Planning An Intervention ?

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There was a timely reminder this week about just how incompetent Wirral Council’s Planning Department is with the publication of the full Court of Appeal judgment from April in the case Regina (Thornton Hall Hotel Ltd) v Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.

The full citation can be read here

Someone who had read The Times law report contacted us and posed these questions :

Good Afternoon

So yet again, the marquee saga at Thornton Manor has managed not to reach the local press, I wonder why?

The planning permission quashed by the high court, Appeal dismissed with more criticism of WBC and Thornton Manor. It even made The Times on Wednesday!

Are weddings at risk now the Marquees are continuing to operate without planning consent?

Is WBC going to do anything about it?

Is planning permission worth the paper it’s written on (or not written on) should you bother with it if you can just carry on regardless?

All very pertinent we’re sure you’d agree. However could help be on the horizon for our exasperated source as it would appear that they’re not the only one getting increasingly frustrated with Wirral Council’s ineptitude when it comes to planning  issues.

There is another report from earlier this month which once again seems to have bypassed the local mainstream media but potentially has serious implications for local planning.

Indeed a recent contact commented to us :

Any update on the Green Belt? I’ve heard that MHCLG are about to trigger an intervention on Wirral soon due to constant delays and lack of capability.

Could this have been prompted by the following damning report which can be found on the Planning Resource website  ?

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As you can read below the worst of all was, yes you guessed it- Wirral Council! It is interesting to note that under the government’s special measures programme, Wirral Council could have planning decisions taken out of its hands by the Planning Inspectorate if they fall below specified thresholds for the speed and quality of their decision making. And as we can see from the Thornton Manor marquee saga case study above speed and quality is not exactly a strong point ! Never mind at least Wirral Council are top notch when it comes to getting artist’s impressions of planning developments in the local press. It’s just such a shame they never make it through the planning process!…

 

The councils that determined the fewest applications within government time limits up to March 2019

2 July 2019 by John Geoghegan

Eight local authorities are now below the government’s ‘special measures’ threshold for the proportion of application decisions made within the statutory timescales, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

Wirral Town Hall: council determined the fewest major applications within government time limits up to March 2019

Under the special measures programme, councils can have planning decisions taken out of their hands and dealt with by the Planning Inspectorate if they fall below specified thresholds for the speed and quality of their decision making.

Authorities that decide fewer than 60 per cent of major applications within the statutory deadline of 13 weeks or 70 per cent of non-major applications within the eight-week deadline face the sanction.

In December 2018, the government announced the programme would continue until 2020.

However, no council has been penalised under the initiative since January 2015, despite many falling under the sanction thresholds.

Last week, the government updated its figures showing how many major and non-major decisions that each English local planning authority determined within the prescribed timescales in the two years up to March 2019.

It shows that a total of eight councils fall below the thresholds for major and non-major decisions: Wirral, Craven, Barrow-in-Furness, Ealing, Wakefield, Stoke-on-Trent, Southampton and Worcester.

In the previous quarter’s data, the two years up to December 2018, a total of ten councils fell below the three thresholds for speed of determination.

The latest data for major decisions shows that Wirral, Craven and Barrow-in-Furness councils are below the 60 per cent threshold (see below).

Wirral Council is still the worst-performing authority in this category, deciding just over than half of its 75 major applications within the 13-week deadline. Wirral and Craven remain below the threshold from the last quarter’s data.

For ‘county matters’ major application decisions, which covers mineral and waste development, Ealing and Wakefield Councils remain below the threshold (see below).

However, both authorities only dealt with one ‘county matters’ major application each over the two-year period.

They are joined below the threshold by Stoke-on-Trent, which only determined two applications.

For non-major decisions (see below), the data shows that Craven, Southampton, and Worcestershire are all below the 70 per cent threshold – the same three councils as the last quarter but with Craven now replacing Southampton as the worst-performing authority.

Out of a total of 1,070 decisions, Craven Council made 65 per cent of them within the eight week deadline.

Last December, the MHCLG announced that designation decisions in the first quarter of 2019 for speed of decision-making would consider the two-year timeframe between October 2016 and September 2018.

Meanwhile, for quality of decision-making, the assessment period would be between April 2016 and March 2019

 

Wirral Council – “The antithesis of good administration “

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Source : Planning Resource

We know we’re all wrapped up in election news but we couldn’t let this simply astonishing story found on the Planning Resource website pass without comment.

Wirral Leaks back stories on the Thornton Manor debacle where marquees where erected unlawfully and allowed to remain on the Green Belt can be found here

We will be doing a follow up story about Thornton Manor and Wirral Council but for now read the comments from Lord Justice Lindblom about how Wirral Council conduct their business and weep. Note his use of the perennial term ‘highly abnormal’ , that in his view the council was ‘the antithesis of good administration’  and his observations on the sheer dishonesty of Wirral Council officials who tried to cover up a catalogue of errors.

We’ve never used the word ‘backhanders’ on this blog before. But we’d be forgiven for having that reasonable belief based on the ‘highly abnormal’ circumstances set out below . What do the people of Wirral think and what’s more WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

The Court of Appeal has upheld a High Court decision to quash a council’s mistaken planning consent for the indefinite use of wedding marquees at a Grade II* listed property in the Wirral green belt and blasted the authority for ‘unlawfully’ attempting to conceal its ‘error’.

Thornton Holdings Limited, which owns the Thornton Hall Estate in the Wirral, applied for planning consent from Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council to erect or retain the marquees as long ago as 2010, said Appeal Court judge Lord Justice Lindblom.

The firm said it needed the wedding venue business to fund the restoration of the registered historic gardens of grade II* listed Thornton Manor.

The council’s planning committee resolved to grant planning permission, but only subject to 10 conditions, the first of which was that the consent would last for only five years.

However, when the permission was formally granted by a decision notice in December 2011, no conditions at all were attached to it, and the marquees have remained in place to this day, Lord Justice Lindblom told the court.

In 2017, Thornton Hall Hotel Limited (THHL), which owns a rival wedding venue nearby, launched a judicial review challenge to the permission.

Under court rules, such challenges must be brought “promptly and in any event within three months.” However, in March last year, High Court judge Mr Justice Kerr exercised his discretion to extend that time limit and overturned the planning permission.

Ruling on Thornton Holdings’ appeal against that ruling, Lord Justice Lindblom, who was sitting with the Master of the Rolls, Sir Terence Etherton, and Lord Justice Irwin acknowledged that the delay in the case reaching court was “extreme”.

But he added: “There can be no doubt that the circumstances of this case, viewed as a whole, are extremely unusual. We would go further; they are unique.”

The judge said that Wirral Council, after the “indisputable error” was noticed, “acted unlawfully in concealing its error. It initially attempted to put matters right by generating a fictitious decision notice and manipulating the planning register.”

He added: “Whether its intention was to reverse its error or to obscure it, the effect of the action it took was only to disguise what it had in fact done.”

The council could have revoked the permission, or issued a discontinuance order, but had shown “no inclination” to follow either course, both of which could have given rise to a claim for compensation by Thornton Holdings.

Another “highly abnormal” aspect of the case was that the council had “actively supported” the challenge to the planning permission.

But the judge said Thornton Holdings “were well aware from the outset that the planning permission had been wrongly issued, and knew precisely what the council’s error had been”.

It had only sought to rely on the 2011 consent when the council began to press for the marquees’ removal.

He added: “We cannot accept that Thornton Holdings have suffered any material hardship or prejudice as a result of the delay in the claim being issued. If anything, the delay worked in their favour, in the sense that it enabled them to take advantage of an unrestricted grant of planning permission that they knew the council had never resolved to grant.”

