From the banks of the Mersey to leafy south Liverpool’s historic parks and the city centre’s dwindling green spaces, battle lines are being drawn. Bixteth Street, Oglet Shore, Allerton Priory and Calderstones Park are the theatre for these confrontations. Liverpool’s ordinary citizens are pitched into a David versus Goliath battle with developers and their own council, while police investigations, High Court drama and a council civil war all share a common nexus point – Liverpool’s green and open spaces.“We’re all using our own time and money to do this, fighting a council that we fucking pay for,” says Jane Clarke in frustration, surveying Allerton Priory site churned up by diggers and strewn with felled trees.
Jane is posing for pictures in front of the Allerton Priory site, lined with bluebells and wild garlic, a few miles south of the city centre and slap bang in the middle of the Calderstones-Woolton “Green Wedge” – an area where development is normally prohibited. Liverpool-born, Jane worked in London for the BBC for several years but has recently returned home – and walked straight into a fight.
Along with a group of campaigners in the Save Allerton Priory (SAP) group, she is fighting to stop the development in its tracks, using their own money and knowhow to prevent developer Redrow building over 100 houses on the south Liverpool site.
Workers and security on the site are wary at the sight of a camera. But soon they relax. They spar good-naturedly with Jane over what is going on the site. They’re just doing their jobs, they say, and yes it seems a shame. However, campaigners will never stop the work now, says one, somewhat regretfully.
Having evaluated Jane for several minutes, they seem less sure.
“She should be doing my job,” says the security guard in admiration.
Allerton Priory is something of an oddity in south Liverpool: a former nunnery, it now houses flats and is swaddled in green lawns, hedgerows and mature trees. Although it has now been converted into private flats, its Gothic Revival stylings led to it being used as the spooky Anubis House in a Nickelodeon kids’ show featuring the plucky residents of a boarding school uncovering mystery, intrigue and conspiracy. Ten years on and it’s the centre of one of several battles in Liverpool over green spaces.
Jane Clarke at Allerton Priory. Picture: Pete Carr
Liverpool City Council initially denied planning permission for Liverpool’s least favourite developer Redrow to build 160 spaces on the site, due to the development’s likely impact on wildlife, mature trees and on the nearby Grade II-listed priory.
But Redrow appealed and won in a subsequent planning Inquiry, with the council’s housing figures – highly disputable, by most judgments – the primary factor in the developer receiving consent. Distrust of the council led to the SAP group disassociating themselves from the council at the Inquiry (the Mayor’s office did not respond to an invitation to contribute to this article).
“We put ourselves forward as a third party at the planning meetings because we didn’t trust the council,” says Jane.
Jane alleges a number of procedural errors and curiosities on behalf of the planning committee and the council that resulted in the development receiving the green light – particularly in relation to the disputed housing figures.
“The housing figures that were the deciding factor were discussed outside the Planning Inquiry by Redrow and the council only, outside, in a room,” says Jane. “We weren’t allowed to question them.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Mirna Juarez suggested the council “didn’t put up enough of a fight against the development” and said she believed had the planning inspector been given the correct housing figures “the development wouldn’t have won.”
Green spaces protest outside Liverpool Town Hall. Picture: Pete Carr
The role of Redrow, a major part of a consortium that builds houses for the council, attracts much suspicion. When Redrow were denied permission to build on Allerton Priory by the council they immediately appealed the decision and won – at a cost to the council of over £100,000. “With friends like Redrow…” smirks one campaigner.
A dramatic last-minute twist has cast doubt on the process, at least for campaigners. Steve Hopley, one of the leading figures in the SAP campaign group, says he was told by a “senior councillor” at the time the decision had been “thrown” in Redrow’s favour. The allegation was considered so serious that the police launched an investigation. Nothing untoward has been found since, but that hasn’t convinced campaigners that the council did everything it could to fight the development.
These suspicions recall the findings of the Calderstones Park case, in the council’s attempts to approve planning permission for Redrow to build houses on a part of the park known as Harthill. Despite a petition of over 50,000 signatures opposing the move those plans were only overturned in a dramatic High Court battle.
