total and an additional population of 20-30, 000 when Wirral’s population over many years has been rather static and no upward trend has been detected nor prompted by Council Policies.
- make available to the Council, the statistical and other work that WGSA had been done to demonstrate that demand for housing would be significantly less than the current high target figure. (This was done the same day).
- commend the Council on the impressive results it had achieved in the programme the Council had run over a number of years, to reduce the number of ‘Empty Homes’ in the Borough. WGSA felt there was no reason why these consistently high results should not be projected forward to be added in to the housing availability statistics at a higher level than currently proposed.
- A further meeting has now been arranged with Council officers to examine statistical evidence in greater detail.
- Meeting re Leverhulme Estates – we have also just met with consultants acting on behalf of the Estate. The Trustees are keen to seek the views of local voluntary organisations on their wish to improve environmental aspects of their land in the Peninsula. Many ideas were advanced by the groups attending and the meeting was thought to be a major advance, considering the lack of communication with the Estate since the land went into Trust ownership. It’s hoped the dialogue will be continued.