Dismissing the appeal, the judge said: “This is clearly a case in which the interests of good administration, and indeed the credibility of the planning system, weighed compellingly in favour of the court having the opportunity to hear the claim and, if the claim succeeded, to deal with the council’s error.”

“If, as the council has readily acknowledged, the decision notice it issued was issued without lawful authority, it might fairly be described as the antithesis of good administration.”

He added: “The error was not in the council’s decision-making, but in the statutory notification of the decision made. Yet it vitiated the planning permission, and continues to do so. In short, this simply was not, and is not, the conditional planning permission the council’s committee resolved to grant.

There were, he ruled, “very special reasons” justifying the delay in THHL seeking judicial review and Mr Justice Kerr had been right both to extend time and to overturn a permission which had not been lawfully granted. His decision served both “to undo an injustice and to sustain the public interest.”

“The decision notice misrepresents the council’s decision. If the planning permission were not quashed, this manifest unlawfulness would persist,” he said, adding that, had the committee’s resolution been properly translated into the decision notice, the planning permission would have expired in December 2016.

Were the 2011 consent to remain extant, that would be “inimical to the public interest in a fair, efficient and transparent planning system, in which all participants in the process, including objectors, and also the public, are able to rely on the local planning authority to issue a true notice of the decision it makes.”

Lord Justice Lindblom emphasised that his decision did not set a precedent and had no effect on the requirement that challenges to planning permissions must be brought promptly.

A Planning article examining the potential for errors in the planning decision-making process can be read here.

R on the Application of Thornton Hall Hotel Limited & Anr v Thornton Holdings Limited. Case Number: C1/2018/0793

 

A Fear of Green

Green

This is not a subliminal political message

Certain factions at Wirral Council appear to be suffering from a form of chromophobia (fear of colour) and a particular form known as prasinophobia which is fear of the colour green.

From the Green Party to the Green Belt to Dave Green (remember him? – if not we’ll be reminding you soon) to er, bowling greens

I am a member a member of a Crown Green bowling club in West Wirral which pays a fee to the Council for use of a Clubhouse and the Bowling Green. The maintenance of the Green is the responsibility of WBC Parks and Gardens. Over the last 3 years the maintenance of the Green I play on has diminished due to cuts in Parks and Gardens maintenance staff. This has affected not just my Green but about 8 other Greens in the District. The deterioration of our Green means that this year it has become unplayable. Promises by the Council to improve the playing surface has not materialised, but the cost of the hire has risen in this financial year to over £1000. As a Club we arrange fixtures with other local clubs and we also have internal club competitions. None of this is now possible for this season. Within our club we have at least one experienced bowler who has been bowling for over 60 years as well as being a knowledgeable green keeper in his earlier years. He has categorically stated that the Green is an utter disgrace and is ‘unplayable’.

The Wirral Health Strategy imposes a responsibility on the Council to encourage older people to not only keep exercising but to also socialise to alleviate loneliness and isolation. Our Club cannot now meet and play on our Green this season due to it’s condition. We are still expected to pay the fee? For over a 2 months we have been asking those responsible to get the Green into a playable condition, but we have received is promises…

Meanwhile on a slighter bigger scale we have been alerted to this particular item which is to be found on  Defend Wirral’s Green Spaces  Facebook page :

Wirral Council have REFUSED to publish their instructions / brief to the University of Liverpool who, we believe, have been contracted to review Wirral Council’s Housing need calculations.

They have also REFUSED to publish the Council’s brief to a top Planning QC who they are employing at a cost of £135,000 to advise on the Local Plan and Green Belt Review. The Council state that this QC has advised that the Council must meet the Governments Housing Target despite the Secretary of State for Housing writing to the Council Leader stating that the housing “target” of 12000 homes is NOT MANDATORY.

We wonder why, if the Council are supposedly doing everything they can to reduce the housing “target” number and are supposedly wanting to save the Green Belt they would not want to publish these briefs? In the interest of Transparency and Openness, surely the Council would want the people of Wirral to see exactly just what the University and this QC have been tasked with doing on our behalf and what they are spending our money on?

For further information read on……..

The Wirral Green Space Alliance submitted the following Freedom of Information Request on 1st March 2019:

“Nature of contact: This FoIR is lodged by ITPAS at the request of WGSA .

In the spirit of openness and ‘transparent’ local government, we request the following information, records and other relevant documents be made available to us in normal electronic format(s):

1.  The Appointment Documents, Terms of Reference (ToRs), Briefing(s), Instructions and the like of (i) Liverpool University and (ii) the Council’s QC (Chris Katkowski ?) for services in connection with Wirral Council’s emerging Local Plan.

 

2.  The Minutes and Notes of all meetings between the above two parties and Wirral Council Officers, Councillors, Consultants and other relevant parties, together with all other related correspondence and communications (including advice, reports, etc. to and from each party) in connection with services related to Wirral Council’s emerging Local Plan and the Case in support of and/or against it, whether prior to actual appointment(s), at appointment(s) or since appointment(s).
Any other information:  This information is requested in order to provide what the Groups within the WGSA consider to be missing, unclear, conflicting or essential information, and to facilitate a proper response to Wirral Council’s proposals and actions to be made in an informed, robust and timely manner.

 

‘ITPAS’ refers to ‘Irby, Thurstaston & Pensby Amenity Society’ and

‘WGSA’ refers to ‘Wirral Green Space Alliance’: a grouping of 20 local community, environmental and wildlife groups and specialists.”

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Wirral Council should have responded within 20 days. The Council failed to give a response by the deadline, so again on 16th April the Council were contacted to provide a response. Finally on 25th April the Council responded as follows:

“We refer to your request for Information which has been processed in accordance with the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs) as the information requested is considered to be ‘environmental information’ under Regulation 2(1) (c) of the EIRs; being information on planes, activities, measures etc. affecting or likely to affect the elements of the environment.’

 

Please accept our apologies for the delay in providing a response.  As previously advised we have been dealing with a high volume of requests with limited resources, resulting in a backlog in enquiries.  We do endeavour where possible to respond within 20 working days but acknowledge we were unable to do so on this occasion.  We are now in a position to respond to your request as follows.

 

Your request stated:

 

In the spirit of openness and ‘transparent’ local government, we request the following information, records and other relevant documents be made available to us in normal electronic format(s):

1.  The Appointment Documents, Terms of Reference (ToRs), Briefing(s), Instructions and the like of

(i) Liverpool University and (ii) the Council’s QC (Chris Katkowski ?) for services in connection with Wirral Council’s emerging Local Plan.

 

2.  The Minutes and Notes of all meetings between the above two parties and Wirral Council Officers, Councillors, Consultants and other relevant parties, together with all other related correspondence and communications (including advice, reports, etc. to and from each party) in connection with services related to Wirral Council’s emerging Local Plan and the Case in support of and/or against it, whether prior to actual appointment(s), at appointment(s) or since appointment(s).

 

In response the Council can advise the following.

 

Request 1

The Council is of the opinion that the documents requested relating to the appointment of, and work undertaken by, Liverpool University  are exempted from disclosure.  Regulation 12 (4) of the EIRs states that a public authority may refuse to disclose information where the request relates to material which is still in the course of completion; being unfinished documents or incomplete data. The work of Liverpool University in this instance relates to the formulation and preparation of the Local Plan, which is in the course of completion. Further, the Local Plan is a document which will be published in any event at a stage in the future.

 

The aims of the Regulation 12 (4) (d) exception include the protection of work in progress by delaying disclosure until a final or completed version can be made available.