Judge Mr Justice Kerr said Liverpool City Council (LCC) misunderstood part of its own Green Wedge policy. He also indicated he was “troubled” by the way the report had “created a false and misleading impression that the local planning authority… had no objection to the proposals from a heritage perspective”.
Having conceded the plan was dead, the council subsequently appealed the decision days later, saying it “cast doubt” on how to deal with Green Wedge land. Campaigners believe the only reason for the appeal is the council’s intention to permit further development on Green Wedge.
Pamela Leadbeater, who chairs the Lancashire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), says the two cases are intertwined – and their significance to the integrity of the Calderstones-Woolton Green Wedge cannot be overstated.
“We feel that the High Court decision made on Calderstones that stated the council erred in law in their interpretation of the Green Wedge policy was relevant in terms of Allerton Priory.”
“Green Wedge is the second tier of designation from Green Belt and that’s always been respected until the proposal for Allerton Priory. Now it’s opened up the floodgates for developer who are poised to build on Green Wedge land called Woolton Manor.”
This is what green campaigners fear the most – a list of sites in Green Wedge land falling to developers like dominoes, if and when the fight for Allerton Priory is lost.
Liverpool’s campaign groups have learned that while petitions and protests have their place, the fine print is where these cases are decided, providing plenty of scope for both sides to interpret law, challenge decisions and appeal judgments. Often success for either side rests on a superior understanding of the facts at hand – or a sympathetic ear.
“Lots of things triggered our suspicions,” says Jane of the appeal where Redrow won permission to develop Allerton Priory. “It was one thing if we lost fair and square but to know that it was a stitch-up from the start is what fires our bellies.”
Remediation at Allerton Priory. Picture: Pete Carr
“We licked our wounds then waited to see if the council would take it to judicial review or appeal – and it waited until the eleventh hour on the Friday before a Bank Holiday to say it wasn’t appealing, which gave us no time to do it ourselves. The sense of injustice grew.”
“The reality is that appealing decisions that have been given consent takes time, money and resources.”
“It feels like Making A Murderer. The weight of evidence has to be so heavy on your side to get anywhere. Planning laws protect developers so they don’t spend years developing a site only to be told they can’t proceed.”
“We discussed paying for a barrister to prepare documents, but I said “There is no barrister who knows as much as I do”.”
It’s clear that even if remediation were to halt immediately, much of the damage has been done. Jane gives the impression she knows it, even if she’s unwilling to concede defeat.
“We’re these scrappy little groups of people taking on vested interests.”
The fight has left a bitter taste either way – and for Jane, as with many others fighting to save their green spaces across the city and a complete collapse of trust in the council’s leadership, there’s one man to blame above all – the city’s Mayor.
“Joe Anderson is about to go to the High Court again to challenge his own Green Wedge designation.
“You can bet your life he is going to stand up and say “Look, we fought Allerton Priory and the planning inspector overruled the Green Wedge designation”. I just know he will.
“We may have to take one for the team but you will never see the like of the venom released if it goes ahead.
“We will go after Joe and we will go after the council.”“Cack-handed” is how Steve Munby describes the council’s early forays into developing the city’s green spaces and contested parkland.
The plain-speaking councillor was cabinet member for the environment in Joe Anderson’s administration until he resigned in 2018 and admits that clashes over the Mayor’s approach to developing green spaces was among “three or four” major issues that forced him – along with Cllr Ann O’Byrne – to go. Another outspoken councillor, Nick Small, was sacked from his position as Assistant Mayor and the member responsible for education in the city.
All three have been vocal in supporting some of the Save groups that have sprung up in opposition to development of green spaces across the city. Although initially supportive of Anderson, Munby says the approach of the Mayor in how he deals with issues surrounding housing and development has been unfortunate.
“I think a number of proposals put forward – whatever their intellectual merits – were rather clumsily handled, and that’s being polite,” says Munby, citing discussions with Everton over building on Walton Hall Park, an embarrassing defeat at Sefton Park Meadows and the High Court scolding over Calderstones Park.
