FEARS were raised that lifting a ban on building homes across Wirral could lead to a rush of development in more “attractive” areas – leaving sites most in need of redevelopment ignored.
In a bid to meet government targets for new housing Wirral Council is considering scrapping its Interim Housing Policy, which was introduced in 2005.
The policy’s aim was to focus house building into key regeneration sites, which include Housing Market Renewal (HRMI) areas.
Cabinet members were told last week that revoking the policy would help the borough meet a government target for future housing needs over the next 10 to 15 years.
Without the change, the only alternative source of land available would be greenbelt sites.
But there were concerns it could open the floodgates for developers to target richer pickings on the west of the borough.
Council leader Phil Davies told the meeting: “I can see in my own ward those sites that have been sitting empty for a number of years now because we had the impact of the recession.
“I’ve just got a concern that the implications of this is it makes other parts of the borough more attractive for house builders.”
David Ball, interim head of strategic development and regeneration at Wirral council, admitted the decision was “very difficult and challenging”.
He said: “If the policy is revoked clearly there will be interest from developers in sites west of the borough.
“I don’t believe our focus will shift away from those HRMI areas.
“We will do all we can to try and create the right environment for developers and our partners to try and provide housing on those sites.
“We want to see the east of the borough prosper, we want to see the whole of the borough prosper, but if that policy is not removed the consequence is that we will very likely be instructed to go into the greenbelt.”
The council is about to put a draft version of its Core Strategy for Wirral out for consultation, which will set out the overall framework for future land use planning decisions over the next 10 to 15 years.
Housing requirement figures were laid down in the government’s Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) for the north west, a statutory document setting out priorities for future development.
The government had planned to scrap the RSS, but while it exists the
council must still comply with the document.
Councillors were told last week the Wirral Waters development was crucial to the borough being able to meet its housing targets.
A report warned Wirral is facing a potential shortfall of 4,850 homes over the plan period – increasing the need for new sites to be identified.