 

With regards to the appointment of Counsel, the qualified exemption relating to legal privilege applies to Counsels advice. Advice privilege applies where no litigation is in progress or contemplated. It covers confidential communications between the client and lawyer, made for the dominant (main) purpose of seeking or giving legal advice. Further as these documents relate to material that is still being completed, unfinished documents including drafts, or incomplete data, the Council also refuse to provide the information under regulation 12 (4) (d).

 

The Council considers that at this stage in the Local Plan preparation the public interest in maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in disclosure. Whilst there is a presumption in favour of disclosure under the Regulations the Council has taken into account the fact that the draft Local Plan will be subject to further public consultation in the near future.  The Council has also taken account of the fact that under the Regulations, when more than one exception applies to the information, the Council may combine the public interest arguments in maintaining the exceptions against the public interest in disclosure. This is different from the approach required under the Freedom of Information Act.

 

Request 2

As stated above Regulation 12 (4) (d) of the EIRs states that a public authority may refuse to disclose information where the request relates to material which is still in the course of completion; being unfinished documents or incomplete data. In this instance the documents requested  relate  to the formulation and preparation  of the Local Plan, which is in the course of completion. Further, the Local Plan is a document which will be published in any event at a stage in the future.

 

Further, Regulation 12 (4) (e) exempts disclosure of internal communications, and the documents requested include such communications.

 

The Council considers that at this stage in the Local Plan preparation, the public interest in maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in disclosure. Whilst there is a presumption in favour of disclosure under the Regulations, the Council has taken into account the fact that a the draft Local Plan will be subject to further public consultation in the near future.  The Council has also taken account of the fact that under the Regulations, when more than one exception applies to the information, the Council may combine the public interest arguments in maintaining the exceptions against the public interest in disclosure. This is different from the approach required under the Freedom of Information Act.

 

The Council is aware that, in addition to the public interest in transparency and accountability, there is a further public interest in disclosing environmental information because it supports the right of everyone to live in an adequate environment, and ultimately contributes to a better environment. Normally, public interest arguments in favour of the exception have to be specifically related to what that exception is protecting, but this is a general public interest argument for disclosure, and it does not have to be related to the specific exception. However, given the fact that the Local Plan is in the course of preparation and will be subject to further rounds of public consultation and to public examination prior to being finally adopted by the Council, the Council is of the opinion that the right to live in an adequate environment will be protected by this process and that this right does not therefore outweigh the public interest in non-disclosure of the requested information at this stage.

 

You have the right to make representations under Regulation 11 of the EIRs if you are unhappy with how the Council has dealt with your enquiry informationmanager@wirral@gov.uk.  If you were to remain dissatisfied, you have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner, but would normally be expected to make representations before doing so. Contact details for the Information Commissioner’s Office can be found at https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/

Yours sincerely

Lynette Paterson

Principal Information Management Officer

Business Management “

Wirral Green Space Alliance have responded as follows:

“Dear Lynette Paterson,

The belated responses to our Requests for Information are sadly much as expected but are nevertheless disappointing and unacceptable to us.  We ask you to reconsider your decision to refuse to release anything as this seems unreasonable to us.

 

We can understand that supplying information of a fluid situation, where hypothetical and unresolved matters which are being discussed and examined could be counterproductive, even misleading and would have the potential to distract key personnel from catching up on woefully late delivery.  However, all the items under ‘1.  The Appointment Documents, etc.’ and some of the items under ‘2.  The Minutes and Notes, etc.’ are finished documents and not fluid.  The Appointment process regarding the referenced parties is also concluded.  Therefore, to the extent that our Requests relate to the actual work being undertaken pursuant to these finished documents and process, we are prepared to wait.  However, we are advised and of the opinion that Information and Documentation relating to the completed documents and process could safely and reasonably be released (albeit redacted where commercially sensitive) and would be in the Public Interest.

 

Groups within the ‘Wirral Green Space Alliance’ (WGSA) have been advised to share with the Council instances where we consider that the Council’s approach and/or actions related to the production of its belated legal Local Plan to be flawed or not sufficiently reasonable/appropriate or could be improved, in order that the Council has the opportunity to change and so that the Planning Inspector at the Inquiry stage will not dismiss/set aside such evidence and suggestions, citing the Council’s lack of opportunity to take it into account at an appropriate stage.

 

Conversely, WGSA Groups would presumably have the opportunity to show the Planning Inspector that the Council had opportunity to change but did not do so and was requested of Information to assist us in our own public duty but were denied such useful Information.

 

May we have your further consideration and Information as soon as possible, please.  Many thanks.”

We will keep you posted when a response is received!…

 

 

Death By Planning

As the Local Plan/Green Belt debacle continues to be played out in the local media. The latest instalment being the local Labour group advertisement feature wrapped around the Wirral Globe which has been deconstructed on Defend Wirral’s Green Spaces Facebook page.

However today we bring you ‘The Prof’s learned exploration as to why the issues surrounding the Local Plan and the Green Belt are so important.

Yes, it is lengthy but we think you owe it to you and you family to take some time out this Bank Holiday weekend to become better informed about the potential life threatening consequences of not protecting Wirral’s Green Belt.

COMMENTS ON THE WIRRAl LOCAL PLAN SUSTAINABILTY APPRAISAL AIR QUALITY & HEALTH IMPACTS : DEATH BY PLANNING?

1. Introduction

The scoping sustainability appraisal document on air quality and health gives a very limited, misleading and complacent assessment of issues in these areas which should in practice a have a significant impact on consideration of development options under the local plan.

A detailed analysis of the health impact of house building on the Green Belt parcels identified for potential release in the Local Plan adjacent to the M53 is in preparation. Specifically it considers the GB parcels east (downwind) of the M53 from Storeton, south past Junction 4, to Raby Mere and those GB parcels near Junction 5 at Eastham. The serious negative effects of air pollution on any future residents and the current residents downwind of the M53 are examined. This note is to give the council early warning, for the record, of the negative health implications of building in these areas and an outline of the formal objections which will therefore be raised if these parcels are proposed for release.

2. Scoping Report Context

The Scoping Report published by Wirral Council discusses ‘Air Quality’ in a very limited way. It does however note the NPPF imperatives such as

‘New and existing developments should be prevented from contributing to [residents], being put at unacceptable risk from, or being adversely affected by, unacceptable levels of air pollution.’

Contrary to the complacent scoping report we will demonstrate from international and national studies and by analysing Wirral geographical health data, that building in the GB parcels identified will put residents at significant risk and cause real, unacceptable health deficits including reduced life expectancy. As traffic increases in coming years, the health impacts of pollutants such as PMs on Wirral will definitely increase, even if the unrealistic government aspirations for replacing diesel vehicles are met.

The scoping report mentions only one pollutant in detail, NO2, nitrogen dioxide. NO2 is allegedly monitored at 31 passive sites and levels are supposedly falling ‘gradually’. Particulate matter, now recognised as extremely dangerous, is mentioned in passing. It is monitored at only one automatic site on Wirral at Tranmere. International air quality standards, which are continually tightening, and the views, for example of the World Health Organisation on health damage, are not explored. We will do so below. In fact the serious health impacts of air pollution on Wirral are not discussed in the ‘Air Quality’ section nor the ‘Health’ section of the scoping report. Given that air pollution is now considered to be ‘the greatest environmental risk to public health’ in the UK (1, 2) this is concerning. We will look at evidence from the literature causally linking PM and NO2 levels to premature mortality, lower life expectancy, COPD, lung cancer, asthma, diabetes, dementia, stroke, heart attack, development deficits in children’s lungs and low birth weight. We will also present in summary, direct evidence of significant correlations between these diseases and PM levels across Wirral which are fully consistent with that extensive literature.

