Planning Committee rejects West Kirby housing plan for third time

A planning application to demolish social housing in West Kirby and replace it with homes for sale has, for a third time, been thrown out by the Council’s Planning Committee.

Meeting last week, the committee heard that just £9,000 would be paid by developer of the Ashton Court site, on Banks Road, towards affordable housing elsewhere in the Borough.

Ashton Court, built in 1958 by the former Hoylake & West Kirby Urban District Council.  This later formed part of Wirral Council's housing stock and, along with all other council housing, was transferred, following a tenant vote, in 2005 to Wirral Partnership Homes.  This was subsequently rebranded as 'Magenta Living' in an attempt to be 'more commercial'.

Since then, the tenants at Ashton Court were compulsorily moved out and the flats left derelict - leaving an eyesore in a key town centre location and area of high demand for social housing.

Two previous applications to build 14 units on the site, which offered no parking and no affordable housing, were thrown out, most recently in January 2018, following a campaign by residents, backed by Cllr. Gerry Ellis 

On Wednesday 17 April, Councillor Stuart Kelly (Liberal Democrat, Oxton) called for the plan to be rejected and this was seconded by Councillor Ian Lewis (Conservative, Wallasey).  The call was agreed with a majority of one vote on the committee, while most Labour councillors sought to approve the plan.

Councillor Lewis added: “For a company owned by a so-called ‘social landlord’ to think that this is acceptable shows an appalling lack of judgement and a failure to live up to their stated aims.  

"The clue is in the name – they are supposed to be providing housing that is affordable and meeting the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our Borough.  Flogging off social housing in West Kirby does neither. 

“I hope Magenta will, finally, get the message and come up with a new plan for Ashton Court that is accaptable to neighbours and helps more people gain the housing they need.  

"If this is beyond the ability of Magenta, maybe they need to hand the site over to a developer than can.”

In August 2018, the independent Regulator of Social Housing issued a statement on Magenta that stated the company needed to 'improve some aspects of its governance arrangements'.

The company has previously faced criticism for the fees charged via it's private lettings arm, 'Bamboo', and it's withdrawal from Property Pool Plus, the 'one stop shop' set up to help people find affordable housing.

Cllr. Lewis has also previously called for the Freedom of Information Act to be extended to 'social landlords' such as Magenta.

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