Wirral Council will completely avoid using greenbelt land to meet house building targets in its Local Plan, according to the Labour group.

The proposal, which is still being developed, will set out the council’s strategy for ensuring 12,000 homes are built in Wirral over the next 15 years.

To hit the requirement, which is the equivalent of 800 homes per year, the Local Plan will focus on brownfield sites predominantly in and around Birkenhead it is understood.

By concentrating development, and supporting employment, educational and transport facilities, in this area, there will be no need for building on greenbelt land.

Changes are already underway at Wirral Waters, where developer Peel L&P is appointing a contractor for the first 500 homes, with building expected to begin on the Northbank site this spring.

Plans are also underway for the children’s science museum Eureka at Seacombe Ferry next year.

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Wirral Council has also secured around £28m from bids to the government’s Future High Streets Fund to support Birkenhead and New Ferry.

Funding for the removal of the flyovers in southern Birkenhead has been secured, paving the way for up to 1,000 new homes at Hind Street, including land that has not been used for more than 30 years.

Cllr Janette Williamson, leader of Wirral Council, said: “Protection of Wirral’s beautiful greenbelt and green spaces has always been one of Labour’s key priorities, and our Local Plan will ensure that we can meet all of the targets for new housing on existing brownfield sites.

“The regeneration of Birkenhead is hugely exciting, and to be able to redevelop existing sites into assets our communities can use for now and for the future is a huge step forward.

“I would like to personally thank Cllr Anita Leech [chair of Wirral Council’s economy and development committee] for her hard work and commitment, which has resulted in a popular and robust local plan which serves all of our communities.

The Labour councillor added: “The next step is to hear feedback from as many Wirral residents as possible on the brownfield only developments, and then to take this to full council for approval.

“There we need to see all parties get behind this hugely positive Local Plan strategy and vote to save Wirral’s cherished greenbelt and green spaces for us, and for future generations to come.”

You can have your say on the plans for Birkenhead in the council’s consultation here, which runs until May 19.

Feedback from this will be used to shape the final draft of Wirral's Local Plan, which will be discussed at full council this summer, before being submitted to the government for inspection.

Cllr Tom Anderson, who represents the Conservatives on Wirral Council, was not so convinced by Labour’s announcement.

Cllr Anderson said: “They have had since 2004 to come up with a plan, it was reported that Labour had secret meetings about the greenbelt behind closed doors in April 2019 and they lost their majority because of it.

“How has it taken them two years since then to come up with a plan to protect the greenbelt? I just don’t trust Labour’s plans, they wanted to spend £26m on the [since abandoned] Hoylake Golf Resort project.

“The Conservatives have been consistent in protecting the greenbelt. Don’t trust Labour plans put out two weeks before the local elections, why did they not publish them two years ago or last year when they delayed them?”

On the "secret meetings", Cllr Phil Davies, who led Wirral Council when the story was published, said at the time: "Any suggestion that decisions have already been made is totally untrue.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Allan Brame said he was broadly supportive of Labour’s plans.

He said there is now cross party agreement for the council to do all it can to protect the greenbelt and produce plans to redevelop Birkenhead which should fulfil government house building requirements.

Cllr Pat Cleary, leader of the Green Party on Wirral Council, said: “It is only since losing control of the council that Labour has u-turned on the greenbelt.

“It’s obviously critical that we have as many Green councillors as possible that will keep the council on track, not only in terms of the brownfield only policy but also to ensure that all of the new housing we build is truly fit-for-purpose, both socially and environmentally.”

Wirral Council’s elections take place on May 6 and a full list of candidates standing can be found here.

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