 

The 16 Green Belt Parcels Proposed for Release in the Local Plan Adjacent to the M53 at Storeton-Clatterbridge-Poulton Lancelyn

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The 11 Green Belt Parcels Adjacent to the M53 between Raby Mere and Eastham

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3. National & International Health Impact Evidence

A good starting source for reviewing the evidence is reference 3: the joint report on Air Quality from DEFRA – Public Health England – Local Government Association in 2017. The report concentrates on PMs and NO2. PM10 includes all particles smaller in diameter than 10 microns. PM2.5 includes all particles smaller than 2.5 microns. PM10 therefore includes the PM2.5 and PM0.1 fractions. Nationally the ratio of PM2.5 to PM10 released into the air is 0.75. Concentration ratios vary depending on local conditions. The smaller particles are considered most dangerous since they can be inhaled deep into the lungs and even pass directly into the blood stream. PMs are known to be carriers for carcinogenic materials and are now classed as carcinogenic agents.

The literature on health impacts of air pollution is now vast and still accelerating in scope. The health implications for the UK are well described in ‘Health Matters: air pollution’ published in 2018, by Public Health England (4). Locally we also have an excellent report by the Wirral Intelligence Service (1). WBC cannot claim that there is a dearth of information on these matters. The PHE report concludes that

‘long term exposure to man-made air pollution in the UK has an annual effect equivalent to 28,000 to 36,000 deaths. Over 18 years a 1 microgram / m cubed reduction in fine PM air pollution could prevent 50,900 cases of CHD; 16,500 strokes; 9,300 cases of chronic asthma; 4,200 lung cancers.’

 

This gives an indication of the human health value of reducing PM levels since the gains continue to zero levels (3). We will see that Wirral PM levels vary from ~10 to ~16 micrograms / m cubed.

PHE notes that the cumulative disease burden to 2035 associated with PMs includes 348,878 CHD cases; 246,916 COPD cases; 273,767 diabetes cases; 173,886 low birth weight children; 133,356 asthma cases; 106,331 strokes; 44,290 lung cancers. Similar analysis for NO2 exposure yields: 573,363 cases of diabetes; 335,491 asthma cases; 102,545 low birth weight children; 86,617 cases of dementia (4).

The international evidence of harm is overwhelming (8, 9). In many large epidemiological studies air pollution impact has been quantified while taking into account potential co- variables such as lifestyle (smoking, alcohol, exercise), income / education, and measures of socio-demographic deprivation (5). In many studies gradient effects have also been identified. That is, disease prevalence has been shown to fall away as a function of distance from pollution sources such as major roads (6, 7, 23). There have been very large, both cross-sectional and longitudinal health studies (6 provides a 78 page review of the health evidence). Such studies constitute a smoking gun and settle the issue of causation.

PHE notes that the Environment Audit Committee of the HOC found evidence that the cost of these health impacts was likely to exceed £8 – £20 billion.

Since the Clean Air Act in 1956 many sources of PMs have been eliminated but now levels have almost stabilised. The easy sources have been tackled (see Figure A). Traffic sources are resistant to reduction as number of vehicles and traffic miles continue to increase. The government claims that eliminating diesel and / or petrol cars will solve the air pollution problem (10). This is untrue. Their own data shows that ~80% of PMs do not come from car exhausts but from bitumen, rubber, organic and other waste matter released by vehicle tyres from road surfaces. ‘Electric’ cars and trucks will still cause high levels of PMs. Eliminating diesel cars will however reduce NOx by ~40% but published diesel vehicle reduction targets to 2040 in the UK and Europe are widely considered to be wildly optimistic (11). Official data for sales growth in Alternative Fuel Vehicles and conventional petrol / diesel vehicles suggest AFVs will be only ~8.3% of new car sales by 2030 versus the government’s ‘ambition’ and ‘illustrative’, 30% to 70%. Note that Figure A also shows that since ~2005 PM pollution from industrial and commercial activities has sharply increased again.

Recommended maximum allowable levels of the various pollutants continue to fall as health evidence emerges. The World Health Organisation published a review of 2,200 studies in 2013 (6) concluding that

‘Annual PM concentrations are associated with all-cause mortality to a high degree of [statistical] confidence. There is no evidence of a safe level of exposure to PM or to a threshold below which no adverse health effects occur.’

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The Air Quality report authors comment that

‘Negative health impacts have been found well below current EU & UK limits.’

Local authorities such as WBC cannot simply say, as they do, we meet the EU or UK legal limits so no further action is needed. The WHO will steadily reduce PM limits in future years

which are currently set at 10 micrograms / metre cubed average levels. In the ‘Clean Growth Strategy 2018’ (12) the government promises to

‘reduce PM levels in order to halve the number of people living in locations where concentrations of PM are above 10 micrograms / meter cubed by 2025.’

Much of the Wirral is above this limit currently and as vehicle numbers and miles travelled increase in the medium term PM levels will increase, not decrease (32). There was a small reduction in vehicle numbers growth during ‘austerity’ for a few years but growth has recovered. Traffic volume flow between J4 and J5 on the M53 is given in Figure B. From 2000 to 2016 traffic increased by 33.5% or 2.1% per annum on average. However before and after the ‘economic shock’ period, during which growth halted, traffic growth rate was ~2.9% per annum. We will show that building in the M53 eastern corridor GB parcels will expose many areas to PM levels well above 10 micrograms / m cubed and this will increase over time.

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The government promises new powers for targeted local action.

This should include not allowing building new housing in Green Belt areas and green spaces adjacent to identified PM and NO2 hotspots by major roads and motorways.

There is extensive literature evidence that significant health deficits are found at distances from motorways of 500 ms and more depending on the air pollutant and the diseases considered (6,7). If local authorities ignore the clear health impact evidence in the scientific literature and allow unnecessary house building in high risk areas they will be guilty of a failure in their duty of care to residents. In the case of Wirral, for the sake of certainty, we now present local evidence that air pollution is ubiquitous and that the prevalence of several diseases is strongly correlated with local PM air pollution levels.

 

4. Wirral Evidence on Pollution Levels

NO2 and PM measurements at many localities around the country have been used to calibrate government air pollution models by locality (13). These models take into account point (e.g. industrial) and line (road) sources of pollutants and topography. In the case of roads the key data are traffic flow volumes and traffic mix. The models also take into account prevailing wind directions and use well established spacial diffusion models to predict average concentration levels in one kilometre squares as defined on standard OS maps. This averaging means that pollution levels close to the source may be even higher because of gradient effects. Nevertheless the models give a reliable guide to pollution spread and general levels.

The Wirral pollution maps are given in Figure 1 for nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. The patterns are similar in that the highest pollution levels occur east of the M53 (14). This reflects degree of urbanisation and in particular Birkenhead but also major road distribution. The high pollution levels along the length of the A41 near the Mersey are clear as are the high levels adjacent to the M53 from Eastham to Moreton. In relation to the proposed local plan GB release parcels note the very high PM levels near M53 junction 5 (Eastham) and junction 4 (Clatterbridge). (Note: Junction 2 and the Moreton spur road is also a hotspot).

It is therefore puzzling that the Scoping Report tells us (2.6) that :

‘No hotspots are associated with the Boroughs motorway junctions, nor the toll point of the Kingsway Tunnel, suggesting that the presence of significant strategic road network infrastructure does not currently give rise to notable air quality concerns.’

This is simply untrue. In fact the official air quality models show us pollution levels near the mentioned junctions as high as in the worst polluted areas of Birkenhead. An increase in traffic flows on roads feeding the junctions such as J4, resulting from large numbers of new houses on the GB parcels east of the M53 from Storeton south to Poulton Lancelyn would create a high air pollution nightmare. The roads are already congested at peak times twice a day and are generally very busy. J4 is also already a notorious traffic accident hotspot.