“It’s ironic that despite provoking so much anger none of them have transpired, the way they’ve been handled have given the council the worst of both worlds. On one hand, a lot of people are very angry and a lot of time has been wasted – on the other nothing has happened!”
This narrative stretches back over six years to the first suggestions that Sefton Meadows, a tree-lined area of green space adjacent to Sefton Park, would be sold for luxury housing. A cash-starved council could expect lucrative Section 106 payments and high council-tax rates but reckoned without fierce resistance – and a helping hand from a Hollywood A-lister.
Anderson had been keen to allow the city’s strategic housing partner, Redrow, to build executive houses on a plot of land adjacent to Sefton Park in a bitter fight that attracted the attention of Kim Cattrall and led to the first accusations that the Mayor cared little for the preservation of south Liverpool’s green spaces.
A suggestion to develop Walton Hall Park to build a new ground for Everton FC, along with 1,000 houses, drew baffled anger from local users of the park, whose terraced houses do not provide gardens. Then the council determined to sell off a part of Calderstones Park, referred to as Harthill, to Redrow for 51 homes.
All three battles have cost the Mayor vital collateral, support from his own councillors and votes at the ballot box – for little gain.
Anderson, who has ruled Liverpool since 2010, first as leader of the Labour-led council and subsequently as City Mayor, is a lightning rod for the anger of residents and campaigners across the city who oppose development of green space.
“Joe Anderson is fundamentally the problem with Liverpool,” says Jane. “He’s said that he thinks Liverpool has too much green space. It makes me absolutely furious.
Anderson, says another Labour councillor, is a man of spotless moral standing, but simply a man out of time.
“The problem with Joe is that he associates regeneration with creating new buildings and vice versa. He can’t move beyond that concept of redevelopment, which looks increasingly outdated.”
Steve Munby says the fights over green spaces in the city have tarnished Anderson’s reputation.
“One of the tragedies is that in the early days of the administration and the fight against austerity Joe was like the father of the city. What’s sad is having had that role and done very effectively in the past, he’s now seen as a very divisive figure.”
Anderson’s clear belief in the value to Liverpool of development in an age of historic austerity has set the Mayor and the city’s green groups on a collision course.
Green issues were a huge factor on the doorstep during council elections in May 2019, where Labour lost two seats in Woolton and Childwall, losses attributed to the party’s “issues” with green spaces in the city.
Meanwhile Labour councillors are jockeying for position for the 2020 Mayoral elections. Some of the candidates expected to challenge Anderson have been noted at various green spaces protests over the last 12 months. The outcome might change the entire direction of travel for a whole range of policies in Liverpool.
Campaigners believe defenestrating Anderson could be their best shot at saving Liverpool’s green spaces.To understand the stakes involved with Calderstones and Allerton, one has to look at the reaction to the Draft Liverpool Local Plan – essentially a strategic blueprint for how the city will be run until beyond 2030. That document outlines giving legal protection to the Calderstones-Woolton Green Wedge, provisionally prohibiting any further development in the area beyond exceptional circumstances.
When the Draft Local Plan was published in 2016, Developers were aghast at the concept of protected Green Wedge that would rule out further planning applications in what they view as prime real estate – and quickly lodged multiple objections.
“It is inevitable that some green space and Green Wedge land will be needed to meet the City’s housing requirements,” says one such objection from Redrow typical of similar complaints from Liverpool Mutual Housing, Peel, Gladman, BDW Trading and a number of other companies.
Developers argue that Liverpool’s lack of family housing means some land subject within protected Green Wedge and Green Belt “will need to be re-designated for residential development.”
“Well, they would say that wouldn’t they,” is Steve Munby’s response to the clamour for opening up Liverpool’s Green Wedge and Green Belt for prime development opportunities.
“We know there are sufficient brownfield sites to build on in Liverpool. The fact is, if you stop them building on Green Wedge they start looking at the options of building on brownfield.”
