Planning Committee started with about 50 members of the public present as there were a number of items with large petitions opposing them.
After the usual items of minutes being accepted, declarations of interest (unusually there were none) the Chair nearly forgot about requests for site visits, but corrected himself.
There were no requests for site visits, so the meeting continued (reordered to take into account how many members of the public were present). The first item being an application by Salisbury Independent Living for demolition of some stables (and associated buildings) along with the buildings of a new stables for their clients with disabilities aged 16-65. There was a petitioner who spoke as well as two councillors – Cllr Sheila Clarke and Cllr Jerry Williams.
The petitioner, a Mr. Reed of Hillside Cottage, representing Storeton Residents Association decried the environmental damage already done to the site and the loss of wildlife. He talked about the trees that’d been cut down, the bats, the hedges ripped out and the problems with flytipping at the site’s car park. He asked for the hedges to be replaced. He also said he thought the site of 3 1/2 acres could only support 3 horses (1 horse/acre).
The agent for the applicant then spoke, saying he didn’t think traffic was a problem. He said that it would be for private use by Salisbury Independent Living and not rented out. People would arrive in a people carrier, not coaches and by 5pm they would be going back to their homes. He estimated there would be an extra 9-10 cars between 7am-10pm and the applicant would be happy to stagger the comings and goings at the site if this was a problem. He pointed out the hedge was not a material consideration. He handed to the Planning Committee a bat survey from 2008 that showed no evidence of bats. He asked that the committee approve the application so that these ignored people could have the same opportunities as the rest of Wirral.
Cllr Jerry Williams spoke next about the wildlife and fauna. He said there had been definitely bats and the hedges had now gone. He said in a nearby hedge there had been found five important species and how would a 140-year hedge be replaced overnight? He mentioned he had seen bats circling here and there had been opposition to this application from Leverhulme Estates and Wirral Green Belt.
Cllr Jerry Williams then went on to talk about the misuse of the car park after hours by flytippers, drug users and courting couples. He talked about animal welfare and the site’s historic importance as a battle had been once been fought here. He wanted the sandstone building retained.
He was against the application on animal welfare grounds, called for an environmental survey for bats and didn’t think a car park in the Green Belt was suitable.
Cllr Sheila Clarke talked about the site visit and the unadopted road. She mentioned about the site lines with respect to road safety and called for the hedge to be replanted. She asked for the opening to the building to be changed and also mentioned a policy of one horse per an acre as well as also mentioning the bats.
A question was asked of officers regarding the policy on horses. They replied that the Unitary Development Plan called for non-commercial spacing of 0.4 hectares/horse. This wasn’t on horse welfare grounds, but to prevent overgrazing and a proliferation of small stables in the green belt.
Cllr Phil Gilchrist asked if there were any orders that applied to the hedge and asked how condition 2 would restore the hedge. There was also discussion of how a large increase in traffic would affect the unadopted road and whether the maintenance of the road could be done through the use of a condition. As this was an unadopted road; this couldn’t be done and was down to the landowner.
Cllr Salter asked how much credence should be given to the bat survey as there were no dates and times in the report. He also called for the hedge to be returned to the original plan. Cllr Johnson highlighted the road safety issues and asked what would be done with the horse muck. Cllr Gilchrist thought any hedge replanted would cause problems as the roots would dry out.
Cllr Elderton said the access road would become a quagmire if heavy vehicles were using it. Cllr Kenny said he had a lot of sympathy with the opposers but pointed out refusal could be overturned on appeal if the reasons weren’t good enough.
The committee was then told that the unadopted road was in shared ownership, between the applicant and two houses at the end of the lane. Cllr Johnson asked if it could be deferred so the applicant could answer the issues. He said the three shacks were an eyesore and the sandstone building could look fabulous.
The Chair said there were no reasoned arguments for refusal and moved a recommendation for approval. He asked for a seconder, but none was forthcoming. He then asked what would happen, an officer said if they could not reach a decision then the applicant would have the right to appeal on the grounds of non-determination.
The Chair proposed approval, Cllr Johnston seconded it. There was a vote, 4 were for approval, 7 against with 1 abstention. The debate then moved onto the reason for refusal. An officer advised the councillors that the traffic issues were not a strong enough reason for refusal. A councillor moved (and it was seconded) that it should be refused on the grounds of being an unneighbourly development because of an intensified use of the site. 7 voted for refusal, 4 were against with 1 abstention.