5. Preliminary Wirral Evidence for Air Pollution Health Impacts

Detailed analyses are currently underway exploring the links between the prevalence of several important disease classes across the Wirral and the levels of pollutants such as PMs and NOx . Disease data is available from several official sources at the level of political wards and constituencies. Pollutant exposure levels by ward are calculated from the models of Figure 1 by taking all the kilometre squares in a ward and the location of housing and calculating ward exposure averages. This procedure gives a score in the range of 1 to 4 for pollutant level. Disease prevalence is then plotted against pollution level and simple linear models fitted. In all cases significant correlations were found. These include:

Wirral Life Expectancy by ward versus PM10 (Figure 2) Wirral Mortality Rates (DSRs) versus PM10 (Figure 3)

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Wirral Prevalence of Constrictive – Obstructive Pulmonary Disease versus PM10 (Figure 4). COPD Prevalence versus Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) for closely similar PM10 level wards (Figure 4A)

Wirral Lung Cancer Mortality Rates versus PM10 (Figure 5). Lung cancer versus IMD for closely similar PM10 level wards (Figure 5 A)

Wirral Low Birth Weight Rates versus PM10 (Figure 6)

Analyses are also underway for dementia, diabetes, asthma, Coronary Heart Disease and stroke prevalence. Preliminary work also shows clear correlations with PMs and NO2.

We report the findings below for a selection of diseases. The ongoing analyses are currently addressing the issue of possible co-variables. Many published studies have already dealt with this issue and showed that even after lifestyle (smoking / alcohol / exercise) and so- called deprivation measures (income / service access) are included air pollution impacts are clearly significant (5, 6, 23). The intention here is to demonstrate this with Wirral health data. On the Wirral we can note immediately that smoking prevalence and intensity has been falling for many years yet diseases commonly associated with smoking in the public mind are rising. What is rising on Wirral are vehicle numbers and total miles travelled. We will also show later that constrictive obstructive lung disease (COPD) prevalence, while strongly correlated with PM level, is only weakly correlated with the Wirral ward level Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD). The same is true for prevalence of low birth weight children.

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It appears that the official habit of simply blaming disease on bad ‘lifestyle choices’ among the poor underclass may be overstated, or indeed a case of ‘blaming the victim’. High air pollution levels for example generally correlate with poor urban housing locations. As more major international multi-factor studies emerge, blaming the victims is becoming harder. To a first approximation, in a country like Britain, we are all air pollution victims now. Similar analyses examining other variables are being prepared for the other disease classes and will be published as soon as possible.

 

The intention of the detailed analyses will be to quantify the actual disease loading due to current variations of air pollution across the Wirral and to predict future loadings as traffic increases in general and in proposed areas of green belt development. Such increases impact both new residents in areas adjacent to the M53 but also current downwind residents. There is extensive evidence, accepted by government, and local authorities, that open fields, hedgerows and trees near motorways and major roads significantly reduce the levels of some air pollutants (15, 16). It is notable that WBC itself is promoting the growing of hedges for this purpose to protect schools (17) and that the Scoping Report talks of pollution mitigation ‘through green infrastructure provision’ (2.10).

On this ‘official’ logic it is surely wise to preserve not destroy, Wirral green spaces and existing green belt buffers near major roads and motorways.

Removing these green ‘shelterbelts’ by building on them reduces the protection of nearby, current residents and exposes new housing residents to high pollution levels (as is the case in all the GB parcels being considered for release east of the M53).

For now we will simply note some basic disease / air pollution correlations. Figure 2 shows Wirral life expectancy versus ward average PM10 levels. There is a clear correlation here with life expectancy at PM level 1 being around 87 years and PM level 4 around 75 years. This should not be surprising since Reference 1 tells us that : ‘reducing PM by 10 micrograms / m cubed would extend lifespan by three times more than eliminating passive smoking’.

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The Air Quality Strategy for the UK in 2007 noted : ‘PM in the UK would be expected to reduce life expectancy averaged over the whole population by 7 – 8 months’. DEFRA tells us NO2 exposure alone ‘reduces UK life expectancy on average by ~5 months’. But of course excess deaths are concentrated in urban area sub-populations. People here are losing years of life.

In the worst cases the WHO note an average life deficit of ~ 20 months related to PMs.

Figure 3 shows Mortality, age standardised death rates, for the Wirral versus PMs and a linear best fit model (h1). The correlation coefficient is quite high at 0.69. We can say that 48%, roughly half the variability in Wirral mortality rate, is accounted for by PM level differences (while noting there may be several interacting variables in play here. See below).

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Now we examine briefly, particular diseases. Figure 4 shows a best fit linear relationship between constrictive –obstructive pulmonary disease prevalence and PM10 level by Wirral ward (h3). The correlation coefficient is moderately high at 0.73. Taken literally this would imply that 53% of the variation in COPD prevalence is explained by PM variation.

With this data we can make a rough check of the scale of impact on COPD of other possible ‘causative’ variables as we can identify several wards where PM levels are very similar (~3.2 to 3.3). The main official measure which purports to capture the level of deprivation in a population is the Index of Multiple Deprivation. This is a weighted sum of several inputs such as income, access to housing & services, education, health and crime exposure. Health includes ‘lifestyle’ items such as smoking and alcohol prevalence. We might therefore expect IMD to correlate with disease measures such as COPD. IMD is usually adduced to explain various diseases under the short hand terms, ‘poverty’ and ‘lifestyle choices’.

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In Figure 4 A we plot COPD versus IMD for wards with very similar PM levels. A linear fit gives a small positive relationship between COPD and IMD. The correlation coefficient is 0.11 so the slope is uncertain and IMD ‘explains’ very little COPD variation.

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This is notable since other data suggests a strong relationship between smoking prevalence and IMD on Wirral. The intercept implies that even at zero IMD, COPD would be ~2% for this

set of wards. All we can say at this stage is that COPD is strongly related to PM levels but that other variables may also be in play.

Figure 5 plots lung cancer mortality rates (SMRs) versus PM10 levels across Wirral (h4). The scatter band is wide but a significant relationship emerges from a linear best fit. The correlation coefficient is moderate at 0.63. Taken at face value PM level accounts for ~40% of the variation in lung cancer. This is interesting since lung cancer is the canonical disease linked with smoking and high smoking prevalence these days correlates with low income. IMD should capture the low income effect and the direct ‘health’ deprivation / lifestyle effect. We noted earlier a sub-set of wards with very similar PM levels but a scatter of COPD levels. In Figure 5 A we plot lung cancer mortality versus IMD for these wards. There is a positive correlation and the correlation coefficient is again modest at 0.6.

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This implies that IMD ‘explains’ ~ 36% of the variation in lung cancer mortality in this data. We can tentatively conclude that PM air pollution and smoking variation contribute about the same amount to lung cancer mortality locally. Given the strenuous legal and social efforts to reduce smoking dependence over recent decades it seems air pollution deserves the same state attention. We noted that smoking prevalence and intensity is falling on Wirral and across the UK. However fossil fuel vehicle numbers and vehicle miles travelled are increasing and will continue to do so for decades. The proportion of disease like lung cancer due to air pollutants such as PMs will increase over time. Combating this will be very difficult for future governments in existing built up areas. However two actions would be both easy to implement and totally effective :

1. Do not allow building of new housing, whether luxury or social homes, next to motorways and do not destroy green spaces and green belt protective zones.

 

2. If a council chooses to allow such building it should be required by law to WARN prospective buyers and existing residents downwind of the health dangers involved.

