A Labour Party candidate is amongst those expressing frustration over plans to build more than 780 homes on green belt land.
Last week, Leverhulme submitted seven planning applications to Wirral Council to deliver homes in what it calls “beautiful and sustainable communities”. If approved by the council, the homes will be built across sites in South Wirral and West Wirral.
The estate owns thousands of acres of land, but the decision to build on green space has proved controversial, with an online petition against the development having racked up 4,057 signatures at the time of writing.
Gail Jenkinson, Labour candidate for Greasby, Frankby and Irby, launched the petition at the end of last year. She told the ECHO: “The point of the petition is to let Leverhulme know that we don’t want them building on the green belt.
“We’re quite happy for them to build on brownfield land, but building on the green belt is not in the interest of the local people or the local environment.”
Ms. Jenkinson has questioned the need for the development, arguing that provisions for new homes have already been made in Wirral Council’s Local Plan which could see up to 18,000 houses built across the borough.
She is also concerned about the environmental impact of the development, despite Leverhulme’s promise to incorporate cycleways and footpaths, as well as enhanced biodiversity and habitats, into their plans.
Ms. Jenkinson said: “The development could do untold damage to sensitive environments. I have residents in Greasby who are already at risk of flooding due to building at Arrowe Brook Park and trees that have been taken up from there. We just don’t know what the long term impact of these developments are going to be.”
Ms. Jenkinson’s concerns have been echoed by several Wirral residents, including Phill Dain, 48, from Bebington who said: “My concern is that, once these spaces are gone, they’re gone forever, and one of the brilliant things about the Wirral is its green space.
“I feel that the community is now in danger of sleepwalking towards losing this valuable land that we can’t replace.”
The plans have also sparked frustration from ECHO readers. Reader 0151NW wrote: “This land should be preserved for the wildlife and farming to produce food”, whilst OutdoorMike commented: “This is a pure money generating scheme. There is ample brownfield and infill sites to be utilised first.”
Responding to the criticism, Nigel McGurk, Head of Land & Planning at Leverhulme, said: “Leverhulme has gone well beyond any statutory requirements for consultation. This has included the recent seven pre-application consultations held for each of the proposals.
“All of this followed the publication and consultation in 2021 of The Leverhulme Vision and our invitations to local politicians and other stakeholders to engage in a debate about the need to invest into genuinely sustainable communities in Wirral.”
The seven applications are:
- A 0.82-hectare site located to the north of Gills Lane in Pensby, between Thorncroft Drive and Gills Lane Farm and stables. To provide up to 15 new homes.
- A 7.35-hectare site located to the north of Gills Lane in Pensby and to the west of Barnston Road. To provide up to 153 new homes.
- A 3.92-hectare site located a short distance from the local centre of Pensby Road, Pensby. It sits to the north of Gills Lane, between the existing residential streets of Dale View Close, Gwendoline Close and Thorncroft Drive. To provide up to 92 new homes.
- A 17.38-hectare site located to the north of Thingwall Drive, to the east of Glenwood Drive and to the west of Arrowe Park, Irby. To provide up to 290 new homes.
- A 3.60-hectare site located to the north of Raby Hall Road between the Autism Together complex and the residential neighbourhood on Blakeley Road at the edge of Bromborough. To provide up to 80 new homes.
- A 3.30-hectare site located to the north of Raby Hall Road, with built development proposed to the west of Raby Hall and a footpath link to the east. To provide up to 38 new homes.
- A 8.36-hectare site located to the west of Barnston Road and north of Milner Road within easy walking distance of Heswall town centre and Heswall railway station. To provide up to 120 new homes.
Speaking about the environmental concerns raised by Wirral residents, Mr McGurk said: “Leverhulme’s plans not only protect but also improve the local environment with more footpaths, cycleways and very significant biodiversity net gains. Together and individually, the proposals are designed around providing people with more opportunities to enjoy more countryside.”
He added: “Whilst we recognise that some people will object to any form of development, Wirral has a significant outstanding requirement for the delivery of market and affordable housing. Our unique approach draws on generations of experience and looks to address these needs through sustained investment into both the built and natural environment. Leverhulme is very much part of Wirral and our proposals are aimed at benefiting everyone in Wirral.