“Councils should protect green spaces but also change the perception of places. If places closer to the city centre are more attractive the idea of a ‘suburban vision of plenty’ is reduced.”
Munby cites the success of development in the Baltic Triangle and compromise over a mooted block of apartments on the so-called Flat Iron site between the Baltic and Toxteth. He believes the council could enjoy a more fruitful relationship with developers than is currently the case – but only if it changes tack.
Picture: Pete Carr
“I think a more robust approach to developers would be helpful. If the council moved away from a more obviously pro-development style, developers might decide to work in a more sustainable way – but you have to push them in that direction.
“Some developers are complete cowboys but others are long-term investors in the city – and generally if someone is a long-term investor in the city you’ll have some bargaining power with them.
“I’d’ve sat down with Redrow and said “don’t expect us to work with you in the future if you develop Allerton Priory”. There’s informal power there because you control access to sites for developers.
“I think we’ve been too risk averse in rejecting proposals. You have to consider whether developers think it’s worthwhile – do they want to keep trying to develop sites and getting knocked back? Probably not.
But Munby is keen to emphasise the parlous conditions in which the council is attempting to maintain and regenerate Liverpool.
“In the immediate aftermath of the recession and in a context of savage austerity it was probably correct to have a pro-development administration. Frankly we needed to get income in, partly through increased council tax, but also to put out the message that the city was still open for business.
“I think Joe cares passionately about Liverpool and he sees development as the way to bring the money in, but that strategy has passed the point of diminishing returns.”
Munby was on the panel of a review of Liverpool’s green spaces, designed to tackle the image problem the council had in that sector – and to suggest innovative solutions that bridged the council’s issues with funding and need for more housing.
The Liverpool Green & Open Spaces review brought together a wealth of material and a range of authors from different backgrounds to create a comprehensive report on the city’s green spaces – and recommendations for their funding and use.
Also on the board was Dr. Ian Mell, working at the University of Liverpool at the time, and now a lecturer in environmental and landscape planning at the University of Manchester – as well as a consultant to LCC. He says the document, which has influenced the Draft Local Plan, did a good job of representing the “complexity of discussions” about the future of the city. He also highlights how housing can be a big money-spinner for cash-strapped councils.
“The city needs revenue streams and investment and housing is one part of this.”
“New homes provide bigger returns for council tax (and costs for additional services), they are all seen to bring people into the city who may work in Liverpool and spend money. This development has a knock-on effect on the city’s economy.
Mell also says the council is required by central government to provide sufficient needs – and green spaces can provide easy wins for developers and councils.
Other places are struggling far worse than Liverpool.
“I think LCC are in a difficult position whereby they have to meet government requirements for housing, they have to promote economic investment and they have to think strategically about how to do this. Invariably this means that some ‘more favourable’ locations are identified for development, as that will sell more effectively.”
“Developers look to maximise the value of their projects or assets so it makes sense that they identify high value spaces for investment. This is a simple business model. It is one though that requires some areas perceived to be sacrosanct from development to be earmarked for change.
“LCC could demand that developers build in north Liverpool or deliver on the Garden Festival site but they can’t force the market to do something.”
As for the future of green spaces in Liverpool, Mell is cautiously optimistic, arguing that the weight of work conducted by the council in relation to its green spaces show that landscape is “back on the agenda”.
“The city understands the position it’s in and as such they are looking to maximise their assets – the waterfront, culture and landscape – in Liverpool’s branding.
“Personally I think the council is doing well considering the pressures and constraints placed on it by cuts in central government financing, local pressures and their requirement to meet strategic planning needs.
“It’s not perfect but other places are struggling far worse than Liverpool.”Orange Tip and Peacock butterflies flit between the hedgerows, alongside quarrels of sparrows. Along a narrow, winding country lane are farm buildings and gently swaying crops – it’s only the presence of a nearby air traffic control tower, looming incongruously on the horizon, that robs the Oglet – “oak by the water” – of its rural illusion.