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The government tells us they ‘aspire’ to build 300,000 new homes each year with many on green belt land. By following the above rules hundreds of thousands of families per annum can be protected from dangerous exposure to air pollutants. The real ‘need’ numbers are probably less than 160,000 houses per annum but there is still a huge accessible, potential saving in human distress, national disease burden and cost to the NHS.

The diseases examined so far express themselves mainly in adults. In fact the coronary heart disease, strokes and dementia impacts of PMs largely strike older people. Living in a polluted area can increase dementia risk by up to 40% (23). But we should be equally concerned about the health impacts of air pollution on children and the developing foetus.

There is very worrying evidence that living in high PM areas not only causes acute and chronic asthma but stunts lung development in children permanently (21). ‘Pronounced deficits’ in lung function has been found in 18 year olds who grew up within 500 ms of a motorway. Reference 21 notes

‘the new study found reduced lung growth in [young] people who lived by motorways in otherwise open spaces with relatively clean air.’

It should be noted that this major pioneering study took place in Southern California and only 3.9% of traffic there is diesel powered. In the UK the proportion is 45.9%. Even if the UK government clean air strategy succeeded it would not remove the problem (10, 11).

California state law now prohibits new schools being sited within 500 ft of a highway.

These lung stunting results have recently been confirmed in the UK (22). Of even greater concern is the recent work showing directly that fine PMs can penetrate the placenta of pregnant women (19). Fine PMs are carriers for a range of carcinogenic compounds. What is certain is that the literature proves a strong correlation between low birth weight in babies and PM levels in the air (18). Low birth weight correlates significantly with later childhood problems including cognitive deficits (20). These results should be viewed with alarm by all current and prospective parents and cause UK politicians to put immediate, severe constraints on house or school building near motorways and major roads.

It is of some interest then to see if LBW is connected to air pollution on Wirral. Figure 6 plots low birth weight prevalence for Wirral wards versus PM levels (h5). The correlation is strong at 0.71. This implies that ~50% of LBW variation on Wirral is explained by PM levels. There is also a suggestion in the data that the negative effect of PM accelerates at higher PM levels. We may safely infer that the associated physical and cognitive deficits in children living near major roads and motorways, demonstrated conclusively in national and international pollution-health studies, also apply to Wirral.

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6. Wirral Local Plan : Planning Implications of the Health Deficit Evidence

We have examined a summary of the national and international evidence for the many negative impacts on new and existing residents of building housing estates in the vicinity of motorways and major roads and the positive health value of preserving green buffer zones and green spaces in general. The problem is recognised by government to the extent that Highways England is experimenting with giant poly-tunnels to cover motorways (24).

We also demonstrated by statistical analysis of Wirral health and pollution data, very similar and significant negative health impacts for several disease classes. The evidence for impacts on vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, children and older people is particularly concerning.

We also noted possibly two dozen Green Belt Parcels listed in the initial Local Plan for consideration for release from the green belt for major housing developments, lying adjacent to the M53 motorway. The parcels east of the M53 from Storeton, through Brakenwood (junction 4) and Poulton to Raby Mere and the parcels adjacent to junction 5 at Eastham, are downwind from the motorway and particularly vulnerable to additional pollution impacts. The official government air quality models show levels implying serious health effects.

All this evidence bears no relation to the Wirral Council Sustainability Assessment, Scoping Report in which all is apparently well on the Wirral. To be fair this simply reflects recent WBC documents on air quality (25). WBC sleeps on, apparently unperturbed by wider responses to this health crisis. Curiously this includes the new Air Quality Task Force, just set up for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority of which Wirral is a part (26). Mayor Rotherham seems clear enough :

‘Poor air quality is a national public health crisis which is shortening the lives of people across our city region…’

WBC should also note the European Court of Justice action which threatens to impose huge fines on six nations including the UK. The northwest is one danger area identified (27). We can also draw WBC attention to the latest NICE Guidance recommendations on local housing and facilities planning (28) in relation to the M53 green belt parcels:

‘When Plan Making consider

  •   Minimising the exposure of vulnerable groups to air pollution by not siting buildings (such as schools, nurseries and care homes) in areas where pollution levels will be high
  •   Siting living accommodations away from roadsides
  •   Avoiding the creation of street and building configurations that encourage pollution tobuild up where people spend time
  •   Including landscape features such as trees and vegetation in open spaces or as‘green’ walls…
  •   Siting and designing new facilities and new estates to reduce the need for motorisedtravel.WBC should also consult ‘Housing & Economic Land Availability Assessment’ (29) on the issue of the ‘suitability of sites and broad locations for development’ and consider :
  •   Physical limitations or problems such as access, ground conditions, flood risk, hazardous risks and pollution or contamination.
  •   Environmental / amenity impacts experienced by would be occupiers and neighbouring areas.
  •   Potential impacts including the effects upon landscape features, nature and heritage conservation.

The extensive evidence presented above indicates the need for an independent, formal evaluation of the air quality health impact of the proposed developments on Wirral. The Institute of Air Quality Management & Environmental Protection’ provides detailed instructions for LAs (30) on what should be taken into account including

  •   The background and future baseline air quality
  •   The presence of a heavily trafficked road, with emissions that could give rise tosufficiently high concentrations of pollutants that would cause unacceptably high exposure for users of the new development.The author is working on these issues. It is also clear that it is necessary to investigate the exposure of new residents of a development to existing pollution sources but also to assess the impact of the new development on existing residents. We have shown that housing east of the M53 would both expose new residents to unacceptable air pollution but also remove the green buffer zone currently giving some protection to existing residents downwind.The new NPPF / guidance (31) is also very clear:
    ‘The planning system should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment.’ This is to be achieved by:

    ‘preventing both new and existing development from contributing to, or being put at unacceptable risk from, or being adversely affected by, unacceptable levels of soil, air, water or noise pollution or land instability.’

    ‘Opportunities to improve air quality or mitigate impacts should be identified such as…green infrastructure provision and enhancement. So far as is possible these opportunities should be considered at the plan-making stage, to ensure a strategic approach and limit the need for issues to be reconsidered when determining individual applications. ’

    The Wirral Local Plan must consider properly the health and environment impacts of building on the 50 sites earmarked for release from the Green Belt in the draft Local Plan.

    Specifically, on the evidence, building on the GB parcels we have identified east of the M53 will not provide opportunities to ‘improve air quality’ for new or existing residents nor ‘mitigate impacts’ nor ‘enhance green infrastructure’.

    It will definitely kill people.

    We note from WBC Air Quality documents (25) that

    ‘By being involved in conceptual stages of local planning policy and proposed development before formal planning applications are made, Environmental Health can help scrutinise initial plans…’

    ‘We want all of our residents to have a good quality of life in clean and safe environments.’

    ‘To use the planning system, in accordance with guidance, to effectively promote air quality.’

The latter statement is a ‘key priority’ for the coming year. The current creation of the Local Plan provides a wonderful opportunity for WBC to deliver on all this positive rhetoric and protect current and future Wirral residents. Let us hope that these statements are true. Alas, the report concludes with

‘The principle challenges and barriers to achieving the above mentioned air quality priorities will be maximising the opportunities of the resources we have to maximise influence on air quality in the Borough.’

The author would welcome a coherent interpretation of this.

