Brownfield only building policy: Wirral’s Local Plan to save treasured greenbelt

Wirral’s Labour-led council has developed a masterplan to stop development on precious greenbelt sites. The blueprint will see all development focused on brownfield sites, investing in areas such as Birkenhead, rather than prized green spaces. 

The brownfield sites will be transformed to provide much-needed housing, leisure, employment, education and transport facilities. By concentrating development on these sites, it will mean there will be no need for building on greenbelt land. 

Labour deputy council leader Cllr Anita Leech, who is cabinet member for the Local Plan, said the initial phase – which concentrates on Birkenhead – was the most radical approach to planning in the town for more than 70 years. She added, “This is a 20-year strategy which sets out the most radical proposals for the town since the 1947 Town Plan. 

“At the heart of the proposals is the creation of family-friendly neighbourhoods with beautiful, green public spaces, parks and a low carbon garden village, helping with the inequality we currently see across the borough. The plan will re-connect the revitalised town centre with the amazing opportunities along the Mersey waterfront, and will make the most of the town’s iconic heritage and buildings. It will do all of this while protecting the environment, improving lives and providing opportunities for our young people in a sustainable way.

“And, vitally, this development will all be on brownfield sites, preserving our wonderful greenbelt and green open spaces.”

Government targets calculated that Wirral will need 12,000 new homes over the next 15 years, equal to 800 new homes per year. Changes are already underway at Wirral Waters, Wirral Growth Company’s new office quarter and Birkenhead market.

Plans are also underway for the children’s science museum Eureka at Seacombe Ferry next year. Future High Streets Fund bids submitted by the Labour Administration in 2019 were approved for Birkenhead and New Ferry, totalling over £28 million. 

Funding for the removal of the flyovers in southern Birkenhead has also been secured, paving the way for 1,000 new homes at Hind Street, including land that has not been used for more than 30 years. 

Wirral Council leader, Cllr Janette Williamson, said, “Protection of Wirral’s beautiful greenbelt and green spaces has always been one of Labour’s key priorities, and our Local Plan will ensure that we can meet all of the targets for new housing on existing brownfield sites. 

“The regeneration of Birkenhead is hugely exciting, and to be able to redevelop existing sites into assets our communities can use for now and for the future is a huge step forward. 

“I would like to personally thank Cllr Anita Leech for her hard work and commitment, which has resulted in a popular and robust local plan which serves all of our communities.

“The next step is to hear feedback from as many Wirral residents as possible on the brownfield only developments, and then to take this to full council for approval. There we need to see all parties get behind this hugely positive Local Plan strategy and vote to save Wirral’s cherished greenbelt and green spaces for us, and for future generations to come.”

The plans have also been well received in Birkenhead. Susan Mahoney, Labour’s candidate for Birkenhead and Tranmere, said, “I am Birkenhead born and bred and proud to have raised my family here. We are proud people – we look out for each other. I am a teaching assistant and carer – as well as a mother to a successful nurse and two fabulous disabled sons – and now also a proud grandmother too. I have been both a service provider and service user and these regeneration plans are the best news for Birkenhead for decades. 

“Like so much of the north, this town has been on the receiving end of Conservative government cuts for too long. It’s time we had some much-needed economic prosperity in Birkenhead and Tranmere and a local environment that promotes health and wellbeing for all. 

“As a local community campaigner and a trustee of a charity supporting families, I am excited to see the Labour group has prioritised Birkenhead regeneration. I know it will have a huge impact on jobs and increased opportunities for our children and grandchildren in the future.”

Tim Watson, Labour’s candidate in Pensby and Thingwall, is a long-standing greenbelt champion, having worked on the successful campaign to stop the building of the Hoylake Golf Resort on the greenbelt. He said, “I’m delighted that the Labour-led Council has announced a brownfield only approach to the local plan encompassing a much-needed regeneration of Birkenhead, and saving our greenbelt and green spaces for future generations. This is exactly the approach most Wirral residents and I wanted. A vote for Labour in the local elections this year will see a local plan put forward that would protect our greenbelt for years to come.”

Prenton resident Angie Davies is Labour’s candidate for the ward in the upcoming local elections. She said, “I know the value of greenbelt land to the people of Prenton, and across the Wirral. We need it for our health and fresh air, for our fitness and for the peace of mind it can bring.

”The plans have also been well received in Birkenhead. Susan Mahoney, Labour’s candidate for Birkenhead and Tranmere, said:  “I am Birkenhead born and bred and proud to have raised my family here. We are proud people – we look out for each other. I am a teaching assistant and carer – as well as a mother to a successful nurse and two fabulous disabled sons – and now also a proud grandmother too. I have been both a service provider and service user and these regeneration plans are the best news for Birkenhead for decades. 

“Like so much of the north, this town has been on the receiving end of Conservative government cuts for too long. It’s time we had some much-needed economic prosperity in Birkenhead and Tranmere and a local environment that promotes health and wellbeing for all. 

“As a local community campaigner and a trustee of a charity supporting families, I am excited to see the Labour group has prioritised Birkenhead regeneration. I know it will have a huge impact on jobs and increased opportunities for our children and grandchildren in the future.”

The Draft 2040 Framework has launched for an 8-week consultation is available for comment until May 19. Feedback will be used to shape the final draft of Wirral’s Local Plan, which will be discussed at full council later this summer, before being submitted for inspection and acceptance by the Government.

Have your say on the Birkenhead plans here https://haveyoursay.wirral.gov.uk/regenerating-birkenhead-2

Residential development on brownfield site at Wallasey Docks
Redevelopment of Birkenhead town centre.
Birkenhead regeneration map.
Thurstaston greenbelt.
Wirral Waters: mixed residential, educational and business use.
The brownfield site at Hind Street. Credit: www.birkenhead2020.com
Creating new green spaces out of brownfield sites. Dock Branch Park.

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