May 2019 Roundup

May 2019 has been quite eventful for us, what with local elections and the continued collective fight we are supporting to protect Wirral’s greenbelt. We also have the Summer edition of ‘Wirral Matters’ available for download in PDF form from our Wirral Matters Archives page on this website.

Out with the old boss, but what does it mean for the greenbelt?

Phil Davies, ex-Leader of Wirral Council, looking disappoinrted with the result of the local council election results in 2019
Disappointed? No more than we were with the persistence of the Hoylake ‘Golf Resort’ idea or Wirral Council’s confusing greenbelt policies. Stunned ex-Council Leader Phil Davies, election night, May 2019.

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” as the song says about not being fooled again! Following the loss of overall control of Wirral Council by the ruling Labour party and the pre-election resignation announcement of the outgoing Leader, Phil Davies, we wait to find out what new Council Leader, Pat Hackett, has to say about Wirral’s greenbelt. Notably, we are concerned about the unpopular Hoylake ‘Golf Resort’ project, an idea seemingly only supported by the ex-Council Leader.

The previous Cabinet also let greenbelt go for the new ‘Community’ fire station at Saughall Massie under their watch, so it is no wonder Wirral’s environmental watchdogs have little faith in recent events.

But going forward, there are still many questions needing answers – does the new Council Leader support his predecessors’ belief in the project? What is the role of the West Kirby Charity who own key parcels of land on the proposed site? What guarantees or financial penalties have been agreed with the potential developers in case the scheme (we hope) gets dropped?

We also wonder how the new Council Leader will approach the Local Plan which is still work-in-progress and continues to pose the threat of greenbelt development. We now understand that because the Council had not met earlier housing targets set by central Government, Wirral’s new housing target under the Local Plan has been increased by 20% which means a staggering 14,000 new properties during the time scale the new Local Plan has to cover! Not what we wanted to hear…

Hoylake heroes!

We must also congratulate Phil Simpson of the Stop Hoylake Golf Resort Action Group (SHGRAG) on his campaigning against our Council’s stance on greenbelt issues. As a Society with a Constitution and Registered Charity status, we are bound by rules which (rightfully) require us to  remain politically unbiased. However, the Society are pleased to be able to continue providing help to the SHGRAG via their membership or Wirral Green Space Alliance (WGSA), by helping to fund professional advice and contributions towards printing costs.

We are very concious of their great efforts to protect Wirral’s greenbelt and their many hours of personal time and similarly, personal expenditure, which has gone into providing another effective voice against the destruction of our greenbelt.

New blood!

Whilst Wirral’s environmental campaigners have been baying for the blood of Council officials for ignoring underlying threats to our greenbelt and open spaces, we have some new blood of own to shout about!

We welcome Mrs Vi James who will be involved in looking after the essential task of overseeing the membership side of our Committee’s work. Our current Membership Secretary Avril Wilmhurst will be stepping down from the role which she has diligently occupied and Vi will be ‘learning the ropes’, as they say.

Other news

The ‘Blue Plaque’ scheme which installs a permanent sign in a public place to commemorate a link between that location and a notable person, event or site, have given plaques in honour of Thomas Brassey, Olaf Stapledon (of Stapledon Woods fame), Cyril Scott (composer) and Malcolm Lowry.

In a previous post we reported on the Society’s involvement with laying hedges in Woodchurch. We are pleased to learn another 150 yards/137 meters of hedge are planned to be laid this autumn. The Butterfly Park at New Ferry re-opened during the weekend of 12/13 May, attracting 1,000 visitors and confirming its growing popularity.

Planning roundup

We note that Church Farm at Thurstaston have advertising signage stating they have retail outlets for hire, which is questionable if the location of the outlets is within the greenbelt. A planning application from McCarthy & Stone for a single block of 50 retirement apartments with just 36 parking spaces in Neston has been submitted. We consider its location (Church Lane) to be over-development and would dwarf adjacent properties. Remaining with Neston, we have heard there is the prospect of an application for 200 houses to be built on 5 fields behind the Neston ‘bends’ Leighton Rd area.

Prenton Golf Course are causing a stir with their surrounding community with their plan to ‘enable’ the building of 22 new houses adjacent to greenbelt, plus an extension of their Club House in the Green Belt. There are no ‘Very Special Circumstances’(VSC) presented for this application and we have objected.

Boathouse Lane in Parkgate has an outline application for residential properties (are they to be built on stilts?) and an underground house, which offers no evidence of ‘VSC’ supporting it. We have lodged our objection along with the Parkgate Society.

At Whitehouse Lane in Barnston, a repeat of an application to demolish existing dwellings and construction of a new residential development of 10 apartments has been submitted, to which we have objected. An application to demolish Willow Cottage in Banks Road, Heswall has been submitted. In its place, a detached, single-storey dwelling has been proposed with which we have concerns regarding its sizing. There have been several historical development applications at that site to which the Heswall Society and the Wirral Society have opposed.

If at first you don’t succeed…

For the third time, Housing (Charity) Magenta is applying to develop 14 ‘town Houses’ on the site of sheltered housing at Ashton Court in West Kirby. This current building has been empty for a number of years now, and it has been noted in local media outlets how unusual it is for a ‘Social Housing’ developer to pursue a build outside of a remit of ‘affordable’ accommodation. The two previous applications were refused and dismissed for not providing ‘affordable’ accommodation.

At Carr Farm in Meols, a repeat application for ‘Foot Golf’ has been submitted, though it appears it is already operating with a hut acting as a clubhouse. A planning application for a hand car-wash at the farm was refused some years ago, yet Wirral Borough Council have failed to enforce their refusal and the car-wash continues to operate! There appears to be a problem with enforcement in the Planning departments of many councils, so Wirral are not alone in their situation. We understand from David Ball, they simply do not have the resources in money or manpower to rigorously enforce planning refusals.

There is more embarrassment to be found for Wirral Council in the Supreme Court, where it has been ruled that the owners of Thornton Manor Marquees were in clear breach of planning conditions, due to a blunder by Wirral Council. The marquees, which were erected erroneously, have now been ordered to be removed. For those who enjoy the finer details of such sagas and want to learn more about this, we urge you to visit the John Brace website for a report on this issue.