Wirral Local Plan Greasby
One of the sites earmarked for green belt release, north of Greasby

Wirral set to cut green belt in Local Plan

Charlie Schouten

Wirral’s Local Plan is set to cut the amount of green belt land in the borough from around 46% to 32% by releasing nearly 50 sites for development.

Sites across the borough have been put forward for green belt release in the Local Plan, due to be discussed by the council’s cabinet next Monday.

The sites vary in size but include 10 areas in Bebington; seven in Clatterbridge; eight in Eastham; and three in Heswall; as the council aims to deliver 800 homes per year over the next 15 years, adding up to 12,000 more houses across the borough through to 2033.

The council is targeting a “brownfield-first” approach to development and has earmarked a series of major sites for housing; the largest of the sites allocated for housing in the plan is the former Acre Lane Resource Centre, which covers 21 acres and was sold by the council in 2016.

Housing sites also include Wirral Waters which is set to include 1,100 homes as part of a major masterplan for the area. Around 825 homes across the borough could be developed within the next five years, while a further 2,000 are set to come forward in between 11 and 15 years.

Overall, the borough is looking to deliver around 4,000 homes every five years, but only has an existing land supply for 7,600 homes, excluding land to be released from the green belt.

As well as housing, 37 sites to be allocated for new employment development. The largest of these are as part of the Birkenhead Dock Estate, where at Bidston Dock 26 acres will be set aside for logistics and business use, while the former RHM mills, covering 35 acres, is also being put forward for industrial development.

Other large sites in Bromborough – including the former Lubrizol site; RV Chemicals; and a former Ministry of Defence site at Old Hall Road – have also been named as areas for potential new employment use.

Only eight sites have been recommended for exclusion from the borough’s employment land supply, mainly those that have already been earmarked for other uses including residential and extra care developments.

Wirral had been heavily criticised by the Government for its lack of Local Plan earlier this year, with then-Housing Secretary Sajid Javid writing to the authority due to “consistent failure” and “no exceptional circumstances to justify… such little progress.”

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

If signed off by the council next week, a period of consultation will begin in September, with the results coming before cabinet in December. In the same month, the cabinet will be required to sign off the final text of the Local Plan, and a final decision will be made by full council in July next year.

Cllr George Davies, cabinet member for housing & planning, said: “Wirral must have a Local Plan. It is a legal duty, and the policy which guides and determines how our borough can be developed in the coming years.

“It is crucial our Local Plan is designed base on the unique needs and character of our borough, and the needs of our residents.

“The Government has set Wirral a target, which means it must make enough land available to allow for 12,000 new homes to be built in Wirral by 2035. We know, and so do Government ministers, that we do not have enough brownfield or urban land to enable housebuilding of this scale.

“This is why we will be talking to residents through an extensive plan of community consultation over the coming weeks. We are legally obliged to review our green belt land, and while making any of those sites available for development will be our last resort, it has been made unequivocally clear to us that if we do not do it, it will be taken out of our hands.

“We will meet our statutory obligations, we will develop a Local Plan which meets residents’ needs, but we must and will do everything we can to protect the special character of Wirral.

“This consultation is vital, and I hope every Wirral resident is able to get involved and make their voice heard.”

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Wirral say they will demand use of Brownfield sites first, this may happen however, apart from tax concessions developers always have a need for fresh new green field sites, ” It is a legal duty”, Hey so what wont affect the decision makers only our children 30 years on,

Next they will be demand some of the golf clubs land!!

By CBA

These local plans are anything but, and simply bump local authorities into doing the government’s bidding. London’s property market is overheated as a result of unfettered profit taking. Ruining other cities is no response to that, and we are simply getting soulless houses and flats that nobody really wants, while other areas go to pot. The only winners are those that make profits from house building.

By Mike

This is lazy political intervention that will change the character of the Wirral that gives it a unique value. The Wirral recently announced its preferred developer partner for Wirral Made specifically to bring forwards regeneration led development – where is the outcome this? We need joined up thinking to bring development in places where development is needed, and at a density that is transformative – not low density housing that merges towns together and expands on area’s that don’t need developing. I would ask for the proof that there is not a joined up approach first before targeting the value of the borough…. from my experience there are numerous sites that could be brought forwards that are not providing value (economically or socially) which are prime sites for redevelopment and would have wider regeneration impact.

By who is running this place

I totally support the idea of new housing but I have two major problems with this plan:

1) There is no chance that developers will build on brown field sites when they can max out on green belt land. The moment this land is designated the builders will target it ASAP and go straight to appeal (and win) if planning permission is refused. Expect central Birkenhead and Wirral Waters to remain substantially derelict for the next century.

2) Sadly, these 12,000 houses will consist of six, near identical cuboid designs, devoid of any character or distinguishing features (let alone, chimneys!), built in cheap and (completely inappropriate for the Wirral) orange and red brick, and so shoddily constructed that those which haven’t already fallen down will be condemned or designated as slums within a century.

By Moomo

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