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’…

Summer Shorts : The Heat is On 2 – Quo Bono?

Green Belt Eric 008

This follow up to yesterday’s bogus  Stressed Eric ‘Green Belt’ Wirral Globe story is a timely reminder that on Wirral there is a need to question every front page ‘exclusive’ , especially when it comes to timing and motivation.

We are grateful for ‘The Prof’ for giving us a sneak preview of this  letter to the Globe editor

The Globe report on Green Belt development, quoting Eric Robinson, is puzzling.

We are told that ‘there is no other option’ than to build on the Green Belt and it’s the wicked government’s fault. It seems we must build 12,000 new homes by 2035 or ~700 per annum. This is all very strange.In February Phil Davies wrote to the CLG & H minister, Sajid Javid,  to reassure him all was well.

Here are the key bits:

‘Planning permission is currently in place for 16,098 homes, including 2,577 on existing urban and previously developed sites and up to 13,521 dwellings at a large regeneration site …at Wirral Waters…The council’s SHLAA  to April 2017 shows the potential for a further 4,531 dwellings, subject to viability…’Taking these numbers in total we have 20,620 homes with planning permission, or 29 years worth at the required rate of building. We are also told that ‘1,315 new dwellings were under construction in April 2017 compared to only 475 in April 2016’ an average of 895 homes per year in recent years compared with the average needed rate of ~700.

Clearly the ‘government’ required rate of building is possible to meet. Robinson’s view that new Green Belt land must be used is therefore puzzling. I also note Javid’s comment that Wirral ‘is not an area of high housing pressure’ which is interesting. Javid’s attack was not about numbers but about Wirral’s failure to meet the statutory duty to have a Local Plan in place. The last plan was published in 2000 !

To conflate statutory plan duties with Green Belt release issues is arguably mischievous. Is all this blather something to do with forcing through pet council Green Belt schemes like the ‘Golf Resort’? Tax payers might reasonably ask, Quo Bono?

Professor D P Gregg (retired)

So there we have a perfect riposte with facts,figures and everyfink ! – and ending with the pertinent question as to who benefits from bogus front page stories like this ?
PS  Oh and to the reader who asked us whether the name at bottom left of the Globe picture was a subliminal message – well spotted. You win a Chinese meal , a recording device and four blank cheques courtesy of Wirral Council.

The Importance of Being Frank Ernest Field

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Something stinks in Birkenhead : is it the stink of skunk or the stench of corruption?

Once again we ask ourselves is there a bandwagon that headline -grabbing media whore Frank Field won’t shamelessly leap on?

We refer to a couple of  further examples from this week . First is the case of 6 year old Alfie Dingley who had been denied cannabis oil to treat his severe epilepsy. After a prolonged campaign by his family and following 12-year-old Billy Caldwell being granted a limited licence this week for a 20-day supply of medical cannabis to also alleviate the life-threatening effects of his seizures Bromsgrove MP and Home Secretary Sajid Javid granted the UK’s first ever ‘life-changing’ permanent medical licence for cannabis.

However prior to this welcome news we were treated to this melodramatic performance by Birkenhead MP in the House of Commons :

Alfie met the Prime Minister eight weeks ago and she instructed the Home Office to act; on Saturday, he had 30 seizures. Will the Home Office give  the right hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Sir Mike Penning)—who is seeking to catch your eye, Mr Speaker—Lady Meacher and I the authority to go through border control with the drugs that Alfie needs? If the Minister will not act, may we?

See here: Medicinal Cannabis

We can’t help thinking that Sir Mike Penning and Lady Meacher sound like characters out of an Oscar Wilde play. Whilst Frankenfield sounds like a latter day Lady Bracknell with that strangulated, superior-sounding syntax. However we would have paid a lot of money to see this unlikely trio being frisked at border control and Frank in particular being asked by a customs officer : ” Is that a spliff in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?” (yes, we know it’s cannabis oil which is at the centre of the debate but you get our drift.)

Obviously we’re not suggesting that the great Victorian moraliser personally partakes of the devil’s lettuce and that his offer of drug smuggling was purely a selfless act but who better to source cannabis (in any form) than the Right Honourable Member for Birkenhead? Walking round what’s left of the Pyramid shopping centre – and let’s face it the pyramids in Egypt are in better shape –  brings a whole new meaning to the phrase  ‘a trip to the town centre’ as the of the pungent stench of weed assaults your nostrils whether you want it to or not.

The second example of dubious and desperate attention seeking is his long running and frankly tedious feud with ‘tax-efficient’ tycoon ‘Sir’ Philip Green . In the latest episode Frank Field asks what Sir Philip Green “has got to hide” in BHS report   

Sir Philip Green’s most public and staunch critic Frank Field has questioned his attempts to cover up a report exposing his business dealings prior to the downfall of BHS.

