A four-year battle over the redevelopment of the former Ashton Court sheltered housing scheme in West Kirby has ended after a planning inspector gave the green light for 14 homes to be built on the site.
Hilbre Homes wants to construct 13 three-storey townhouses and a two-storey detached house on the split site fronting Banks Road, with one parking space per property accessed from Ashton Drive.
In April 2019, Wirral Council’s planning committee narrowly voted to knock back the scheme for a third time, against the advice of council officers.
Councillors were unhappy that Hilbre Homes was able to apply a ‘vacant building credit’ incentive to the site – slashing their contribution towards affordable homes on other schemes from £132,000 to £9,291, even though their parent company, Magenta Living, had previously operated the complex.
Hundreds of residents also signed petitions objecting to its scale, design and the impact on highway safety and parking, with one local telling the committee: “The plan is simply overbearing and greedy and would likely receive far fewer objections if the plans were scaled back to take this into account.”
But now government-appointed planning inspector Graeme Robbie, who visited the site earlier this year, has overturned the committee’s decision.
In a seven page case summary, he concludes he is “not persuaded” that the buildings were abandoned by the developer, and therefore the vacant building credit is valid.
He also ruled the contribution of £9,291 towards other affordable housing schemes to be in line with Wirral Council’s policy.
Mr Robbie rejected the concerns of local residents, concluding that their objections “would not result in a level of harm that would justify dismissal of the appeal”, and dismissed calls for the site to be reinstated as social housing as “not a material consideration to which I can attach any significant weight”.
Two previous appeals by inspectors had also ruled there was no detrimental impact to neighbouring properties, but – crucially – had backed the committee’s decision in both cases because there was no watertight agreement on the provision or funding of affordable housing.
Approval for the scheme is conditional on work starting in the next three years.
Hilbre Homes has been approached for comment.
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