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    Record of HCA AGM – 4 February 2023

    Record of HCA AGM – 4 February 2023
    12 February 2023 Christopher Moore


    Present:                C T Moore (Chairman) P E Meredith Jones (Treasurer)  Committee members: M  Meredith                                           Jones, K Whitford,  S Evans       24 Residents/Members

     In Attendance   C Han                                    Wirral Council Senior Heritage Officer

    1. The Notice convening the meeting was taken as read.
    2. The Chairman welcomed all those attending and for their interest in conservation. Those who had tendered their apologies for being unable to attend were acknowledged.
    3. Report & Financial Statement.

    The Chairman’s Report was distributed to all attendees and explained.  Emphasis was placed on the need to improve membership records, subscriptions and communication to local residents.  It was hoped that the new committee would be able to address these weaknesses.

    HCA continued to cooperate with Conservation Areas Wirral, the Wirral Society, Hoylake Vision and the Save Red Rocks Association to mutual benefit.  Links to the Council Planning Department had been difficult during and after lockdown but a new sense of cooperation was being attempted – evidenced by the welcome presence at the meeting of Chris Han, the newly appointed Senior Heritage Officer, who has responsibility for conservation in the Borough.

    Various points about specific applications to develop uncharacteristic blocks of flats after demolition of individual properties within the Meols Drive and Kings Gap CAs were discussed  in a constructive manner.  A particular problem was the adverse  cumulative effect if such applications were approved on an individual basis.  Some success could be claimed in limiting the hostile schemes at Wirral Point which required demolition of the established Cat ‘B’ property in that the latest application from Blueoak retained the existing dwelling by converting it to four apartments.  This latest scheme preserved the roof line and characteristic vista of the landscape at this notably prominent position overlooking the Dee and the Red Rocks SSSI and, although less than ideal, was considered not to warrant an objection.  It was noted that this was not a view that not all Stanley Road residents accepted. There was still deep unhappiness and frustration evident at the handling of the application for flats at 100/102 Meols Drive which HCA considered a fundamental breach of conservation principles. By contrast, there was relief that a similar application for demolition of the White House Meols Drive to be replaced by an intrusive block of flats had been withdrawn – at least temporarily. Other points of concern were noted as recorded in the Report.

    The difficulties posed by the inconsistencies and incompleteness of the family of development plans, some very dated, which affected conservation were outlined.  In particular, the new Local Plan submitted for examination did not fully address some conservation concerns hence there was an urgent and important need to carry out re-appraisals of the dated designated CAs for Kings Gap (2000) and Meols Drive (2004) which no longer reflected current planning concerns and gave rise to undue pressures. The Hoylake neighbourhood Development Plan was helpful in some respects but it did not apply to the whole of the area for which we take responsibility.

    At this point, Mr Tom Hutchinson, an independent Planning Consultant and local Kings Gap resident was introduced to the meeting.  As a volunteer with Hoylake Vision he had already carried out important (unpaid) work on development plans for the area and he was invited to outline a specific initiative about updating appraisals and their supporting management plans.

    “The family of plans and policies which govern planning, conservation and development range from the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) issued by the Government, the Wirral Unitary Development Plan (UDP) of 2000, the Hoylake NDP of 2015 and the dated appraisals for Kings Gap and Meols Drive which were designated in 2000 and 2004 respectively. Collectively, there are inconsistencies and anomalies which, with the passage of time, have become more and more apparent and which lead to poor understanding.  The new Local Plan is at an advanced stage and is currently being examined by the Planning Inspectorate before promulgation.  Also the Hoylake NDP is under review before re-issue with mor definitive Master Plan and Design Guides in draft but subject to consultation.

     Of most concern to conservation locally will be the absence of density guidelines in the higher level documents and the incomplete nature and limited relevance of the appraisals for our two CAs.  However, there is light on the horizon in that the Council has acknowledged the urgent need to update the appraisals and has earmarked £10,000 in FY23/24 towards commissioning external experts to conduct re-appraisals for Meols Drive and Kings Gap and produce supporting management plans.  Contact with the accredited experts – Donald Insall Associates – has secured a negotiated quotation of £20,000 to undertake this work leaving a funding gap of £10,000.  It is hoped that HCA and its members and supporters can see the obvious benefits of such an exercise and can agree to match fund the Council’s allocation in order to allow the work to be commissioned later this year.  It was important to understand that the work has to be commissioned by the Council in order for it to have the required status.”

     This suggestion met with enthusiastic support from those attending as a signal to develop the proposal as a firm  HCA initiative which Mr Hutchinson agreed to draft in cooperation with the Planning Department and HCA.  A formal agreement between HCA and the Council was thought to be needed with appropriate financial safeguards, evidence gathering through consultation with affected parties and a clear view of the expected outcome.

    Tom Hutchinson was thanked for his presentation , his work so far undertaken and in anticipation of the further work he had agreed to undertake.

    The Chairman’s Report was accepted.

    1. Committee Composition.

    After many years of service on the committee, Mrs Kitty Whitford and Mr Miles Meredith Jones were resigning but not seeking re-election.  Mr Tim Wilkinson had been co-opted onto the committee but his business commitments meant that no longer has the time so must resign. Mrs Pam Meredith Jones and Mr Graham Stevens offered themselves for re-election.

    Mr David Webster and Mrs Elizabeth Webster who had played such a prominent part in objecting to the application for 100/102 Meols Drive had offered their services to the committee and they were unanimously elected.

    The chairman, Mr Chris Moore, wished to stand down after 13 years on the committee but no candidate had come forward.  It was agreed that he should remain on the committee for continuity and that chairmanship should be at the discretion of the committee.

    1. Other Business. Mrs Jean Taylor raised the everyday problem of speeding traffic at the level crossing and car parking on Station Approach which she believed to be dangerous.  Her views were shared but, as this was not a conservation issue as such, it was suggested that she take this up with the Ward Councillors.
    2. Closing Remarks. The outgoing committee members were thanked for their services as was the Parish Council for the use of the Church Hall for the meeting.  The meeting was closed on a note of qualified optimism that the efforts of the Association had achieved some small successes and had identified a way forward for the community to help initiate re-appraisals for Meols Drive and Kings Gap which should provide a much improved and more current evidence base with which to determine planning applications.

    C T MOORE                                                                                                                                         12 February 2023