TRANMERE Rovers FC’s controversial plans to build 90 homes on a memorial playing field are set to be approved this week.
Wirral council planning officers have recommended giving the green light to the scheme to develop the Ingleborough Road site in Birkenhead for housing.
The field was once part of Birkenhead Institute school and 88 trees were planted in memory of former pupils who died during World War One.
Despite a major campaign which has received national attention, in part due to the site’s links with war poet and former pupil Wilfred Owen, planning officers said the scheme should go ahead.
The report will be considered by councillors on Thursday (October 25) when they will make a decision.
A planning report said there had been “strong representation over the importance of the site as a war memorial”, adding: “The site is not on land scheduled as an ancient monument, within a conservation area, nor is it a listed building or structure.
“As such planning legislation and the development plan do not require that special attention is given to preserving its character or appearance.”
The report said according to the UK National Inventory of War Memorials “Ingleborough Road Memorial Playing Field is classified as a war memorial” but that did not provide any legal powers of protection.
It also said 84% of nearby households consulted by Tranmere Hall Residents Association supported the development and councillors must make a judgement on the “significance that can be given to the heritage asset”.
Rovers have said if the plans are approved they will retain a war memorial feature.
But campaigner Dean Johnson said: “The planning department’s recommendation of these plans sets the precedent to build on any memorial and green space in the borough.
“It runs roughshod over their planning policies, the council's heritage statement and the Armed Forces covenant.”
According to the council, consultation received 91 responses in support of the development and 62 objecting to it.
Comments ranged from opponents highlighting the field’s memorial status to those backing the scheme who said the borough needs better sports facilities and Tranmere Rovers play a big part in the community.
The planners recommend putting 21 conditions on the scheme if approved, including that development cannot start until replacement facilities outlined in a second planning application “have been implemented and made available”.
The linked scheme for the Woodchurch Leisure Centre, which Tranmere want to develop as a new training ground with new pitches and offices also available for community use, is also recommended for approval.