Last week it was revealed that Green’s company Taveta had attempted to secure an injunction preventing the findings of an investigation into BHS’s finances prior to its collapse form being published.

“Well, what has he got to hide?,” Field told the Press Association.

“I am writing to the body to ask them about each draft of the report underlining their decision, who had access to those drafts, and what changes did they request.”

Once again we think something stinks to high heaven. Wirral Leaks readers may recall  Frankenfield making a similar song and dance about a Wirral Council report written by his old mucker , ex- judge Nicholas Warren, way back in July 2015 when the headline read : Storm as MP accuses council chiefs of ‘abusing power’ over Wirral whistleblower inquiry delay

Field  said:  “I am deeply troubled by this delay.

“It is almost ten weeks since the report was completed and filed, and we are clearly getting nowhere.

“Officers within the council need to face up to their moral responsibilities and realise that these delaying manoeuvres are an abuse of their power.

“It is an insult to the whistleblowers and to the people of Wirral, who have a right to know what has been going on.

Astonishingly it is 3 years later and the report still hasn’t been published – yet Frankenfield has been strangely silent on the subject of the public’s right to know exactly what went on and what has gone on since. To which we can only use his own words and ask :

” Well, what has he got to hide?”………….

 

 

 

Dead Wrong

Cabinet 019

Cllr George Davies hangs his head in shame. Correction : he has no shame. 

Today’s Wirral Council Cabinet meeting gave the powers that be the opportunity to respond to the criticism levelled at them by central government that they couldn’t organise a bunfight in a bakery when it comes to local planning issues with their failure to produce a ‘Local Plan’.

Unfortunately spineless council leader Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies , in his inimitable style, delegated the task of chairing this meeting to his hapless deputy , Cllr George Davies. But where was Pip? – New York? Reno? Cannes? China? Apparently anywhere but his ward in Birkenhead or Wallasey Town Hall! Consequently we’d like to send him an early Easter present – a petri dish. Perhaps he’ll be able to grow a scrotum in it!

petri dish

Inevitably it didn’t work out well as Gorgeous George hid behind his PC screen (which makes a change from hiding behind Frank Field’s skirts) and , as usual, embarassingly read out a pre-prepared empty speech which bore a remarkable similarity to an exclusive statement issued to Wirral Globe by Pip in his belated response to Sajid Javid, the Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government,and his letter threatening government intervention which we exclusively revealed to the people of Wirral –  Making Plans For Wirral

The belated Wirral Globe story can be read here

The use of the term ‘dead wrong’ was a dead giveaway that this was a Martin Liptrot-scripted case of talking loud and saying nothing.  Watch in horror from behind the settee from 7.30 minutes in of the John Brace video as Cllr George Davies has the temerity to say that as a  government minister Sajid Javid is “entitled to his opinion” . Whereas the truth of the matter is that Javid is entitled in LAW to insist that Wirral Council abide by their statutory obligations and produce a coherent ‘Local Plan’ .

What we find to be ‘dead wrong’ in the above horrorshow is that someone who has used racist slurs and offered a sweetheart deal to scammers  in return for smearing a political opponent is deemed to have the moral authority and political gravitas to challenge the accusation that he is monumentally incompetent when it comes to fronting Wirral Council’s planning portfolio.

Just watch and tell us whether it makes you feel proud that the people above – and Cllr George Davies in particular  – are responsible for making decisions that affect you and your life.

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Wirral Council ‘leadership’ in action. These are the people who make decisions about our lives whilst avoiding the public gaze from behind their (smoke)screens .

Making Plans For Wirral

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Following yesterday’s masterful Masterplantastic story we bring you an immaculately timed letter from  Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Housing , Communities and Local Government which tells us what happens when a council has ‘visions’ rather than ‘plans’ !

As you may remember last November we brought to your attention Wirral Council’s failure to produce a ‘Local Plan’ and Javid’s warning that there would be government intervention if Wirral Council leader Cllr Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies couldn’t get his house in order : Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail .  Wirral Council was one of 15 council’s who received such a warning with  Javid making this sabre rattling statement :

…today is the day that my patience has run out.

Those 15 authorities have left me with no choice but to start the formal process of intervention that we set out in the white paper.

By failing to plan, they have failed the people they are meant to serve.

The people of this country who are crying out for good quality, well-planned housing in the right places, supported by the right infrastructure.

They deserve better, and by stepping in now I’m doing all I can to ensure that they receive it.

