In a letter addressed to council leader, Phil Davies, Wirral Council has been issued a final warning over its housing plan failures.
James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing and Local Government, warns they must publish an action plan, report monthly to officials on its progress and designate a lead councillor and lead official to progress the preparation of the so-called Local Plan. Wirral is one of only 11 authorities yet to publish such a plan.
Mr Brokenshire warned that due to Wirral’s “consistent failure” to meet milestones for a local development scheme, it would be quicker for the Government to intervene and begin preparing a masterplan which would be implemented as soon as possible. The last local plan for the borough was adopted back in February 2000.
In responding to Mr Brokenshire’s letter, council leader, Phil Davies, said he would comply with its demands. “Wirral is, as the Secretary of State acknowledges, taking ‘positive action’ and engaging in a ‘constructive way’ with his department.
The council has been in dispute with the Government over the agreed number of houses needed to be built each year after the Office for National Statistics released figures that showed Wirral’s annual target is around 500. But Mr Brokenshire remains clear in his letter that the borough has an annual housing need of 803 homes.
Deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for housing and planning, Cllr George Davies, said: “The Government wants to have its cake and eat it.”
“He is still insisting on us using his Government’s ‘standard method for assessing housing need’ which says we must build 12,000 homes by 2035 which works out as 800 a year.”
“The ONS have since released revised figures indicating the target is much lower, around 500 a year and would mitigate almost all the risk to the borough’s Green Belt.
“The Secretary of State says in his letter that ‘authorities should make a realistic assessment of the number of homes their communities need’ and I believe we are best placed to make that judgement.”