Present: Chairman, Committee (x 7), Cllrs Eddie Boult & Gerry Ellis and 25 local residents. Ms Jessica Malpas (WMBC Conservation Officer) and Philip Barton (Independent Planning Consultant).
- Welcome & Introductions. The HCA Chairman, Christopher Moore, introduced himself to the meeting and thanked all those attending, particularly the newcomers, as well as those who had tendered their apologies. On a show of hands, the Notice convening the meeting was taken as read.
- Planning & Conservation Policy. Ms Jessica Malpas, the only Conservation Officer in the WMBC Planning Department, gave a short presentation to explain her responsibilities and priorities. Her main points are summarised below:
- The Council has suffered unprecedented budget cuts over the last 5 years resulting in loss of conservation officers from 3 to 1 and enforcement officers from 5 to 2 but without any reduction in workload.
- In Wirral, there are nearly 2000 listed buildings and 26 designated Conservation Areas, two of which are classified “at risk”. Priority demands entail: dealing with 150 planning applications per year, 70 pre-application advice per year, on demand telephone and email advice and responding to grant opportunities
In practice, conservation is limited to responding to pressures rather than being pro-active, there is only limited capacity to respond to cross departmental projects eg highway schemes and enforcement has been severely curtailed in favour of an on-line complaint service based on HMG’s Planning Portal website. On Character Appraisals and Management Plans, no updating work has occurred on the Kings Gap CA since 2013 and Meols Drive CA since 2004. Although discussions have been undertaken between the Council and Conservation Areas Wirral (a forum of all 26 CAs), as yet there are no agreed timescales for dealing with this situation. With regard to the ‘enhancement’ aspect of conservation, she stressed that more control was required on materials, scale, the importance of site and setting, cost realism, the importance of pre-application advice and (where applicable) compliance with management plan principles.
In conclusion, Ms Malpas conceded that the conservation task did not match the resources, there was greater scope for enhancement without compromising conservation, work on appraisals and management plans should continue and priority would be given to better community education.
3. Chairman’s Report. Mr Moore presented a report on the year’s activities. The 2015 AGM minutes had been published on the HCA website (hoylakeconservationarea.org) and copies were also available at the meeting. The meeting approved the minutes. Matters arising were covered by the Agenda. It was confirmed that the Association conducted its role according to its Constitution and in compliance with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the Wirral Unitary Development Policy (UDP) and particularly Policy CH2. The Council’s draft Core Strategy which would replace the UDP was still some way off implementation. The meeting was reminded that conservation had two features: preservation AND enhancement and the committee attempted to steer an objective path in pursuit of both aspects. The HCA continued to support the aims and objectives of the Wirral wide Conservation Areas Wirral forum:
- To work in partnership with Wirral Council to improve the quality and coherence of all 26 designated conservation areas
- To encourage local societies, community groups and other stakeholders to play a more pro-active role in caring for Wirral’s conservation areas and to strengthen their ability to influence and support policy recommendations
- To foster the pooling of skills, knowledge, experience and good practice between conservation societies and other voluntary groups throughout Wirral
- To encourage effective networking through the production and distribution of a regular newsletter, social media and occasional workshops and conferences.
Key issues had been identified as: the need for more vigorous enforcement, improving the quality of planning applications and the accompanying heritage statements, the urgent need to update appraisals and management plans, the critical nature of structures such as sandstone walls and tree cover and improving awareness of the responsibilities and advantages of living in a conservation area. The Forum had submitted a response to the Council’s draft Cultural Strategy. An AGM and Spring Forum would be staged at 19.00 on 27 April 2016 at the Lyceum Building, Port Sunlight. Further information is available on www.cawirral.org.uk
The Chairman then summarised some of the main applications which had been considered in the past year. These were mostly householder developments (although permitted developments were not notified to the committee) and some developer plans. The following applications deserved specific mention:
- 13 & 19 Stanley Road. Major refurbishments to individual family homes.
- 38 Meols Drive. Extensive refurbishment and landscaping.
- Westhaven Nursing Home, Queens Road. Technically outside but affecting the setting of the KGCA, the committee was consulted so as to ameliorate the external appearance and landscaping, this large development is well underway.
- 16 Lingdale Road. A new building in a vacant plot for 4 luxury apartments was approved on appeal and is now completed. It embodies some modern features which do not please everybody but overall, the building sits reasonably well against its neighbouring properties. A retrospective application to retain an observation platform overlooking the golf course was refused.
- 6 Beach Road, Hoylake. The owners of this property had withdrawn their application to demolish this property and re-build as a new family home after. The property is now for sale and its future remains unclear.
- Aerial Masts. Subject to approval, the mobile phone mast on Royal Liverpool golf course land is due to be demolished but will be replaced by a slimmer lattice mast adjacent to Meols Drive outside the course.
- The Old Garden, Meols Drive. The Council’s attention had been drawn to the removal of trees on this plot apparently under approved APP/15/01047 and we have yet to have confirmation that the Council approved the landscaping and arborial plan.
In closing, Mr Moore drew attention to the Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) submitted to the Council for examination under the Locality Act 2011 by Hoylake Vision. The NDP defined area covered parts of both Hoylake CAs but would complement and strengthen conservation. The NDP will go to the concerned electorate later this year at a referendum. Providing 50% plus one vote ‘Yes’, then the plan will become a statutory planning document to give further safeguards to the protection of our town. Further details are available on the Council’s website and on www.hoylake.vision.org.
In subsequent questioning, it was emphasised that the statutory obligation of the Council was to ‘preserve and enhance’ the special architectural or historic aspects conservation areas rather than the less stringent aim to ensure that applications were ‘in keeping’.
- Confirmation of Committee. The meeting approved the re-election of the HCA Committee members as follows: C T Moore (Chairman), Mrs Kitty Whitford (Hon Treasurer), Mr Ron Cotton, Mrs Elizabeth Davey, Mrs Gill Norton, Mr Miles Meredith Jones, Mr Roger Tucknott and Mrs Yvonne Sanne. Mrs Sue Evans who lived in Lingdale Road was also alected to the committee and was warmly welcomed. Cllr Gerry Ellis as a local Ward Councillor was an ex-officio member.
- Financial Report. Mrs Whitford presented her financial report as Hon Treasurer and is attached. Expenditure was limited to a £50.00 donation to Wirral Conservation Areas, £48.00 on website hosting costs and £81.99 for the cost of the HCA Conservation leaflet. Income from subscriptions amounted to £177.00 leaving a balance to account of £615.98 as at 31 December 2015. Cllr Boult proposed and Mr Whitford seconded that the Financial Report be accepted and the Hon Treas thanked for her services. Carried unanimously. (Attached)
- An Update on an Arts Centre for Hoylake. Unfortunately, Mr Mark Howard, a leading member of a project group to establish a arts and cinema was unable to attend the meeting due to ill health but his intended report is attached to these minutes. On a show of hands, there was widespread support in principle to this proposal which was now centred on the buildings at the Charles Road end of The Quadrant. More detailed information is available on: hoylakebeacon.org.uk but a synopsis is avaulable here.
- Closure of the Meeting. After renewed thanks for the support of all those who had attended and their interest in conservation matters and to the Holiday Inn Express for the use of their premises the Chairman closed the meeting.
C T MOORE 16 March 2016
Chairman, for HCA Committee
- HCA Financial Report for Year Ending 31 December 2015
- Mr M Howard’s Summary of ‘The Beacon Project’ – An Arts centre for Hoylake