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
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Whistling in the Wind

Whistleblower

A senior Wirral Councillor writes :

I have been reading your recent postings with considerable interest.Your commentary on ‘life’ at the Town Hall has always been useful both as a background and a signpost, often well informed.You must have had well placed sources. I hope your successor rises to the occasion. I hope that your move to sunnier climes provides you with the retirement living you have looked forward to.

His Lordship replies :

Just to let you know we’re as probing of our sources as we are of our subjects. Unfortunately we have so many more stories that we haven’t published because our sources get frightened or they want to use us for personal grievances. We’d rather not know. The shame of it is though – we didn’t make a blind bit of difference,did we?

We shall observe local developments from afar and hope that the people of Wirral realise they deserve better representation. 

It’s rather endearing that Wirral Council have blocked us from accessing their website as if it was our main source of information . Bless! Of course our sources were always well placed and often surprisingly well placed to the throne of lies.

However we have to say we think the heady days of whistleblowing are about to become a distant memory. And that’s not to say that Wirral Council have changed their ways – it’s just that potential whistleblowers have learned the lessons from history and now seem either want to simply keep schtum, use what they know as an opportunity for career advancement /financial gain or to armourplate their arse against potential retribution. The public interest doesn’t come into it !

Jericho

But who can blame them ?  Whereas we can provide a long list of the dishonest,the incompetent and corrupt who went on to be Chief Executives,Directors, Trustees elsewhere we can’t find one example of a Wirral Council whistleblower who’s career and livelihood wasn’t destroyed.

Will scandals such as the financial abuse of disabled people, Wirral Council doing business with an Organised Crime Group, the illegal 4 week delay in care packages in the Department of Adult Social Services , the illegal implementation of the Discretionary Housing Benefit scheme , Misconduct in Public Office,the sexual indiscretions of senior management , the misuse and abuse of grant monies , theft, fraud,racism, gross mismanagement and waste of public money etc; etc; ever see the light of day again?

Let’s consider a couple of examples – firstly the Wirralgate complainants. They have been called many things but ‘whistleblowers’ they ain’t. We were always being told by others that they’d send us their tawdry tapes. They never did – as they knew we’d publish in the public interest in a heartbeat. They’re quite happy for Liverpool Echo and Wirral Globe to have the incriminating recording as they know that they’d never publish the contents in a million years. And what’s more it makes a great bargaining tool doesn’t it?

Which brings us to the latest incarnation of a Wirral Council ‘whistleblower’. This time it’s someone emanating from the department with perhaps knows the most about Wirral Council’s wicked ways  – the Department of Legal Services.

We understand that a solicitor in this department has suddenly remembered her Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA) Code of Conduct and has cried she can’t go along with the cover ups anymore , dropped out of a highly contentious case and engaged a solicitor of her very own to make sure she doesn’t suffer any detriment for doing so . Is it any wonder Wirral Council can’t recruit a new head for this department following the departure of the utterly appalling Surjit Tour who succeeded the absolutely appalling Bill Norman and have had to resort to what they call a ‘market supplement’ and what we’d call a ‘hush money premium’ to recruit an Assistant Director – Law and Governance?

The Employment and Appointments Committee held on 18 December 2017 were asked to consider the following :

In June 2017, Employment and Appointments Committee agreed to proceed
with recruitment of Assistant Director Law and Governance. This is currently an
Assistant Director/Director 2 post with a salary range (£79,259 – £92,854)
The Council advertised this post in August 2017 but did not appoint at this time.
As set out in the 27 June 2017 report this remains a competitive market across
the Country. This is a statutory post and a critical role within the Senior
Leadership Team. It is therefore proposed to re-advertise at Director 2 level with a market supplement of up to 5% for the right candidate (£83,568-– £92,854(+5%)

We’re sure we all know what they mean by ‘ the right candidate’  to take this poisoned chalice don’t we boys and girls? The sad fact is that they’ll undoubtedly find someone!

But to finish on a more optimistic note here’s to all the leakers, whistleblowers , mavericks, outsiders, truth tellers, truth seekers and good people of Wirral . May 2018 be our year!

MM