Down by the river, visible against the glittering Mersey, is the clear outline of a heron peering intently into the shallow waters. It wouldn’t woo anyone away from beaches on the Med, but in the absence of warmer climes closer to home, Oglet Shore was the nearest thing to a beach for the urban masses of nearby Speke in the 20th Century – including for Paul McCartney and George Harrison.
Two women pass by with their children, walking their dogs, on the way down to the river.
“Are you reporters? Well give Peel this,” says one, making a gesture the company would be unlikely to view as polite.
Peel, which owns the nearby John Lennon Airport and some surrounding land, intends to develop much of the Oglet to expand cargo capacity at the airport. It also wants to build a new access road, a solar farm and a runway extension as part of the airport’s 2050 masterplan. Referenced in the Draft Local Plan, the significant expansion of the airport is seen by city leaders as vital in ensuring Liverpool is able to compete with regional competitors.
But, although the shore will become part of a new wildlife reserve under the plans, the development of the airport will come at a significant cost to green and open spaces here, much of which is designated Green Belt. And campaigners from the Save Oglet Shore (SOS) group are suspicious over Peel’s motives (the airport did not respond to a request for comment).
Traffic control tower at the Oglet. Picture: Pete Carr
Jane Hammett is one of the leading figures in the group. At a protest against the development of green spaces outside the Town Hall, rallying the other campaigners, she presents a formidable figure. Jane, like her namesake from SAP and others from different campaign groups across the city, are part of a new breed of green campaigners: sharp, organised and fearless.
“There’s this incredible sense of frustration among these groups that the council isn’t listening to us,” she says. “I should be enjoying my retirement but I’m doing things like this because I don’t want Peel to get that land.
“I know about the Speke area going back a while – and one of the things I’ve seen is how Peel operates. The airport said they desperately needed an area of playing fields for airport development, sat on it for a bit, then they sold it to Barratt for housing. This is a pattern of behaviour that Peel has – they acquire land on the basis of airport expansion and then they end up doing something different with it.
“The area we’re trying to protect is owned by Liverpool Council; the other side of Dungeon Lane is owned by Halton. What Peel want to do is remove the Green Belt designation from the bit in Halton – they have plans to build a solar farm there. It’s a foot in the door – if they get that designation removed by Halton it will be easier to get the designation removed from the Oglet by LCC. It’s a land grab.”
Dungeon Lane’s evocative name is apt. It describes the borders of the airport, Hale Road and Oglet Shore – and it bisects the approach to Liverpool John Lennon Airport, which is highlighted by sentinel-like landing lights that reach into thickets of brambles. It’s a strange edgeland, populated by dog walkers, plane spotters and more besides. But it allows vital access between Speke and the Oglet – and it’s soon to be closed.
The reason the battle over the Oglet is being fought with such intensity is the vanishingly small amount of green spaces still easily available to residents of Speke. The relative scarcity of such spaces in a specific area increases their value exponentially for those who enjoy them.
“Speke was a garden suburb and it was built around a lot of green spaces; the Oglet is a green lung for the people of Speke,” says Jane. “What they’re doing now is infilling – so where there was Green Wedge or playing fields or communal area they’re trying to infill it with more houses.
“Once Dungeon Lane is closed, will have to access it through Hale Village in order to get to the Oglet lane or the shore. It’s an extra mile. They’re stopping access from Speke.”
The thick scrub by the Lane will be first to be developed under Peel’s plans to extend the landing lights that guide aeroplanes into the runway. Peel says the Civil Aviation Authority has demanded it; campaigners say there is no requirement to clear the amount of undergrowth Peel claims. As far as disagreements go between the two parties it’s the thin end of the wedge.
Landing lights at Dungeon Lane. Picture: Pete Carr
The airport protests that it has no such plans to build houses on the Oglet – but campaigners point to a similar situation at the Peel-owned Teesside Airport, where planning permission was sought for airport development. Peel then claimed the airport was unprofitable, won planning permission for 350 homes and sold the land back to the council for £40m – quite a return on the £500,000 it had paid for a 75% stake in the airport 15 years earlier.
