This will not end well for Wirral. Next step cllr redundancy notices delivered in taxis. Just wait for SAON later this week. Rather like Torridge and North Devon, Richmond, Peterborough and Great Yarmouth shaping policy based on a one week misleading gap in evidence.
Place North West
Wirral Council’s leader Cllr Phil Davies has used figures released by the Office for National Statistics as proof Wirral was right to tell ministers that it “should not have to slavishly follow the Government’s national formula” on housing targets, as household growth in the borough is set to be lower than predicted.
The estimates are likely to add fuel to the ongoing dispute between Wirral Council and the Department for Communities & Local Government over Wirral’s Local Plan. Wirral had been heavily criticised by the Government for its lack of Local Plan earlier this year, with then-Housing Secretary Sajid Javid writing to the authority due to “consistent failure” and “no exceptional circumstances to justify… such little progress.”
The council hit back following the letter, arguing the Government was “dead wrong” and said the local authority “neither welcomed nor appreciated the Secretary of State’s overtly political intervention.” When the draft Local Plan was released in July, the council said it was pushing a “brownfield-first” strategy and was resistant to Government figures which would see it need to release Green Belt.
Wirral was set a target of 12,000 homes by 2035, or approximately 800 a year, determined based on the Government’s formula using economic and demographic data.
However, the Office for National Statistics has released revised figures which Wirral Council said indicates the target should be much lower, closer to 500.
Cllr Phil Davies said: “Yesterday we received notification from the Office of National Statistics that the base figures for household growth for Wirral are to be downgraded to more accurately reflect the real changes in population we are experiencing here in the borough.
“The new ONS figures published indicate that the number of new homes actually required is in fact less than 500 – nearly half of the number first proposed.
“We have argued that the original figures were too high and were leading to a miscalculation which threatened our Green Belt. Indeed, I wrote to the minister advocating that we should not have to slavishly follow the Government’s national formula – and we have been proved right.
“We now need to review what this means for our Local Plan and we will be writing to Government ministers to reaffirm our commitment to developing a robust Local Plan but urging them to take these new calculations into account so we can protect our Green Belt.”
Wirral is currently consulting on its draft Local Plan; comments are open until 26 October. More information can be found at: www.wirral.gov.uk/localplan
FTThe next Labour government would change the planning system to make it easier to erect onshore wind turbines, reversing a virtual ban imposed by David Cameron three years ago. The policy is set out in a new document called “The Green Transformation: Labour’s Environment Policy” that will be published on Sunday. Labour would also support tidal lagoons, ban fracking and invest £2.3bn a year upgrading insulation in 4m properties. However, the paper also spells out a subtle shift in the party’s longstanding policy of getting 60 per cent of Britain’s energy from low-carbon sources by 2030. That framework has been shifted so the target is “within 12 years of coming to power”. Britain already receives more than half of its electricity from low-carbon sources such as nuclear, wind and solar. But getting 60 per cent of all energy from such sources is far more challenging because “energy” includes the electricity system and heating as well as some transport. “We’ve got a team of engineers and industry experts working on our proposals at the moment about . . . how we get there,” said Rebecca Long-Bailey, shadow business secretary. The document says Labour would “remove the barriers to onshore wind put in place by the Conservative government” and stop “chopping and changing” energy policy. In 2015 the Tory government pledged to “halt the spread of onshore wind farms” because they often failed to win over local residents. The move was part of an attempt to thwart growing support for the rightwing UK Independence Party. Mr Cameron ordered more stringent planning conditions on new onshore wind farms. Councils were ordered to specify in their local planning documents that their area was suitable for wind power — which very few local planning committees have done. Ministers also cancelled financial subsidies for new onshore wind turbines from April 2016, prompting a dramatic drop in applications in England. “They’ve killed it off,” said Ms Long-Bailey, who argued that the price of wind power had plummeted in recent years for both onshore and offshore. Recommended Sam Arie Renewables are primed to enter the global energy race “We don’t think that the government’s restrictive approach is helpful . . . we want to reform that.” Labour’s new guidance would still ensure that community opinions were heard, she said, but added: “We want to make it easier for onshore [wind power] to take place.” Labour is still unclear as to what role nuclear power would play under a government led by Jeremy Corbyn, a past critic of the nuclear industry. Most experts believe nuclear is needed as part of a low-carbon energy “mix” because it is less intermittent than solar and wind energy. Labour’s paper suggests greater use of “local, micro grids and batteries” to store renewable energy. However Ms Long-Bailey said nuclear would be part of the plan. “I would state quite firmly that we have to recognise that nuclear will form part of the mix, going forward.” Labour’s plans to step up household insulation would have the state pay for upgrades to low-income households and social housing. Meanwhile it would provide interest-free loans to more affluent households. A similar scheme called the “Green Deal” set up by the Cameron government had poor take-up — it charged an effective interest rate of 7 per cent