1 Jun 2018

A sad day for Clifton Park

At last night's planning committee there was an application for a pair of new semi-detached houses on Clifton Road within the Clifton Park Conservation Area. You can read the officer's report via this link.

I argued strongly that this application should be refused as it undermines the openness of the conservation area and sets a dangerous precedent for the future of the entire Clifton Park estate. You can read my arguments below. You can also watch a video of the proceedings courtesy of the following link from the ever helpful John Brace (my contribution starts at 10:42):


Although all the Conservative and Lib Dem councillors supported my position, the plans were approved 7:6 as all seven Labour councillors voted in favour.  Not one of the seven spoke up to explain why they disagreed with my arguments and felt the plans should be approved.

I don't believe this is what the public expects from their councillors. They expect them to have a mind of their own, weigh up the pros and cons, and explain their position. Sadly, Labour councillors in Wirral fail that test time and time again.


Clifton Road is unique in this part of Birkenhead. It's dominated by the grand scale villas of the 1840s and 50s set in large grounds. The original conservation area appraisal states that "Clifton Park is of particular importance because of the overall architectural quality of the earlier housing and the spacious nature of the plots."


"Conservation area designation is important not only to protect the buildings from demolition, but their setting." 

So, the point members should grasp and, as you can see from the map at the beginning of the report, is that the open aspect of the street is a crucial part of its designation as a conservation area.
I have had a look at relevant advice the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). Paragraph 132 states that:

"When considering the impact of a proposed development on the significance of a designated heritage asset, great weight should be given to the asset's conservation. The more important the asset, the greater the weight should be."

If you read the officer's report its clear that a lot of weight has been given to the design of the proposed new houses but very little consideration if any to the loss of space which is a key characteristic of this part of the conservation area.

Paragraph 133 of the NPPF says:
"Where a proposed development will lead to substantial harm to a designated heritage asset, local planning authorities should refuse consent, unless it can be demonstrated that the substantial harm or loss is necessary to achieve substantial public benefits that outweigh that harm or loss"

It's clearly a subjective matter whether this application would lead to "substantial harm" to the conservation area. The important point to note here is, if approval is granted for this application, it would be very difficult to refuse similar applications that seek to develop the many other similar open spaces on Clifton Road. So, the precedent we set here is incredibly important for the future of Clifton Park Conservation Area.

But even if you consider that the harm to the conservation area is "less than substantial" then paragraph 134 of the NPPF says:

"Where a development proposal will lead to less than substantial harm to the significance of a designated heritage asset, this harm should be weighed against the public benefits of the proposal."

Given that all of the benefits of this proposal accrue to the applicant the key public interest test is clearly the preservation of the conservation area. I would therefore argue that there are clear grounds for refusal in this case.

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