However Jane says Peel were startled by the command of detail demonstrated by the group at a meeting between the two parties – another instance of the depth of feeling and preparedness of green campaigners across the city.
“We’ve spooked them so much that Maria Eagle MP organised a meeting with Liverpool Airport. I think they thought Speke-ites would turn up and we’d be stupid and a walkover. Lynn Moneypenny, another member of the group, said “if it had been a football match we’d’ve won ten-nil”. They were gobsmacked at the amount of information we had.”
Despite the intervention from Maria Eagle, the campaigners have had to do the legwork themselves.
“We’re ordinary people and we’ve had to discover all this as we’ve gone along. I have a degree and the process of raising formal objections to the council was difficult to understand.”
Jane Hammett at Liverpool Town Hall. Picture: Pete Carr
As with Save Allerton Priory, campaigners are unwilling to leave the fight to councillors.
“One of the councillors said “Oglet Shore is protected – the council will protect it” but we’re not going to wait until the Green Belt designation is removed. I don’t trust the council or Peel enough – I’m getting in there first and we’re organising a grassroots campaign to make sure the council is aware of the opposition.”
“All of these groups are frustrated because many of us are Labour voters – but the Labour Party isn’t green enough and the amount of frustration people feel, seeing their green spaces being concreted over with executive houses, is immense.
“There are councillors who I don’t think know the full story about the airport or some of the other threatened sites. Oglet, Bixteth – I think these are just names to them and they vote however Joe tells them to vote.
“But I think the Joe Anderson regime is on shaky ground.”One campaign that has already been conceded is the fight to save Bixteth Gardens, a green space at the heart of the commercial district currently undergoing remediation to prepare it for the massive Pall Mall development that will see prime office space, a hotel and new public realm built on the site of the gardens and nearby car-park.
The developers’ £4.2m plan is to build 400,000sq-ft of Grade-A offices, a new hotel and redeveloped open space here. The council says it could generate £200m and create in excess of 1,000 jobs. Joe Anderson is keen to approve the development as part of the council’s plans to redevelop the business district – and there is a perception that despite a glut of offices in Liverpool, the city lacks high-quality office space. New developments offer the simplest route to creating it.
Not everyone agrees. Steve Munby says the argument for more office space is “a bit bonkers”.
“We’ve got loads of empty office space in the city,” he says.
But there is a perception among many that the city needs more prime office space – and the Mayor is one of those people.
Joe Anderson says Pall Mall will “deliver a much-needed high quality green square and new public realm for workers and residents to enjoy throughout the year”, adding they would “set a new benchmark for our open spaces and help shape the wider development of the district.”
Again, campaigners were reluctant to take assurances at face value and investigated the possibility of taking the case to judicial review.
Mandy Williams at Bixteth Gardens. Picture: Pete Carr
“Up to 20 of us went to the planning committee meeting and we weren’t listened to,” says Mandy Williams, of the Save Bixteth Gardens group. “It was waved through and the developers were given permission for remediation while they don’t have planning permission for the next stage.”
“We’re in a position where they could flatten the park and then not develop the land, so we’re just left with this hole in the ground. What happens to the 53 trees, the wildlife? It gives the impression they don’t care about these places.”
Those in favour of the redevelopment point out that the plan contains a blueprint for a new, green public space – more than is currently on offer, in fact. Tom Gilman, managing director for the North at Kier Property, says the scheme will deliver both office space and “high-quality piece of public realm and a green space amenity which can be used by the whole community”.
Terry Clarke is sceptical, highlighting a nearby public space in the middle of the nearby St Paul’s Square: a high-rise, high-density plaza surrounded by mix of commercial and residential property.
“It’s devoid of greenery – it has trees stuck in concrete holes and they’re deprived of light because they’re surrounded by glass monoliths around it. That’s what they want to turn this place into.”
Terry Clarke at Bixteth Gardens. Picture: Pete Carr
Terry lives 200 yards away from Bixteth Gardens, in Holy Cross parish – an area bisected by Scotland Road and the flyover that runs behind the World Museum and Central Library.