Professor D P Gregg (retired) Poulton Lancelyn April 2019

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Local Plan Leaks Become A Deluge

As you can see from yet another leaked email below which was sent to all councillors by Wirral Council CEO  Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson 5pm yesterday about the Local Plan we can see a repeated attempt at damage limitation in action. To which we can only use an expression using the words – stable door, horse and bolted. No doubt ‘bolted’ was something which Stressed Eric did after he’d sent the email in the hope that the Local Plan debacle will all blow over on his say so. No chance. If the deluge of leaks emanating from Wirral Council are anything to go by Wirral Council’s CEO clearly has no authority over the out of control local authority which pays him circa £200K to live up to our initial assessment of him – feeble.

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Local Plan debacle : A Statement from Defend Wirral’s Green Spaces

Further insight from Defend Wirral’s Green Spaces into the ‘Local Plan’ electioneering plot which seems to have spectacularly backfired on the ruling Wirral Council administration. There are further extracts from the leaked documents at the centre of  the controversy / conspiracy and which contain some useful annotations from the campaign group and handily sum up the issues which are in dispute.

If anyone would like a full copy of the slides please contact wirralleaks@gmail.com

Leak Doc front cover

A “demonstration of media manipulation, blatant electioneering and political dissemblance” – What is ACTUALLY in the “leaked” document which is supposed to show that Green Belt sites are “safe”?

You may have seen recent reports in the Liverpool Echo that “leaked” documents show that 20 Wirral Green Belt sites will be “saved” from developers.

We have now been passed a copy of that “leaked” report and, unfortunately, it DOES NOT show that ANY Green Belt sites are safe.

We understand that on 12th November 2018 there was a meeting between Wirral Council’s (Labour) Cabinet and the Senior Leadership Team (SLT). This was a technical briefing by Council Officers about the Local Plan to explain how sites in the Green Belt Review would be ranked against criteria set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

However, at that meeting, the Cabinet Members indicated their “POLITICAL PREFERENCES” for the Green belt sites that they wished to save (rejected) and those that they preferred to be developed (accepted).

One week later, on the 19th November 2018, the Cabinet and the SLT met again and a “Local Plan Progress Update” document was presented which listed the Cabinet’s agreed POLITICAL preferences. This is the document that was leaked to the press.

Leaked Doc page 2

The Cabinet Members should have known that POLITICAL preferences CAN NOT decide which sites can be released for development and which can be “saved”. Sites can only be released for development following a thorough TECHNICAL ASESSMENT in accordance with Green Belt Criteria and Guidance set out in the National Planning Policy Framework. Sites can ONLY be released after due process when the public consultation process has been completed and they have been included in the adopted Local Plan.

Wirral’s Local Plan is not due to be formally adopted until the end of 2020. The public consultation process is still on-going. The deadline for the consultation on the “Sustainability Appraisal and Equalities Impact Assessment” is Wednesday 8 May 2019.

For the Government Local Plan Inspector to accept that the Local Plan is “sound”, it must be “positively prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national policy in accordance with section 20 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and the NPPF. Sites chosen by “Political Preference” would NOT stand up to scrutiny by the Local Plan Inspector and a Local Plan prepared on this basis would be found to be “un-sound”.

Therefore the “leaked” document CAN NOT and DOES NOT show which sites have been “saved” from Developers.

Following the Echo Article, the Chief Executive of the Council issued a statement which said:

“Wirral Local Plan process remains ongoing. The full list of Green Belt sites identified for potential release was agreed at Cabinet in July 2018. This list went out to public consultation and remains unchanged and no sites have been removed from the list. Any decision to amend the list of sites will be taken by Wirral’s Full Council in due course. We actively encourage all consultees and residents to take part in future consultations on the Local Plan.”

The Echo then amended their article.

It must be made clear that absolutely NO DECISION HAS BEEN TAKEN ABOUT ANY OF THE GREEN BELT SITES

Furthermore, Labour Councillor and Cabinet Member Phillip Brightmore is distributing leaflets in his Pensby and Thingwall Ward where he is standing for re-election in the Wirral’s most marginal seat. His leaflet refers to the “leaked” document and he infers that sites have been “rejected” because of his campaigning.

Not only are the sites that he refers to POLITICAL PREFERENCES ONLY ( which cannot influence the Local Plan ) but Councillor Brightmore is simply incorrect when he states that the “leaked” document reveals that all the “all the Green belt sites in Pensby, Thingwall, Irby, Heswall and Greasby were recommended for rejection”.

Indeed, the leaked document shows that some sites in Greasby / Franky and Irby Ward, Heswall and Pensby and Thingwall Ward HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN ACCEPTED by the Cabinet as preferred sites to be released for development.

One of the largest sites to be “Accepted” for development by the Cabinet (of which Councillor Brightmore is a member”) is the site East of Pensby which is in his own ward. The site termed “East of Pensby” is suitable for 1705 houses.

We can reveal that the following sites were listed in the “leaked” document as the Labour Cabinet’s POLITICAL PREFERENCE for sites to be ACCEPTED for release to developers for house building.

South of Peter Prices Lane Bebington 265 houses

East of Poulton Rd Clatterbridge 213 houses

West of Blakely Road, Raby Clatterbridge 50 houses

West of Raby Hall Clatterbridge 43 houses

West of Plymyard Dale Clatterbridge 834 houses

South of Mill Park Eastham 307 houses

West of Rivacre Road Eastham 592 houses

East of Ferry Road Eastham 29 houses

St David’s Road Eastham 32 houses

East of Rigby Drive Greasby / Frankby / Irby 311 houses

North of Whitehouse Lane Heswall 71 houses

Chester High Rd, Gayton Heswall 281 houses

13 Acres Rd, Meols Hoylake & Meols 8 houses

North of Greasby Rd Moreton / Saughall Massie 682 houses

Garden Hey Nursery Moreton / Saughall Massie 27 houses

North of Barnacre Lane Moreton / Saughall Massie 25 houses

North of Saughall Massie Moreton / Saughall Massie
193 houses

East of Garden Hey Road Moreton / Saughall Massie 47 houses

East of Pensby Pensby and Thingwall 1705 houses

West of Weybourne Close Upton 47 houses

West of Column Rd West Kirby 267 houses

“Maybe” Sites:

North of Poulton Hall Rd Clatterbridge 939 houses

West of Dibbinsdale Rd Clatterbridge 341 houses

We must reiterate that these sites are the POLITICAL PREFERENCES ONLY of the Labour Cabinet and may not bear any resemblance to the sites which may or may not be released when the Local Plan is adopted following due process, consultation and technical assessment.

However, THE LEAKED DOCUMENT MAKES A MOCKERY OF LABOURS CLAIM TO WANT A “BROWNFIELD FIRST” POLICY. THE LEAKED DOCUMENT SHOWS THAT WIRRAL’S LABOUR CABINET HAVE AGREED A PREFERENCE TO BUILD MORE THAN 6000 HOUSES ON THE GREEN BELT.

Interestingly, many of the sites which the “leak” showed had supposedly been saved were in the areas around some of the most marginal wards, where the current Councillors are in danger of losing their seats.

The “Wirralleaks” website has described the leak as a “demonstration of media manipulation, blatant electioneering and political dissemblance”.

This “fake news” was leaked by someone, just a few weeks before the local elections – you can make your own judgement as to who you think may have made the “leak” and why!

