Merseyside Update 2019 (56)
Cllr Pat Hackett, Wirral Council

Wirral leader pledges no Green Belt release in Local Plan

Charlie Schouten and Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Leader of the council Cllr Pat Hackett has promised its upcoming Local Plan will feature no Green Belt release, in a pledge that backtracks from previous proposals to allocate nearly 50 sites for development.

Speaking at Place North West’s Merseyside Update event in Liverpool, Cllr Hackett, who took the helm at Wirral Council following May’s local elections, said the Local Authority was “on target” to complete the Local Plan next year.

“There won’t be Green Belt release as far as we’re concerned: it’s a brownfield-first policy. To prove that point, the Combined Authority see Wirral Waters, for instance, as one of their priority projects and it’s the biggest brownfield site in the North West,” he said.

The pledge marks a major change from previous proposals for Wirral’s ongoing Local Plan, which saw the borough enter a dispute with central Government in 2018 over housing numbers. At the start of the year, the Department for Communities & Local Government threatened to step in because a plan was yet to be implemented; Wirral was set a target of 12,000 homes by 2035, or approximately 800 a year, determined based on the Government’s formula using economic and demographic data.

At the time of the Government’s involvement, the council hit back, arguing the Government was “dead wrong” and said the local authority “neither welcomed nor appreciated the Secretary of State’s overtly political intervention.”

Further debate then followed over the population figures released by the Office for National Statistics, which suggested fewer than 500 homes a year, rather than 800, would be required in Wirral.

While previous leader Cllr Phil Davies and the wider council were resistant to Green Belt release, the draft Local Plan released in July 2018 still cut the amount of Green Belt land in the borough from around 46% to 32%, releasing nearly 50 sites for development, in order to meet the 800 homes a year target.

The sites varied in size but included 10 areas in Bebington; seven in Clatterbridge; eight in Eastham; and three in Heswall. Following Hackett’s comments, the future of these sites is unclear.

A series of major brownfield sites have also been allocated for housing; the largest of the sites is the former Acre Lane Resource Centre, which covers 21 acres and was sold by the council in 2016.

At the time of the draft plan release, the council said it was pushing a “brownfield-first” strategy. Following Hackett’s comments, the approach appears to be the same albeit with a hardened stance against Green Belt release.

Under its original timeline, set out when publishing the draft plan, the Local Authority said a final decision on the Local Plan would be made by full council in July 2020.

Read full coverage of Place North West‘s Merseyside Update here.

Your Comments

Read our comments policy here

More unnecessary delays to the Local Plan then before we end up with the necessary Green Belt release.

Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Wirral UDP and 30 years since work on the UDP began.

With the UDP only seeking to meet development needs up to 2021 it is incredible that Wirral still haven’t had their plan making powers taken off them yet (if they ever had them!).

By Anonymous

Local politicians that prevent the meeting of housing need in this way should be held personally and criminally responsible. For every day they under-supply housing, they should be required to live on the streets and give their own houses to a homeless family for a year.

By Anonymous

Quite right too. Wirral and the broader city region have brownfield and underused sites aplenty, some of which historically were used for extremely high density housing. There is no reason at all to dig up a single field while these are still just sitting there.

By Morgan

Lol, spot the developer comments section.

By Anonymous

After a concerted campaign by the people of Wirral and a large number of concerned groups on the Wirral, we have finally got the message through that we do not need to sacrifice any green belt. We have enough Brownfield sites for approx. 14,000 new homes!!!
We need Social Housing, Affordable Housing and the regeneration of our water front to create jobs, apprenticeships and training for our unemployed and homeless.
We do not need a new golf centre (still under consideration) or executive homes for the few giving the construction companies excessive profits!!
If Pat Hackett is true to his word he will have support but if any politician from whatever political group threatens our Greenbelt we will campaign against them!!!

By Les Harris

That’ll upset a few on here.

By Trent Steele

A comment to pander to the masses. Kicking the can down the street for the Inspector to take the decision out of their hands so they don’t have to make the decision themselves, all the while blaming unrealistic housing targets and interference from Central Govt.

By Anon

This is little more than electioneering from the current administration who know that the issue of green belt release is one of the key concerns for voters and by appearing to side with NIMBYS, they will likely stay in power.

Wirral has deep and complex socio-economic issues and a long industrial past – with many of the industries long gone but widespread contamination left behind; coupled with serious deprivation, many of the brownfield sites in the borough will never be viable without serious grant money from government being committed.

