Ingleborough Road site
SUBSTITUTES will be brought in to help decide whether to approve Tranmere Rovers FC’s controversial housing plans.
Yesterday it emerged almost half the members of Wirral council’s planning committee have accepted match tickets and hospitality from the club.
Doubts had earlier been raised about whether the council should even be allowed to make a decision on the club’s application to build houses on the Ingleborough Road memorial field in Birkenhead.
The proposal is linked to plans to redevelop council-owned Woodchurch leisure centre as a training ground for Rovers.
The council sponsors the club’s shirts and has paid more than £1m to the club over the last decade.
But council lawyers said the meeting at Wallasey town hall tonight can go ahead.
An email to councillors advising on “conflicts of interest” said they “do not have an interest merely because the authority essentially gives a grant to the football club”.
But those who have received hospitality from Rovers were warned: “It is ultimately for each member to be able to sustain the argument that they came to this with an open mind.”
Four Labour councillors and a Conservative have recorded they accepted trips to the matches at Prenton Park in the council’s gifts and hospitality register.
Three – Cllrs Brian Kenny, Anita Leech and Steve Foulkes – will appoint other councillors to take their place at the meeting while Cllr Denise Realey insisted her judgement was not impaired.
Tory Cllr Paul Hayes said he would leave the room while it was debated.
Cllr Kenny said: “The advice we had was that it could be argued there is a vested interest if we had been to matches. Anyone who has been to matches has declared an interest and deputies were arranged by the Labour group office to have other members take their place. I will not be going along.
“It is not unusual for councillors to not take part for these kinds of reasons, but it is unusual for so many to have to do it for one application.”
Cllr Realey said she accepted her trip to the club in August 2010 and legal advice was that this was unlikely to impair her judgement.
She said: “We have spoken to the borough solicitors and they said it was fine.”
Cllr Hayes added: “I have not asked for a deputy but because I have accepted tickets and hospitality I will not be taking part in the debate.”