Margaret Greenwood MP has raised a point of order in the House of Commons in relation to plans by Leverhulme Estates to build hundreds of homes on the green belt in Wirral.
A series of appeals, put forward by Leverhulme Estates following Wirral Council’s initial rejection of the plans, are currently being heard by the Planning Inspectorate at a public inquiry.
The Wirral West MP said in parliament that Wirral Council wrote to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, on 12 April, requesting that he give consideration to the ‘recovery’ of the planning appeals.
This is a process which would see the Secretary of State himself, rather than the Planning Inspectorate, determine the outcome of the appeals.
Margaret Greenwood said that the Secretary of State had not responded to the letter sent by Wirral Council, nor had he responded to a reminder sent on 5 May.
She asked the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons for advice on what she could do, on behalf of local residents and Wirral Council, to impress upon the Secretary of State the importance of him giving this matter his urgent attention.
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’.
Wirral Council has argued that the scale of development proposed by Leverhulme Estates clearly meets these criteria and it is on those grounds that they have asked the Secretary of State to intervene.
Speaking after her intervention in the House of Commons, Margaret Greenwood MP said, “It is a matter of real concern that the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has not responded to two letters from Wirral Council asking him to give consideration to the recovery of the planning appeals submitted by Leverhulme Estates.
“The outcomes of these planning appeals have the potential to change the landscape of Wirral West significantly and it is only right that Wirral Council has asked the Secretary of State to intervene.
“That he has not done so is not only discourteous, it is extremely disappointing.
“The planning appeals are of course now underway and local residents remain very anxious about them.
“My constituents care passionately about protecting the green belt and I fully support them in this.
“I also fully support the position of Wirral Council that Wirral’s housing needs can be met on brownfield sites and land in urban areas, meaning that the exceptional circumstances required to justify amending the boundaries of the green belt do not exist.
“A situation has arisen in Wirral where, on the one hand, local people and the local council want to protect the green belt, while on the other hand developers want to build houses on it.
“We need new homes to be built on brownfield sites, not on the green belt. They need to be affordable for both buyers and renters and they should be built to high energy efficiency standards to cut people’s bills and address the climate emergency.
“The Secretary of State must give this matter his urgent attention.
“I will continue to stand alongside local people and campaign to protect the green belt.”