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LATEST NEWS, HOT TOPICS & ANNOUNCEMENTS


HOUSING SCHEME WINS APPROVAL BUT WITH CONDITIONS


06 July 2010  

Housing developer Worksharp EcoHomes has been granted permission to build the 10 semi-detached houses on the former site of the Great Eastern pub by Wirral Borough Council's planning committee.  However, conditions attached to that permission state that the development should include a memorial explaining the history of the Great Eastern ship.  The memorial and its landscaped setting will have to be the subject of a separate planning application, whilst the development of the new homes cannot take place until this second application has been approved.

(Above: Artists impression of the new homes)

In a debate which lasted over an hour, NFRAG Chair - Mark Anthony Craig - severely slated the planning system which had allowed the destruction of the Great Eastern pub to take place, and the failure of the Council to seek listed building status for the former pub before previous owners removed the historic artefacts which had adorned it until the early 2000s. 

Councillor Irene Williams also criticised the destruction of one of Wirral's heritage assets, quoting a letter from Susan Nicholson of the Bromborough Society which stated there was "an urgent need for greater protection for Wirral's historic environment".

Councillor Williams and Mr Craig were both scornful that the new houses would be built closer to the existing homes in Clipper View than national guidelines recommended.  The fact that a leylandii conifer hedge divides the properties was quoted by the council officer explaining the scheme to the committee as being "sufficient to act as a visual barrier".  The suggestion was that the leylandii hedge should be protected by planning conditions preventing its removal ..... a move which Mr Craig warned could make the Council a national laughing stock if they went as far as slapping a preservation order on leylandiis.

Mr Craig also questioned the Council's commitment to sustainability, arguing that if everyone is being asked to recycle everything, why could not old, landmark buildings such as this be saved and converted to other uses such as housing?

When Councillor Phil Gilchrist - who opposed the application - queried the detailing of the architecture of the new homes, a promise was made that the materials used would be chosen to make more of a visual statement to compensate for that previously made by the demolished pub building.

The architect who spoke on behalf of the developer offered to consult with community representatives to come up with a suitable design for the memorial to the Great Eastern (ship) that must be erected on the site infront of the new houses.  He also informed the committee that the so-called "affordable homes" had already been snapped up by a registered social landlord to rent out to local people.

The application was then approved, with 8 councillors voting in favour, 3 against and 1 abstension.  

After the meeting, Councillor Jerry Williams, who is the current Heritage Champion for Wirral declared his anger at having been prevented from speaking to the committee about the fact that developers can simply walk into Wirral and sweep away our heritage because our country's weak planning legislation allows such things to happen.  He warned that the loss of the Great Eastern was a heritage disaster that will be seen as an "open barn door" by developers to destroy Wirral's historic building stock at will. 

He went as far as to demand that an enquiry should be held so that lessons can be learned and Wirral can work out a way to protect its heritage assets.

Councillor Steve Niblock, who had to miss the committee meeting because he was away at an LGA conference in Bournemouth - but had originally intended to speak to the committee when it first met to discuss the planning application at the beginning of June (that meeting was deferred until today because a site visit had been called for) - was equally scathing of the developer's actions.  He said it was "outrageous that developers can rape our heritage and knock something down when local people had voiced their wishes through the 400+ named petition to save the former pub building". 

Councillor Niblock had been in favour of a sympathetic conversion of the pub to houses.  He said he was "bitterly disappointed" that the developer had deliberately demolished the pub in advance of the committee's site visit last week.  However, he welcomed the fact that the developer was willing to talk to local people about the proposed memorial, and was hopeful that the community would get a "substantial piece of artwork rather than a cheap piece of plastic screwed to a brick wall".

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