Gaps in planning rules mean Wirral’s conservation areas are vulnerable and could be ruined, according to councillors.
Across the political divide, it was agreed that permitted development laws could allow ugly changes to areas which currently enjoy a pleasant local charm.
Tory councillor Andrew Gardiner said: “If you buy a house on Meols Drive [one such area] it may be in the document pack from your lawyers, but you’re not going to know much more than that.
“Five years on, [you could] K Rend the place and get a new front door, but if we actually raised the profile using the positive strategy for conservation areas, people may think can I do this? Whereas now they will just think I can do it.”
The area of concern is permitted development laws, which allow property owners to make certain changes to their homes without having to go through a planning process.
Councillors felt such changes could harm an area and wanted to increase the use of so-called Article Four powers to suspend permitted development rights where they could threaten the character of a particular locality.
Despite this desire, those at the meeting accepted that using such a power would be expensive and could not be used in every conservation area in Wirral.
Tory councillor Geoffrey Watt said: “I’m so grateful to Core [a local conservation group] for raising this problem, the potential huge hole with this permitted development problem.
“I think we must do everything we can in the quickest possible time to plug that hole otherwise we’re really, really vulnerable.”
Referring to plans he believes to be detrimental to the character of Meols Drive, Cllr Watt added: “We have seen what’s being done there, [but] the planning committee can do nothing about it.
“We have got to be able to plug these gaps as quickly as possible.”
Attempting to end the discussion on a more positive note, Labour councillor Steve Foulkes said: “We have still managed to maintain great areas of great beauty and enjoyment with a lack of resources.
“It’s not all doom and gloom, but the warning lights are there.
“I pay credit to the officers who have kept places like Port Sunlight great, despite maybe not having the armoury to do so. I think we’ve done as best as we can, but we want to do better.”