Now it would appear that Wirral Council has excelled themselves by being one of only 3 remaining councils who now face intervention for “persistent failure over many years to get a Local Plan in place”  For further details : Three councils

The full shameful letter from Javid to Pip can be read here :

Wirral Plan

Meanwhile a Wirral Leaks commentator going by the name of ‘HeadBallRoll’ writes to us to say :

After a series of mealymouthed excuses as to why highly paid council officers and their political paymasters couldn’t actually cut and paste something resembling a Local Plan by 31st January 2018 – as they were too busy hiding behind their 20/20 Vision and pledges rather than meeting a statutory requirement by which they can be held to account . Maybe the chosen few were too busy scoping golf courses, closing children’s centres, farming out council houses to private property developers … or simply not paying attention? So it’s been around a while, ending up with 15 councils warned by the angry Slaphead Javid.  But even nearly three years’ notice wasn’t enough for the senior, blind, bumbling incompetents shuffling around lost, bumping into each other, muttering, tripping over files, in the dusty, unused Wirral planning office.

And let’s face it, 33 months is  nowhere near enough notice to get their shit together (after 13 years of not having a ‘Local Plan’ !)  Presumably the other dozen LAs scraped through because they had enough about them to focus, gather the remnants of good practice and apply the last surviving vestiges of planning nous into cobbling some crappy document together in time.

But not here.  It seems they’ve sat around, twiddled their thumbs and hoped the horrible Tories would either go away, forget, or not go through with it.

Despite the BIG proclamations, the BIG egos, the BIG senior salaries, they’ve messed up BIG style.  It’s one BIG cock-up.

This being Wirral though, where abject failure and disaster have long become customary bedfellows, like night follows day, or falling off a log, it doesn’t soften the blow.

But hey, as long as those bumper salaries are not cut off and continue to come in on pay day, where’s the incentive to do your jobs, lol?

So chaos is now expected and planned for at ‘most improved’ Wirral. (Who remembers the Children’s Services OFSTED catastrophe that overpromoted social worker and CEO Eric Robinson  knew about months in advance, only to dive under his desk, head in hands, dribbling and doing bugger all to stave it off?)

And what of the grafting junior staff of the Planning Department, doing their utmost to at least be professional and hold the fort?

Monday morning will arrive, and they’ll find themselves intercepted, scapegoated, placed into the line of fire and reaping the consequences of years of failure by their bosses and councillors – who will have had just enough prior notification to give it all a timely body swerve…. That’s the type of ‘planning’ they’re very good at. Avoidance measures, whilst junior bods and lackeys are left to pick up the pieces. 

So it’s not just Children’s Services, Social Services, Highways Services that have collapsed into an abject, irretrievable mess.We can now add the Planning Department to the long list of shame.

Of course the upshot of all this is that Wirral’s ‘Local Plan’ could now come under the auspices of the Liverpool City Region as Javid warns in his letter:

 

My officials will also begin formal discussions on the options of inviting the Combined Authority for the Liverpool City Region to prepare a Local Plan for Wirral and on the possibility of directing an accelerated Joint Plan, as part of considering whether to use my statutory powers and if so which ones.

Could this have been part of  Pip’s ‘Masterplan’ all along ?  To evade accountability for an unpopular ‘Local Plan’ and subsequent planning decisions – ” It wasn’t us who approved a golf resort etc;  – it was the Liverpool City Region!”

 

Fail to plan, plan to fail

Fail to plan

It won’t come as any surprise to our regular readers (or indeed anyone living near some derelict wasteland or an empty building) that Wirral Council finds itself in trouble with central government for failing to have a ‘Local Plan’ under the Planning Act 2004 .

Local Plan Intervention

Accordingly Sajid Javid ,Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) , has written to Wirral Council ‘leader’ Cllr  Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies that   central government will take over local planning if they can’t get their act together.

Only last week Wirral Leaks pointed out the lack of any Wirral Council co-ordination when it comes to planning in our Any Old Ion story.  This leads the council – and more importantly us – to be prey to speculative developers and ultimately leads to ad-hoc, piecemeal, opportunistic building developments.

Of course this isn’t all the fault of the current administration as Wirral Council have failed to produce a ‘Local Plan’ for 13 years !!! –  13! unlucky for some, usually us who pay these incompetents to actually do their jobs and comply with central  government requirements.

Nevertheless,  isn’t it funny how the current incumbents of power at Wallasey Town Hall can come up with the window dressing of ’20 Pledges’ and then drone on about them ad nauseum and yet can’t come up with the foundations for a  legally required ‘ Local Plan’ !

Meanwhile in the absence of the ‘Local Plan’ publicly-funded fantasists can pursue the corrupt dream of fire stations, golf resorts and international trade centres – OK , NOT international trade centres ,even we admit that’s a bit far fetched – without any public accountability!

But then why have central government let them get away with it all this time? Isn’t it funny how central government can intervene when it comes to planning regulations but when it comes to failures in children’s and adult social services we’ve had to put up with with totally ineffective and utterly cosmetic ‘improvement boards’.

Perhaps it’s not so confusing when you think about it , as apparently we live in a world where everything and everyone is a commodity and obviously real estate (including the blessed green belt) has so much more worth than real people.