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CPRE celebrates a significant win for Wirral’s countryside

20th September 2023

CPRE Cheshire, with the Wirral Society, is celebrating the dismissal of seven planning appeals by Leverhulme Estates to build 788 dwellings on seven sites in the Green Belt (there is an eighth appeal ongoing). These proposals are Stage One of a much larger proposition of more than 7,000 homes.

Jackie Copley, Planning Director for CPRE Lancashire, Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester (CPRE’s Planning Policy Lead three days a week) acted as planning witness for the Wirral Green Space Alliance, the umbrella body for more than thirty local civic groups.

In evidence, Ms Copley made the case that the proposals were premature, as the emerging local plan was at examination (this was paused to allow the inquiry). The proposals were also harmful to Green Belt purpose and openness. Other harms, including to loss of landscape character, ecology (Wirral Península has rare habitats, flora and fauna due to its microclimate and geography – Dr Hilary Ash of Wirral Wildlife gave evidence about recreational pressures arising and mitigation), and Best and Most Versatile agricultural land. She pointed out that the Leverhulme Vision was flawed as it had not consulted with the local community properly. The harms were not clearly outweighed by benefits so very special circumstances did not exist.

At the public event on the evening of 8th of June Margaret Greenwood MP, local Councillors and many local people spoke out in objection to Leverhulme Estate’s proposals, thousands more submitted hand submitted written objections. Notably Professor Ludi Simpson (retired) of demography and population studies at the University of Manchester spoke out about the need for planning decisions to rely on best available data, which is currently Census 2021 (reliance on ONS 2014 has been criticised as artificially over-inflating housing need by the Office for Statistics Regulation).

Ms Katie McDonald MSc MRTPI the appointed Inspector agreed that the appeals were premature. She gave ‘tremendously substantial weight’ to prematurity in recognition of Green Belt purpose to support the regeneration focus of the emerging local plan, which seeks to tackle inequality. People in the eastern areas die eleven years younger than those living in the west. Reusing brownfield land to improve the quality of life for people in the east is a priority of the Council and supported by the public.

The dismissal of the appeals has saved 45 hectares of farmland and sensitive habitat from being bulldozed. This is a tremendous win for CPRE working with the Wirral Society and WGSA.

Thank you to those who donated funds to support this important action.

Public Inquiry Jackie Copley