Birkenhead Town Centre 1
Birkenhead town centre is among the areas to be included in the council's local plan

Wirral to extend local plan to 2037 after delays

Sarah Townsend

The council has set out a revised timeframe for the preparation and adoption of its local plan, including consulting on the document from February and extending its lifespan by two years.

Wirral Council aims to approve the publication of the Wirral Local Plan in February 2021, followed by a six-week public consultation after which the plan will be submitted to the secretary of state for examination.

If approved, the local plan would then be fully adopted by mid-2022 and the policies contained in it would cover the period 2020-2037 – an extension of two years compared to the draft document that exists currently.

The revised timeframe comes after the council in July requested more time from the Government to prepare its local plan, following a string of delays and setbacks relating in part to Covid-19.

However, even before the pandemic, Wirral had struggled to agree a final version of its local plan due to controversy over its position on Green Belt release, and other issues.

The council has faced questions from members of the public and councillors since 2018, when it published an earlier version of the Wirral Local Plan that recommended 50 Green Belt sites should be released for residential development.

Earlier this year, the council ran a consultation on the latest version of the plan – a  consultation that was extended by four months to take into account the lockdown – and it intended to spend the summer months reviewing feedback before moving to the next stage of the process and submitting the draft plan to the Government in June.

However, in July, the council asked for more time to collate consultation responses and prepare the document for submission.

“Extending the timescales for preparing and adopting the final local plan will ensure we have developed a robust ‘sound’ local plan that not only protects our green belt but shapes the regeneration needed in our borough, improves the health and lifestyles of our residents and boosts employment opportunities,” Wirral Council’s cabinet member for the local plan, Cllr Anita Leech, said at the time.

Leech said on Friday that the revised timeframe “will ensure we can protect the Green Belt and bring regeneration to those areas which need it”.

She added: “We said a while back that we might need more time but instead we are actually going to speed up the development of the plan. This is because changes in the planning regulations brought in this summer mean any delay could result in an obligation to build even more new homes per year and that would put Wirral’s Green Belt at risk. I will not accept that, so we will press ahead.”

Under the council’s preferred option for development policy, to be enshrined in the local plan, key regeneration locations such as in Birkenhead and Wallasey would play a crucial role in helping deliver the housing needed into the future, with many more brownfield and urban areas across the borough also being put forward meet local housing need.

The plan would also open up opportunities for “major regeneration” of large parts of the eastern side of Wirral, the council said.

Place North West revealed in August that the council is working on the biggest regeneration framework the area has seen in decades, a 20-year plan development roadmap for a stretch of land along the Wirral Peninsula described as the Left Bank.

The development zone would take in areas such as Seacombe, Liscard, New Brighton, Birkenhead, New Ferry and Bromborough.

Wirral Council said on Friday that a stumbling block towards earmarking certain sites for redevelopment is that most brownfield land is privately owned. Although the council is working with landowners and developers to ensure sites are made available, “it may not be possible to meet all the housing need using only brownfield sites so other potential options to deliver the housing have been required to be part of the consultation” it said.

Green Belt release is not, however, the council’s preferred option, and council officers “continue to undertake further intensive work to seek to increase the supply of land in the urban areas”.

 

 

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I think the Wirral would be better served by becoming more integrated with Liverpool city centre.

By Michael McDonut

What will the fall back position be if the brownfield sites can’t be released in the time period. They should at least safeguard some areas of greenbelt release to deliver new homes.

By concerned

Totally agree with Micheal

By George

Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the delay in reaching the Reg19 stage mean that Wirral will have to adopt the new housing figure of around 900 homes per year? This delay will result in the need to allocate land for circa 1,700 additional new homes to be delivered over the Plan period.

This increase from 12,000 to 13,700 will surely only add to the pressure to release Green Belt land. When will WBC stop playing everyone for fools and admit that a considerable amount of Green Belt release is not only inevitable but also being fuelled by their own incompetency.

By Anonymous

The Wirral is so fortunate for being blessed with majestic views of Liverpool. The air, the perspectives, the calm, and the elevated view from Oxton. It`s easy to forget what you have sometimes.

By Liverpool romance

You can’t really integrate the Wirral into Liverpool city centre when there’s the River Mersey in the way. Wirral need to sort their own local plan out.

By SW

Nothing will happen. Liverpool takes priority.

By Heswall

To release more Green Belt land would be a disaster and just play intonthe hands of the property developers and out of town speculators who are fuelling a boom in ‘Executuve’ homes that not enough people in Wirral can afford.

I believe these people or the IFA’s who are pushing people to invest their money in house building (not much interest on 600k in a bank account) really don’t know the area. Those that do, some Wirral councillors even, have themselves at times a declared interest in the property developments should be ashamed to see some of the so called luxury developments being thrown up across the area.

As we’re also being hit by a rain storm can I also point out where housing has been planned or requested in Raby, Thornton Hough, Hoylake and the river and marsh side land of Gaytin that these are flood risk areas. Never mind the possibility of most of north Wirral from Wallasey to West Kiby being sunk bu 2050-60 (not so far off when you consider many homes are 100 yrs plus old and still going strong) these planners seem to have no clue that there are about 5, maybe 6 rivers along the peninsular that are highly liable to over flow to great meandering distances and the last of the greenbelt is a valuable drainage facility. I think particularly of the Kingsmead school area and since that great school has now closed there will be a land grab for it (stuff the kids) and a new houaing estate to create a wall of concrete from Wallasey to West Kirby.

I just see people despeate to turn a fast profit with these new build land grab sites/plits/developments but no one is thinking about the vast majority of wirral people, in east wirral who need affordable housing to modern standard and not with a huge price tag. Can we talk about the thiusands of emptybstructurally sound houses in wirral that need reputposing, tracking ownership to solve this backlog. 900 homes a year are not necessary. The birth rate has fallen in last 20 years and I believe anecdotally there may be net outward movement. This is not Milton Keynes or stockbroker belt Surrey. The private schools are dying out in wirral as people already struggle with high housing cost compared to salaries.

By Observant Wirralian