The government is considering whether to recover seven planning appeals by Leverhulme Estates regarding applications to build nearly 800 homes on green belt land in Wirral.
Baroness Scott of Bybrook, who is Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, has written to Wirral West MP Margaret Greenwood and Council Leader Cllr Paul Stuart stating that: “The government is currently considering whether these appeals should be recovered for decision by ministers on behalf of the Secretary of State.”
Government guidance sets out a number of circumstances in which the Secretary of State would consider recovering planning appeals.
Two of these circumstances are ‘proposals for development of major importance having more than local significance’ and ‘proposals for significant development in the green belt’.
On 5 June, Margaret Greenwood MP and Cllr Paul Stuart wrote to Michael Gove, the government’s Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Regeneration, to request that he considered recovering the Leverhulme Estates appeals for determination by himself on those very grounds.
After receiving the update from the government, Margaret Greenwood MP said, “I stand with Wirral West residents who are campaigning hard to protect the green belt in Wirral.
“The majority of the sites in question are in Wirral West, and my constituents have made it abundantly clear that they do not want to see it built on.
“There have been public demonstrations and petitions with tens of thousands of signatures. The strength of public opinion should not be underestimated.
“Wirral Council has clearly set out how the borough’s housing needs can be met on brownfield sites and land in urban areas.
“It is right that the government should look closely at these planning appeals.
“The public inquiry into the planning appeals by Leverhulme Estates is set to end early next month, so time is of the essence.
“I call on the Secretary of State to step in now and save Wirral’s green belt.”
Cllr Paul Stuart said, “People in Wirral, as well as local elected representatives, have shown clearly that they do not want to see development on the green belt.
“Wirral’s Local Plan is clearly focussed on developing the eastern parts of the borough and it demonstrates that housing need can be met by building on brownfield sites.
“Leverhulme Estates’ plans would have a massive impact on Wirral’s unique character and beautiful countryside, damaging the quality of life of those who live and work near it.
“Their plans are just the first phase of proposed unwanted and unwarranted green belt development.
“The Secretary of State should step in and protect the green belt in Wirral.”
What are recovered appeals?
Planning appeals can be ‘recovered’ for a decision by government ministers. A recovered appeal is one where instead of an inspector making the decision, he or she will write a report that will make a recommendation on how the appeal should be determined. This will then be passed to the secretary of state to make the decision, taking into account the inspector’s recommendation.
Recovery should not be confused with ‘call-in’, where the original application decision is taken away from the local authority and made by ministers.
Recovery can occur at any stage of the appeal up to the point at which the inspector issues their decision, even after the site visit, a hearing or an inquiry has taken place.