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Wirral’s largest landowner takes 788 homes plan to the next level

ByReport2

Nov 30, 2023

Wirral's largest landowner, Leverhulme Estates, is taking its plans to the High Court in an effort to get proposals for nearly 800 green belt homes through.

Leverhulme's plans for 788 homes across seven sites were rejected by Wirral Council last year due to their potential impact on regenerating Birkenhead, harm to the green belt, and how that might undermine its draft Local Plan, a major housing policy that promises to build at least 14,000 homes over the next two decades. These would be provided through no building on the green belt.

The plans by Leverhulme have been hugely controversial – with campaign groups turning people out in their hundreds and thousands signing petitions. They've faced universal opposition within the council, with every local political party against them.

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Leverhulme argues their homes would provide deliverable and sustainable homes as well as “the creation of new cycleways and footpaths and the significant enhancement of biodiversity and habitats” with many economic and social benefits for the Wirral.

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The developer took Wirral Council's decisions to appeal with a lengthy inquiry costing the council more than £360,000 but the council's stance was upheld by the Planning Inspectorate, a government body that oversees planning decisions.

The planning inspectorate found "substantial weight must be given to any harm to the green belt" and developments could only go ahead in "very special circumstances." The plans were also rejected because of how the proposals would undermine the council's Local Plan.

An artist illustration of plans for 290 homes near Irby that was rejected by councillors

However Leverhulme is hoping to challenge this decision in the High Court but no date has been given yet regarding hearings.

Nigel McGurk, Head of Planning and Development for Leverhulme, said: “Following careful consideration, Leverhulme has taken the decision to challenge various points of law relating to the decisions not to overturn the refusal by Wirral Council of seven separate planning applications.

“The grounds for the legal challenge include the Planning Inspector’s failure to
assess five-year housing land supply, the status of Wirral’s Local Plan and alleged prematurity argument relating to Leverhulme’s applications.

“We will pursue this legal challenge and, at the same time, continue to promote the Leverhulme Vision through the Local Plan process. There is an urgent need for the delivery of new affordable and family homes across Wirral and we believe this needs to be achieved in a viable and sustainable way.”

A spokesperson for Wirral Council said: “The Council has been named as a party in the application made by Leverhulme Estates against the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The Council has submitted its response in support of the decision of the Secretary of State and the Planning Inspector and is now waiting to hear if a Judge considers that the case should proceed to a full hearing.”

The Planning Inspectorate declined to comment.

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