Wirral Issues and Options consultation: CPRE’s response
Brownfield Land has a vital part to play in helping to achieve necessary new housing on the peninsula whilst protecting the Green Belt and green spaces, but inflated housing targets should be revised in light of evidence from the Office for National Statistics.
Jackie Copley our planning manager provided some expertise for Wirral Green Space Alliance when responding to the Issues and Options Consultation. She helped to make the case that environmental and planning designations that protect valued local assets should endure in the future for the benefit of all.
The overriding issue relates to correcting the scale of development quantum for both housing and jobs downwards. Currently housing is wrongly specified at three to four times what it should be (using the standard method and ONS 2014 derived data). This needlessly threatens the environment, when translating into the all-important 5 year housing land supply, land which is deemed special, and underpins Wirral distinct landscape character. In our endeavour, we are keen for an improved Local Plan to be adopted without delay, containing the right mix of policies and allocations to look after our greenspaces, whilst delivering enough jobs and houses, including affordable ones.
Crucially the Local Plan should address the problem of vacant and underused former industrial brownfield sites in our existing urban areas. This will support both the Government’s national planning policies and Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council’s (the Council) declared ambitions to effectively use the land resources by encouraging as much suitable brownfield land as possible to be regenerated.
Wirral should be a place of innovation and entrepreneurship, where the community thrives and visitors are offered a distinctive cultural experience along with protecting and enhancing our beloved greenspace. Reusing the potential offered from brownfield land is vital if former port and industrial sites are to be maximised. It is understood that high level negotiations are currently taking place with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and the Council to strike a deal that ensures strategic housing delivery and targeted investment and regeneration. This is a good use of public money, as most people agree that we ought not bulldoze our greenfield land in advance of available previously developed sites.
It is also believed that more sites can be identified for inclusion on the brownfield register.
Other areas for improvement include the Council having proper regard for air quality and we show why to date we think it has failed to do this in the Local Plan. Likewise, we think there is more work to be done to ensure the Local Plan properly plans for development in the context of the area’s heritage assets, especially development that although not directly within, is located next to conservation areas.
The health and well-being of Wirral’s people is at stake when the Local Plan is prepared. We must plan in a more sustainable way in the future and make sure our air, land, and water are free of pollutants, and that we have enough green infrastructure, including trees and hedgerows to filter contaminants and make the area a healthy place to live, work and visit. Housing should be located close to employment to minimise commuting and pollution, and to encourage cycling and walking.
CPRE Cheshire of course echoed all of WGSA comments in a separate response, in the hope the information will enable the Council to progress a more acceptable Local Plan to the Regulation 19 stage.