Please share this information to all your friends family and neighbours and ensure that when they vote in the upcoming local elections they are fully aware that, despite what Councillor Phillip Brightmore and others are saying, Green Belt sites on the Wirral HAVE NOT BEEN SAVED!…

Leaked Doc accepted 1
leaked doc accepted 2
leaked doc accepted 3

Plots and Plans

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The run up to the local elections is monsoon season when it comes to leaks and we’re currently soaking wet. However to be totally accurate this post is a leak about a leak. You may remember our Eric Sees Red Over Green Belt  story and if you don’t you really must try and keep up! However to recap last week we saw selective leaking of meetings from sources assumed to be close to the Labour group during the local election campaign. These leaks were designed to benefit Labour candidates but this now seems to have back fired now that full details are emerging. Labour politicians (most prominently  Cllr Phill ‘Two L and Back’ Brightmore) were all over the local press and simultaneously showing  up the Local Plan ‘consultation’ process for what it was – completely bogus – and trying  to make political capital out of closely guarded information during the purdah period and declare the local Labour group as the belated saviours of Green Belt sites listed for development. Then we had a further leaked email written by Eric Robinson commenting:

This list went out to public consultation and remains unchanged and no sites have been removed from the list. 

Well, there have been further developments on this story and it is even more sinister than we first realised.  And we use the word ‘sinister’ advisedly. It doesn’t just mean something bad is about to happen it comes from the Italian word, sinistra – meaning left.

Whilst ‘left-leaning’ politicians is something we can get with – well, if they stick to their principles and not to the power trip anyway, ‘left leaning’ flag of convenience council officials on six figure salaries is another thing altogether. Aren’t they meant to be politically neutral? Just like Martin Liptrot!

Whilst we only know the officers (and not the councillors) involved in the following exchanges it is apparent that we have council officers who have a decidedly unhealthy twisted symbiotic relationship with the current ruling Labour administration. But then we’ve long known that but it is ,yes, sinister, to see it in action.

The plot is a bit convoluted but bear with:

An unnamed councillor attempts to get a copy of the documents information contained on a set of slides which formed the basis of last week’s leak resulting in ‘Labour Saves the Green Belt’ articles:

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Despite the fact the document had already been leaked to us and the world and her husband seems to have access to it Paul Satoor the man currently responsible for cobbling a Local Plan together for the first time in 14 years replies on behalf of the elusive Wirral Council CEO ‘Stressed’ Eric Robinson :

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The anonymous councillor persists :

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The political hot potato gets passed to Monitoring Officer Philip McCourt who proves equally evasive:

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The anonymous councillor persists:

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It would appear that our intrepid councillor eventually acquires information they were requesting from another source and offers his thoughts on the tortuous process .

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It is interesting to note the the timing of the meetings referred to in the leaked information coincides with the departure of Brian Bailey in November 2018. Bailey was formerly the senior officer responsible for all things to do with the ‘Local Plan’. Perhaps he wasn’t prepared to follow the ‘Wirral Way’ of doing things – wrongly obvs! Or after his Lottery win he just thought ‘sod this for a game of soldiers’…

We think that the public interest in these leaks lies in revealing the process of extracting information from PUBLIC servants who don’t want the PUBLIC to know what’s going on .

Oh btw if anyone would like us to publish more of the leaked information (some interesting extracts are provided below) just let us know as it would appear it’s OK for certain councillors to share them if there is political advantage to be gained .Therefore as far as we’re concerned it’s open season as the Local Plan ‘consultation’ entered into in good faith by 2,700 people has already been fatally compromised by a behind closed doors decision making process organised between senior council officers and the Labour cabinet…

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Eric Sees Red Over Green Belt

It really comes to something when Wirral CEO Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson has to step in and call out the desperate electioneering tactics of Labour councillors and particularly Cllr Phil ‘Two L and Back’ Brightmore.

Cllr Brightmore was given the platform by the ever compliant Local Democracy (ha!ha!ha!) Reporter Tom ‘Media’ Houghton in the Liverpool Echo to star as the saviour of Wirral’s Green Belt and in an article titled Leaked documents reveal 22 huge Wirral green belt sites have been SAVED from developers  where Brightmore rejoices :

After months of relentless campaigning, countless meetings and a local petition backed by thousands, the council document indicates our community’s green belt has been saved for future generations to enjoy. Our arguments were clear and strong. They were listened to. This is great news for our community. The Tory order and ridiculous housing targets remain, and must be fought. However, it looks like our community will not be affected and no local green belt will be released for development.

Unfortunately the report was later denied by a Wirral Council ‘spokesman’ and the article had to be ‘updated’. We can exclusively reveal that yet another leak to us identifies that the Wirral Council ‘spokesman’ was none other than Eric ‘Feeble’ Robinson himself :

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Tell you what though with this demonstration of media manipulation , blatant electioneering  and political dissemblance Brightmore is shaping up to be a future Labour Group leader isn’t he ? …and that is about as ‘poisonous and insulting’ (© Cllr Steve Foulkes)  as we can get !

The Genuine Article : Can you spot the difference between news headlines and political adverts?

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A number of our readers have been in touch with pictures of the Wirral Globe wraparound ‘Advertisement Feature’ promoted by Cllr Ian Lewis on behalf of Wirral Conservative Group which has caused pre-Purdah murder.

We remember having a pop at the Wirral Labour Group for pulling a similar stunt last time the local elections came around. However this particular production really is something else. Real lowest common denominator stuff – right down there with their infamous ‘baseball bats’ leaflet which ruthlessly exploited the fallout from the damning  ‘Independent Review’ of 2012 .

baseball bats

The problem we have is that whilst we acknowledge you’d have to be spectacularly dim to think that the wraparound contained genuine news stories and not exploitative electioneering on the part of the local Conservative Group the fact is a) it appears under the Wirral Globe masthead and b) there are an awful lot of spectacularly dim people out there .

The scaremongering cover star is hasbeen ‘Militant’ bogeyman Derek ‘Deggsy ‘ Hatton. The picture is so old it was taken when he still had a decent head of hair . Whilst this ‘hard left’ trope is not only used as means of highlighting  the power struggle within the local Labour Party it also tacitly supports the established Labour cabal which have wreaked so much havoc in Wirral over recent years!

The inside features  pro- Green Belt , anti-Kingdom Security votecatchers which hitch a ride on the work of local activists and campaigners . Elsewhere it’s a bit thin on the ground policy-wise. A less than detailed 6 point plan features such nebulous aims as ‘ Expose Council Waste’ and ‘Better Council Services’ . Perhaps if the local elections don’t go well as expected the author can take over the running of Wirral Leaks. The local Conservative Group  don’t seem to have learned their lesson from exploiting the  political fallout of the Independent Review . Once they unexpectedly got into power , their main policy initiative was a desperate Council Tax rebate – even that didn’t work and there wasn’t enough spectacularly dim people to keep Cllr Jeff Green in power as Leader of Wirral Council  and the Conservatives were ousted at the next election.

Finally , we’d like to comment on the back page of the ‘Advertisement Feature’  which features the welcome demise of litter enforcement louts Kingdom  Security. We can’t help feeling that there’s been a bit of ‘Leaksification’ when it comes to the hard-hitting picture. Well ,they do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…

Grave Injustice

Wirral Leaks 2012

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Wirral Globe 2019

The Grubby World of Wirral Politics

As a postscript to Monday’s Extraordinary Wirral Council Meeting, which if nothing else gave many ordinary people on Wirral the opportunity to witness first hand the pantomime that passes for local political debate, we promised to bring you some further pictures of the night’s proceedings.

We feel as though the candid shots and the accompanying commentary provided by an eyewitness are a perfect summation of both the evening and how politics ‘works’ on Wirral.

Hi,

Just been down the Town Hall for the meeting. What a f***ing joke! The voting system seems to have come from some third world country!

You might be able to use these photos.

Grubby people, behind grubby windows, doing grubby deals! (I should work for the Star!)

Davies in the pre-meeting warning the members to vote his way and Foulkes being Foulkes!

Cheers

davies warning the troops

foulkes

They say that a picture paints a thousand words but we’ll give you three to start with :

COMPLACENT. CORPULENT. CORRUPT.