Like many other families now living in Wirral, the green and open spaces were one of the reasons why my parents chose to move here, from Huyton, almost 40 years ago. Many readers will remember the slightly corny Council slogan to welcome visitors: ‘Wirral: a pleasant place to grow’.
Yet, today, it is this growth and, specifically, the changing housing needs that are putting pressure on our green spaces.
None of this has happened overnight, in spite of what the Council’s Cabinet wants us to believe. It actually started back in 2004, when the-then Labour Government recognised how housing needs were changing and so required, by law, every Council to come up with a Local Plan that would meet future housing needs while protecting green spaces and Green Belt.
14 years later and most councils have done this. Developers know which bits of land can be developed and which can’t.
Most councils, but not all and, sadly, not Wirral.
For 14 years, Wirral has waffled and delayed, while developers come in, drive past the run down and neglected parts of the Borough on their way to the valuable green and open spaces.
It’s only now, following the Government losing patience, that the Cabinet has decided to act – and in such haste that it almost looks like panic. And, as we’ve learnt in the past, when Wirral Council acts in haste, it’s the residents who end up paying the price.
The list of sites the Cabinet has come up with is THEIR list – the Government hasn’t said these sites should be developed. The Ministry of Housing in London just wants our housing needs to be met. It’s up to the local council to decide where, as the 2004 Act of Parliament makes clear.
By failing to produce a Local Plan, the Council is guilty of not only putting our Green Belt at risk – as we saw in Saughall Massie and are seeing at Hoylake – but also failing the urban areas that are desperately of redevelopment.
Developers will go where they can build quickly and make the most money – nine times out of 10 these are the open green fields, not the likes of Liscard, Egremont or New Ferry.
The Green Belt, like our country parks and coast, should be for every Wirral resident to enjoy – ‘the many, not the few’.
This article first appeared in the Wirral Globe