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?
“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.
Wirral Greenbelt Loss Concerns Highlighted In The Press
As the Wirral Council Local Plan disaster unravels itself to Wirral’s public, the Society finds itself in the letters page of the local press (Wirral Globe) with some hard-hitting points about how Wirral’s Greenbelt has been left to the threat of developers, thanks to Wirral Council’s untimely delivery of their Local Plan.
Our Chairman, Rod Tann writes as follows:
THE Wirral Society is horrified at the proposed loss of so much of the Wirral Green Belt.
We believe this is driven solely by the council’s very optimistic predictions for economic and population growth, for which there is no evidence.
The Government seem to have accepted this, and are now expecting Wirral to build over 800 houses in the borough each year until 2035.
The society is not opposed to housing development as such – only where it is in the wrong place, or is unjustified.
As the peninsula is geographically/administratively an island, there is no room for outward expansion, so our Green Belt is already doing its main job of separating townships.
Much of it is also in production as farmland – and we all need food!
The society would welcome more members to strengthen our voice to oppose this destruction.
Adding to the criticism is Society member, Nick Lauro:
IN reply to Cllr Davies’ response to Prof Gregg’s letter, it seems Cllr Davies is trying to defend the indefensible.
It was his council who have failed to deliver their Local Plan on time, now paying the price for being asleep on the job.
Instead of leaving this until the 11th hour, they should have been taking care of business, perhaps utilising those skills of the “best people” they hire on six-figure remuneration.
We hear incredible sound bites from the Council leader about the future panacea to all Wirral’s problems – the Wirral Growth Company – yet when it comes to basic obligatory housekeeping, like delivering a Local Plan, they fall at the first hurdle.
Wirral Council under its present leadership have brought this situation upon their own heads and they cannot simply blame Peel Holdings for putting our Green Belt under the threat of development.
The council made the decision to put all their eggs in one basket with Peel.
Did they not think to have a contingency plan, should their golden goose fail to lay all of its eggs?
It’s a bit like the naughty schoolboy failing to deliver his homework on time, despite repeated warnings of the consequences, then complaining when the teacher delivers the punishment for failure; except in this scenario, the whole class end up suffering.
We must stress, we are not the only people to write in with our concerns, there are many none-Society Wirral residents who also share our shock and anger at the way our elected representatives have left our Greenbelt wide open for assault. As always, we remain apolitical on this issue, though we do note the increase in heated exchanges by local Councillors of all political persuasions on the issue of the Local Plan.
We also note a surge in our membership as a result of this latest threat to Wirral’s green lungs; by standing together, we have a collective voice and a richer base to draw ideas from. This is the greatest threat we have seen to Wirral’s Greenbelt for some years and we urge all to join us in a collective voice saying “No!” to this ideology.
“Things come in threes” So the saying goes, but in this case, we have no less than four worrying Greenbelt issues to contend with at the time of writing.
1. Hoylake Golf Resort
Wirral Council’s very own ‘vanity project’ rumbles on, threatening to remove a large piece of Greenbelt land between Hoylake and West Kirby for a so-called ‘Golf Resort’. We, along with many other people in the locality believe the idea is doomed to failure and is actually part of a more elaborate plan to remove the land from the Greenbelt for future housing expansion. This would be a long, drawn out process, but removing the Greenbelt status with outline planning permission would be the first step to a very lucrative goal. Call us cynical if you like, but we’ve been watching Wirral change since the 1920s and this has many hallmarks of a different, long-term plan.
However, in an unexpected twist, we saw Wirral’s current council leader, Phil Davies publically declaring his support for Wirral’s Greenbelt against Government housing targets. Our Chairman, rightly so, wrote to Councillor Davies welcoming his statement to support the retention of our Greenbelt and recognising the difficulties in satisfying unrealistic housing targets set by central Government. Although we welcome his open commitment to protecting Wirral’s Greenbelt, we do find it at odds with the council’s current investment policy to remove a large swathe of land from Greenbelt and build a golf course, Hotel and ‘luxury’ houses in its place. We can only hope our council have a change of heart and echo the commitment of their leader’s words to retain the few green jewels left in Wirral’s crown. In the meantime, we ask supporters of Greenbelt to sign the online petition against Hoylake Golf Resort.
2. Saughall Massie ‘Community’ Fire Station
Far from being welcomed by the local community, the saga of this proposed ‘community’ Fire Station continues, despite being refused planning permission in December 2016. Although we welcomed the Wirral Council Planning Committee’s decision on the matter, we were quite alarmed that the majority of the Planning Committee did not put the retention of the Greenbelt as a major deciding factor.
They were certainly correct in identifying the negative impact it would have on adjacent residents in sheltered housing accommodation, but we find their overlooking of the Greenbelt issues quite worrying. It seems that the Planning Committee are mainly concerned with judging any resubmitted application on the content which addresses improving the negative impacts the original plans had on local residents. However, there seems to be little concern shown amongst the committee for their obligations to Wirral’s own UDP and National Planning Policy Framework regarding the building on Greenbelt.
Merseyside Fire & Rescue Authority have also applied to have ‘Jenny’s Wood’ (a piece of land home to a wood of young trees on the surrounding Greenbelt) to be exempt from an Environmental Impact Assessment which is another hurdle that slows down the planning application process. Environmental Impact Assessments are the responsibility of those making planning applications on sensitive areas and we believe that having had their original plan rejected, they should not be exempt from any part of due planning process when the loss of precious Greenbelt is at stake.
The Wirral Society will continue to play their part in trying to ensure that the decision-makers on this unwanted application are made well aware of the many reasons why the move to this site is both unnecessary and unsuitable. You can register your opposition to the resubmitted plans on the council’s planning portal and we ask as many readers to do so to send a clear message supporting the retention of the Greenbelt.
3. Eastham Greenbelt Issues
We learn from the Eastham Village Preservation Association that a piece of Greenbelt lying within the ancient Eastham Village is under threat from housing development.
Old Anselmians Rugby Club wish to redevelop land they own inside Eastham Village with a view to building 21 houses, a new clubhouse and 150 space car park, plus a new access road. Eastham Village is also a Conservation Area, which makes any such application doubly contentious.
Thornton Hough Community Trust inform us that the Greenbelt within their area is under threat from Leverhulme Estates who have plans to build a ‘Continuing Care Facility’ at the heart of the village. Anyone who has visited Thornton Hough knows that it is quite like a time capsule to old Wirral, probably very much in keeping with the era of ‘Nomad’ himself, Norman Ellison.
Some things are better left untouched and Thornton Hough is certainly well worth protecting so we would ask people to support the village Community Trust and sign their online petition against any future development of the village.