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CPRE Cheshire fights to protect Wirral’s Green Belt

Jonathan Clarke
By Jonathan Clarke
28th July 2023

CPRE Cheshire has recently taken part in a major public inquiry to help save Wirral’s countryside from unsuitable housing development. The inquiry lasted for 7 weeks in May to July 2023 and concerned 7 planning applications submitted by Leverhulme Estates for a total of 788 dwellings (an eighth application was refused for 200+ dwellings).

If approved, the proposals would lead to loss of farmland (some of which is assessed as best and most versatile), cause major harm to Wirral’s rare and threatened biodiversity, erode the rural character and appearance of the area, and cause encroachment of built forms into the countryside. Importantly, the proposals also threaten Wirral Council’s plans to regenerate its industrial and port areas, which are now the subject of a partnership with funding from Government, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, and other stakeholders. Approval of the proposals could also set a precedent for thousands more dwellings to be allowed in the Wirral Green Belt.

Cheshire CPRE was represented as part of the Wirral Green Space Alliance, for whom experts produced a range of evidence to counter the assertions of the appellant. Our case included calling for the use of up-to-date 2021 Census data to determine housing need. A total of 22,000 pages of core documents were placed by the parties in front of Inspector Ms Katie McDonald MSc MRTPI.

CPRE Cheshire has written to Michael Gove to ask him to determine the appeals himself due to their national significance (as opposed to leaving them to be decided by the Inspector). We also argued that the proposals are premature as they could predetermine the shape of the emerging Wirral Local Plan, the examination for which was paused to allow the appeals to be heard. Now that the inquiry has closed the Local Plan examination will resume, at which Cheshire CPRE will continue to fight to protect Wirral’s countryside.

Rod Tann