Wirral set to cut green belt in Local Plan
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.”