Currently the most important issue concerning the Society is-
The future of Wirral (Borough’s) Green Belt
The Society – along with many people reading this contribution – will have been shocked by the headlines, published in recent editions of the Wirral Globe, telling us that the Council has no alternative but to allow the release of large quantities of Green belt land for housing.
We know policies are shifting nationally, but the proposals the Council is putting forward seem to fly in the face of the original objectives of the Green Belt. Far from checking the unrestricted sprawl of built-up areas, the sites selected seem to be encouraging it as they are tacked onto the periphery of already developed areas.
The key Green Belt principle of preventing neighbouring settlements merging into one another also seems to have been completely ignored.
It goes without saying that, in general, the proposals do not assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment. In particular, looking at the maps, they seem to be heavily targeted on undeveloped land just to the east of the motorway, regardless of whether it is farmland or not. Worst of all, there seems no attempt to preserve the setting and special character of historic settlements, for example Eastham.
While paying lip service to assisting in urban regeneration by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other previously used urban land, there seems no real commitment by Wirral Council to this; thus developers are inevitably going to target the greenfield sites first.
We, in the Society, are trying to establish why things have reached this stage. We are still convinced that the Council’s own overly optimistic economic forecast for the Borough was the cause of the excessive predicted “housing need” in the first place, and this over-estimate has now been accepted by the Government. Probably to help its own national housing targets, it is now telling the Council to continue that rate, of 800 houses per year, over the lifetime of the Local Plan to 2035. With a realistic economic forecast we are sure the need for taking Green Belt land would disappear. Unfortunately, this takes us into the realm of challenging statistics and targets……….!
The official Consultation on the content of the Council’s Draft Local Plan, of which this Green Belt issue is a key part, begins in September and continues for 6 weeks. We urge everyone to take an interest. The Society, for its part, intends to be fully involved. We have plans for meetings to be convened of representative people with a special interest in the matter in order to consider what is being told to us during the consultation process. We can then hopefully benefit from each other’s thoughts and speak with a unified voice.
The Wirral Society is keen to invite people who would like to lend us their support, which would add to our lobbying strength. The subscription is just £10 a year. You can join online or contact our membership secretary, Mrs Avril Wilmshurst on 051-200 3920. A number of illustrated talks on environmental matters relating to the Peninsula can be provided on request.