As the Independent Inquiry into Wirral Council's long-delayed Local Plan trundles on, there have been renewed calls to protect The Dips along the Wallasey and New Brighton coast.
The Local Plan is a legally-required document that sets out land use in the Borough, whether to protect Green Belt and green space or identify sites suitable for redevelopment.
The Local Plan became a legal requirement in 2004 but it was only when Labour lost control of Wirral Council, 15 years later, in 2019 that work started to draft the plan for the period 2022-2037.
As part of this work, councillors were asked to nominate sites in the Borough for protection as 'Local Green Space'. Councillors Ian Lewis and Lesley Rennie and then-councillor Paul Hayes put forward 12 sites for consideration. After these were independent assessed, nine were found to meet the criteria and were included in the draft Local Plan, including The Dips.
However, the council also included the site as part of the New Brighton Regeneration Area.
At the Inquiry hearings on Tuesday, sites in the Wallasey area were discussed by the inspectors, questioning both council officers and representatives of developers.
Ian and Lesley attended heard one of the Inspectors, Mike Worden, question this, specifically asking:
‘why is the regeneration area so large?’, ‘why does this include The Dips?’ and ‘How would you satisfy concern that, for example, The Dips, could be within the developable area?’.
In response, the Council's KC, Mr Katowski, suggested ‘we could certainly redraw the boundary’ and Mr Worden concurred, ‘It may be that you wish to draw a different boundary’.
Ian and Lesley have now written to the Council's Chief Executive, requesting the boundary of the New Brighton Regeneration Area is amended. Not only to exclude The Dips, but also the adjacent open space and also the designated Wellington Road Conservation Area – none of which can be developed due to policies (if adopted) elsewhere within the Local Plan.
Councillor Ian Lewis said:
"The Inspectors recognised that the draft Local Plan potentially sends mixed messages about The Dips and open spaces, by listing it as a both Local Green Space but also a regeneration site. Lesley and I urge the Council to amend the draft Local Plan to make it crystal clear to developers, and residents, that The Dips are not for building on."