Elite Land Group has submitted plans for 28 houses on playing fields in Prenton, where six previous proposals have been refused, the most recent being overturned on appeal in November 2016.
Advised by planning consultancy Roman Summer, Elite is applying for full planning permission for the demolition of a house on Glenavon Road, and its replacement by a single dwelling with an access point to the playing fields at the rear, where 28 four-bedroom houses would be built.
Planning officers recommend approval “subject to the response from consultation following referral to the Secretary of State”. The committee meets next Thursday.
Although the Inspector allowed the 2016 appeal, an entirely fresh application is required due to a condition requiring provision of affordable homes – the 2016 proposal, submitted by Heswall-based Design Planning, was originally 100% affordable, which was later reduced, and has now become a scheme that will be 100% market value.
The Liverpool-registered developer cited viability, noting in addition that it believed residents in the area to be opposed to affordable housing at the site. Elite is to make a contribution to off-site affordable housing instead.
Over the course of 40 years, six proposals for the Pershore House School playing fields site have been refused, including a tennis club, a nursing home and several schemes proposing the use of some or all of the site for housing. Two further applications have been withdrawn. The fields are no longer in use by the private school, which closed in 2000, and are in private ownership.
Letters to 62 addresses have been sent as part of the consultation for the new proposal, resulting in 25 objections by the time officers compiled their report for committee. Statutory consultee Sport England is also opposed, stating that sports facility provision should be made at an alternative site.
Although the council does not wish to see its already below adequate level of sports pitches reduced further, the site is inaccessible due to its ownership, leaving the local authority little room for manoeuvre.
The officers’ report states: “The proposed development is a departure from the Wirral Unitary Development Plan, as the site is identified as a sports ground on the UDP Proposals Map and in UDP Proposal RE6 ‘Sports Grounds for Protection from Development’. Material considerations must be identified to outweigh the provisions of the statutory development plan in favour of the application before planning permission could be granted.”
Wirral’s Playing Pitch Strategy, adopted in 2017, states that if loss of the pitches is inevitable, replacement provision must be made. However, the planning statement prepared by Roman Summer points out that the UDP is now 18 years old and was prepared at a time when the fields were still in use.
Roman Summer further suggests that Wirral “cannot sensibly suggest” that it has a five-year housing supply.
Furthermore, the principle of development is now established, with the Planning Inspector’s report following the 2016 refusal stating that a playing fields contribution, in addition to affordable homes commitment, would be unfair.
The Inspector wrote: “In effect the site currently has no sports or open space value, nor has it had any such value for a long time. As private land it has no access for informal recreation, nor is there any evidence in this area of such land.
“As a school playing field it is redundant, the school is long gone and there is no evidence of another school wishing to acquire it. As a sports field for the wider community it has been little used: when Pershore House School was operational, the head teacher offered the use of the playing field to a football club for use outside school hours, but this was opposed by residents on the grounds of noise and disturbance.”
The professional team also includes architect Studio RBA, Grimshaw Consulting and Tree Studio.