Terry says it’s one of the oldest areas in Liverpool and his family go back seven generations there, but Holy Cross has been lost in geography and the minds of Liverpudlians. To Terry, however, it’s home.
“I brought my children here when they were three and four,” says Terry of Bixteth Gardens. “They used to love running up and down the hills. All the local children from Holy Cross school would come here on a weekend and call it Teletubby Hills.”
“This has always been an amenity to the community. This is a space that we need. It belongs to us.”The threats to Bixteth Gardens, Oglet Shore and Allerton Priory, while apparently similar, are in reality disparate. The three sites differ radically in size, location and the mooted developments by which they are all threatened. Three different developers want to use the land for three different purposes.
But what all three have done is to unify different people in their opposition to the council and shine a spotlight on the city’s battle to balance investment and infrastructure with maintaining green spaces accessible to the residents of the city.
The Green & Open Spaces review, commissioned by the council to find constructive answers to these problems, makes clear the value of Liverpool’s parks, Green Wedge and Green Belt. Chair Simon O’Brien – a presenter and property developer who once acted on Brookside and describes himself as “uncompromising in his attitude toward our interaction with the natural environment” – is unequivocal in his view on green spaces in Liverpool.
“Public open space is massively undervalued with regard to a host of major issues facing our society,” he writes in the review.
“From the local play park to the swathes of Green Belt, it’s time to stop pontificating and hiding behind the need for more evidence and just sort this pressing issue out. Just because something can’t be valued in millions doesn’t mean that it’s not valued by millions.”
The review details a huge amount of research into the benefits of green spaces in terms of physical and mental health, and social cohesion. O’Brien has recently been appointed cycling ambassador for Liverpool, in what some see as a positive sign the review’s recommendations may come to fruition. Programmes such as Urban GreenUp are strikingly similar to the mooted ‘Green Corridors’ of O’Brien’s review.
Steve Munby believes the Draft Plan could be the saviour of Liverpool’s green spaces, making it harder for developers to get permission to build on Green Wedge and Green Belt when the report is finalised, possibly by the end of 2019.
“Developers will try to push everything through before the Draft Local Plan becomes the Local Plan, which will afford more protection. I think that will start to shape development more.”
For some the Draft Plan did not go far enough in safeguarding Liverpool’s green spaces, particularly Green Belt and Green Wedge.
But that was nothing compared to the response of a range of developers desperate to build on Liverpool’s green wedges. The Draft Plan designates plenty of land for development in the city – but very few green sites are identified.
Picture: Pete Carr
However greenfield sites are exactly what developers want. An objection to the Plan from Redrow and Liverpool Mutual Homes identifies “Allerton, Woolton, Mossley Hill, Aigburth and Gateacre” as the only sites “4+ bed executive style housing” are realistic. It also specifies goals of at least 5,800 detached properties and 7,250 houses containing “4 or more bedrooms”. The message is clear: the south Liverpool Green Wedge must be opened up to house builders.
Meanwhile the Oglet is threatened as long as progress is measured by consumption, expansion and growth for growth’s sake. Half a dozen other sites across Merseyside are under similar threat.
These green spaces in Liverpool, cherished by the people who live and work among them, aren’t coming back once they’ve fallen to the engines of development. Steve Munby says it’s vital the city recognises that big doesn’t mean better.
“It’s a short-term gain and it undermines long-term investment. It sends out a message as a city and I don’t think it’s an attractive one to say ‘build, build’, build’.”
“Liverpool shouldn’t focus so much on building more flats and faster roads, but actually focus on quality of life.
“Trying to compete with Manchester and Leeds on property development, inward investment and financial services is a loser’s game. We’re not as good at it as they are – but also it’s not what makes Liverpool what it is.
“Liverpool is a different physical space. A more green, post-industrial future is where we should be heading. We need a more coherent, modern vision of the city that isn’t about shiny office blocks, it’s about the sort of place that people might want to live.
“Do we want to reinvent Liverpool as a human city – or a city for developers?”
• Written by Robin Brown. All images by Pete Carr