Green Belt Review

pip-grinch

Pip : Green Man or a threat to the Green Belt?

We are pleased to publish a letter from The Prof an extract from the introduction to his brilliantly researched Wirral Green Belt Review 2018 explaining why Wirral residents need to wake up and take action against threats to Wirral’s Green Belt. It would appear that there is a growing realisation that that threat lies closer to home and that the approved narrative from Wirral Council that the villains are the Peel Group and bullying bureaucrats from central Government simply doesn’t stack up – especially in the light of the proposals for the Hoylake Golf Resort.

So instead of bogus consultation meetings and political point scoring in the local newspapers Professor David Gregg (‘The Prof’)  is kindly providing facts and figures and a cogent argument as to why local activists need to be informed and get involved to protect the Green Belt. Although his analysis is about the impact of housing development at Poulton Lancelyn it serves as an excellent template for Green Belt activists . If anyone would like a free e copy of The Prof’s book get in touch with us :  Wirralleaks@gmail.com

Hello! Now the time scale for green belt site assessment against the national and local development criteria has been slashed to zero it is essential that local action groups make and submit their own analyses to the planning process.

As I mentioned I have done this for site 1984 at Poulton Lancelyn. I have published and am now circulating this independent report to locals, councillors, Alison McGovern and various heritage, wildlife and countryside activist groups. On several key grounds the aim to ‘fill in’ the whole GB land area east of the M53 from Prenton, south to Raby Mere is very damaging and totally unjustified on the Council’s own criteria. Somebody has gone insane. My local group will be gearing up action over the next few weeks but I thought you might like to see the report now. I am providing e copies free to any local Wirral residents affected.

                                                                          The Prof.
INTRODUCTION

A Strategic Housing Land Availability Study is being undertaken by Wirral Council as part of the generation of the Core Strategy Local Plan to be submitted to the DCLG Secretary of State. Part of this process involves identifying sites within the Green Belt to be made ‘available’ by landowners and developers for housing development and their subsequent ‘release’. The NPPF of 2012 requires local authorities to boost housing supply and this has recently (March 2018) been reinforced by the Prime Minister in the new draft NPPF proposals. Fifteen councils were singled out for condemnation by the then Secretary of State for failing to define a Local Plan and deliver an adequate level of new housing. Wirral is one of these councils. Secretary Sajid Javid has recently said of Wirral

‘In the 13 years that have passed since the 2004 Act was introduced your council has failed to meet the deadlines set out in that timetable.’

The threatened consequence is direct government intervention in the housing development process. The last Local Plan was written in 2000. The policy on Green Belt in the draft 2018 NPPF remains essentially unchanged (3). However there will be increasing pressure to build on Green Belt land which is why the listing of ‘available’ sites for development in the Wirral is important. If a site is not on the list it will not be considered, given the long list of ‘available’ sites in total (~110). The aim of local resident groups at this stage should be to prevent and protest local site listing and then ‘release’ for development. The question of redefining the Green Belt and building on green belt land sites appears to have arisen because of ‘land banking’ by developers in other Wirral areas. Council leader Phil Davies informed Secretary Sajid Javid in an official letter (31.01.18) that

‘Planning permission is currently in place for 16,098 new homes including 2,577 on existing urban and previously developed sites and up to 13,521 dwellings at …Wirral Waters…
The Council’s current SHLAA to April 2017 shows potential for a further 4,531 dwellings, subject to viability…’

At an intended target rate of house building of around 800 per annum the above implies we have a 26 year supply in hand. In addition ~6,000 existing houses are claimed to be lying empty.

According to Cllr. Davies, progress on ‘housing led regeneration has been hindered’ by the cut back in Conservative central government funding. Given this background the pressure to release and build on Green Belt land must seem obscure to the ordinary Wirral resident (but read on). The unfortunate attitude of some local councillors appears to be that until a landowner or developer makes a planning application residents can go back to sleep. This presumably reflects a complacent view of current ‘national’ policy.

‘National policy states that Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances through the preparation or review of the Local Plan and that inappropriate development in the Green Belt should not be approved except in very special circumstances.’

But a new Local Plan is being written and ~110 Green Belt sites have been put forward by ‘landowners and developers’ including site 1984 ; GB parcel SPO42, adjacent to Colmore Avenue and Poulton Green Close and further south to a point near Lancelyn Farm. If all these Green Belt sites are ‘safe’ why have so many landowners put them forward formally, as available for development ? Is this simple land speculation or prior knowledge? Also, very special circumstances are with us: an alleged national shortage of ‘affordable’ housing and the government’s desire for some major political ‘virtue signaling’…