WBC have been burying their heads in the sand for far too many years, and sadly local residents will soon realise that resisting green belt release will shortly mean that the government intervenes to prepare their local plan and the local population will have far less say in where houses are built.

The Wirral has huge assets and fantastic potential, but until investment is welcomed, allowing wealth and jobs to spread into the more deprived areas, the borough will only go backwards.

By Ardy

I have provided Wirral Council with several reports on housing needs since 2018. Using local gov. administrative data such as voter registrations, GP nos.,school places, stamp tax records, emergency services use and so on, the probable housing need from 2020 to 2035 is less than 3,000 not 12,000. The councils own university consultants in December 2018 found an ‘effective demand’ of ~3,500 houses. Using the ‘standard method’ for housing need calculation with ONS 2014 data BUT without the ONS ‘national adjustments’ which distort our numbers I again get needs around 3,000. We need to concentrate on providing social / affordable housing
on brownfield sites – not enable a developer free for all on the green belt.

By Prof. D P Gregg

Seems like (retired) Professor Gregg has come up with yet another ‘housing need’ figure – these figures vary significantly overtime – a year ago it was down at 100 per annum! What Professor Gregg will happily ignore is the aging population and rising affordability crisis in Wirral – he also willfully ignores the fact that Wirral have failed to deliver a sufficient supply of new homes in the last two decades which has suppressed household formation rates, increased net migration, held back employment growth and contributed to the affordability crisis. A nimby with a Ph.D is still a nimby.

By Anonymous

Talk about prejudice the process! So where are these tracts of brownfield land in West Wirral? I do not want a waterfront apartment for my wife, children and dog. I want to live where I grew up and I want my children to stand a chance of living here too. Lets have a sensible discussion and not just hear from the mortgage free settled nimbies rattling around there e bed detached blocking up the housing market. Not all greenbelt is ancient woodland, wildflower meadow and brimming with bunnies. We need more homes! Our leaders need to lead us. You can do all the studies you like, the housing market in West Wirral is nonsense and gentrification is in full steam. As stated by others this is going to end badly if WBC don’t start being sensible… others will decide for us.

By Need a house for my family

Cllr Hackett also confirmed they intend to fully comply with the targets set from government, i.e. the ~800 dwellings per year. It will be interesting to see how they demonstrate they can provide this level of housing on sites that are brownfield, developable and deliverable.

My two cents, for what it’s worth, is that the Plan will fail at Examination in Public (if it is allowed to get that far) and then MHCLG will step in and Arup will write the Local Plan for them.

By NWP

@Need a house for my family The idea in this country that the moment somebody has a partner and child they need to immediately run off to a land wasting cul-de-sac has to be buried once and for all. Apartment living for a broad range of social groups does the rest of Europe no harm whatsoever, and if implemented properly would help turn the city region back into a proper metropolis again.

By Morgan

Sad victory for arrogant nimby boomers living their lovely suburban lives with houses they bought for peanuts and telling everyone else ‘go live on an old factory site miles from a park’.

Still next 5-10 years they’ll become ever more a minority and start to lose their grip as the young demand the same

By SP

“Just sack Pat”

By Bobby Zamora

It is interesting that a number of the comments have referred to us as ‘nimby’s. Yet we have campaigned all over Wirral including the run down and neglected areas of Birkenhead, Rock Ferry, New Ferry etc and collected in excess of 32,000 signatures against the destruction of the ‘green belt, and at least 98% support our cause of saving the ‘green belt’ and are vocal in their support!! So we have been collecting all these signatures from the Wirrals ‘nimby’s???
All the independent reports on Wirrals housing need agree with Prof Greggs figures including 2 University reports the ONS(Government stats) and the councils own figures and it has been said by councillors that the housing figures or grossly overstated!!
If you look at all the Local Authorities across the country they have all developed their water fronts and created jobs within that Social and Economic environment. Look across to Liverpool at the development that is happening then look from Liverpool to the Wirral!!
We need Social Housing and affordable housing on the Wirral and the regeneration of the neglected areas.
We do not need executive houses to make vast profits for the construction companies so they can pay millions in bonuses to there executives.
If this council, as they say, are so short of money, have they claimed back the 50 odd million pounds they have lent to other authorities??
I will leave you with one thought – as all the statistics both local and national state that the population is declining on the Wirral. Them where are the c25,000 people coming from to fill these executive homes?
The council can not answer this question!!!!

By Les Harris