Objectors told to ‘behave’ with calls for ‘order’ at planning meeting

Objectors to a controversial car parking plan were told to “behave” with calls for “order” as they interrupted a meeting.

Four people were opposing a planning application change to plans for 10 flats that will see plans for an underground car park become an overground car park at the front.

The flats will now be built on Meols Drive in West Kirby, after a majority of planning committee councillors still supported the changed plans on 14 March.

The plans had previously been approved in August 2022 despite being controversial at the time. The two homes at 100 and 102 Meols Drive have now been demolished.

However, the change to the car park had been called in by Hoylake councillor Andrew Gardner and a petition of 54 people. Those against the application argue the development would be harmful to the area and fundamentally change it forever due to the 20 car parking spaces proposed.

Blueoak Estates, the firm behind the scheme has argued it would be built “with fine point attention to luxury and detail, offering breath-taking views” and the changes would “not only reduce the disruption and construction length, but would achieve a vast carbon saving of 183,900kg.” However, it was accused of “attempting to cynically exploit planning rules to its own advantage.”

One of the properties on Meols Drive that has now been demolished. Credit: GOOGLE

The meeting was interrupted at one point as objectors protested that an outline of a building was factually inaccurate calling councillors “a disgrace”. However, Chair Cllr Stuart Kelly called for order, adding, “I am not having this. Objectors will get a chance to speak later.” He told objectors “you simply can’t shout from the audience.”

Cllr Kelly added, “This is a council meeting, this is not a public meeting. Behave. When the objectors speak, if they wish to raise some issues with officers, they can but I will certainly not have disruption at this meeting from the public gallery.”

Councillors eventually voted in favour of the application eight to three with the support of Labour, Green, and Liberal Democrat councillors. They pointed out increased urban intensification would be a consequence of the council’s brownfield first development policy in order to avoid development on the green belt, and argued there were similar car parks at the front of buildings in the area.

Cllr Kelly also pointed to benefits of the changed application with more trees planted and a previous council decision that was overturned despite no car parking being provided. He said the 2021 census also showed that more than 20% of people in West Kirby don’t have cars at their home, adding, “It’s not a given that families are two car owners in the first place.”

The committee’s three Conservative councillors argued the original planning application wouldn’t have been approved with the new car park plans, highlighting previously raised concerns from Historic England about a number of car parking spaces above ground. However the public body did not offer any comment this time when approached about the new plans.

Hoylake councillor Max Booth said the new parking “would be very, very excessive,” adding the existing driveways in the area “are beautiful and the negative implication this will have going forward on conservation areas. I think it wouldn’t set a good precedent.” He put forward a motion to refuse the application and this was lost.

An application to approve 12 luxury flats on Grange Road in West Kirby was also approved with councillors praising the look of the development as well as steps taken to take on board objections and amend plans to reflect the architecture of West Kirby. The former school on the site will be knocked down.

Image: How the new Links development on Meols Drive could look. Credit: Blueoak Estates

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