Ingleborough Road site
A MERSEYSIDE football club’s bid to build 90 houses on a war memorial field was approved by councillors.
Wirral council’s planning committee last night gave the green light to Tranmere Rovers’ outline application to build on the Ingleborough Road memorial field, voting by six to three in favour.
Parallel plans for Rovers to take over part of the council-owned Woodchurch leisure centre and redevelop it as a training ground with community access were also approved.
Campaigners have consistently opposed the redevelopment of the site which was formerly part of Birkenhead Institute school.
Opponents argue the field was handed over as a memorial to the 88 former pupils who died in World War I, including war poet Wilfred Owen.
Chartered surveyor Alun Hughes, an old boy of Birkenhead Institute, told the meeting the plans were “corporate greed”.
He said: “There is a sense of bereavement felt by many about what has happened to our ground over the last few years.
He suggested the plans should be altered to protect a pavilion and memorial stone on the site.
But Ben Basterfield, who spoke at the meeting for Rovers, said any changes would make the land “undevelopable”.
He said: “Only once in 27 years has there been any form of (memorial) service there and that was last year, when all this was bubbling under.
“It is a private playing field and it was sold as a private playing field by Wirral council to Tranmere Rovers.
Tranmere said the memorial stone would remain on site in a landscaped area.
The plans were vehemently opposed at the meeting by Prenton Councillor Denise Realey, who argued no money was in place for the Woodchurch scheme and said it would mean losing valuable green space.
But Oxton Cllr Stuart Kelly said the playing field had never been open to the public.
Although the plans have been approved in principle the club must now provide detailed information about how the Woodchurch scheme will be funded.
Until the money is in place no work will be allowed to take place at Ingleborough.
The sale of the land is expected to net Tranmere £5m and a report said it hoped to use some to reduce its debts.
The Tranmere Rovers Supporters Trust, which said the Woodchurch development would leave a “lasting legacy” for young people, welcomed the committee’s decision.
Dean Johnson, who has led opposition to the Ingleborough plan, said he hoped the decision would be examined by the Secretary of State for Communities.