Government halts Tranmere plans

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Ingleborough Road Memorial Field where Tranmere Rovers planned to build up to 100 houses © The Wilfred Owen Story

Wirral Council’s controversial decision to allow up to 100 houses to be built on a World War I Memorial field in Birkenhead has been halted by Government officials.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, is now reviewing Rovers’ planning application; a move that could be the subject of a public inquiry.

The proposed plan by Tranmere Rovers had been fought by campaigners who believe the site – a former playing field for Birkenhead Institute school – should be left as a memorial to 88 former pupils who lost their lives in World War I.

Earlier this month, we reported that Wirral Council had approved the plan, which would also see Rovers redevelop the Woodchurch leisure facility into a new state-of-the-art community accessible training centre. 

A Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) spokesperson has confirmed a ‘stop notice’ had been placed on the planning decision over Ingleborough Field.

He said: “The case has been referred to the Secretary of State and is currently under consideration.”

A sign on the gate of Ingleborough Road Memorial Field leading up to Remembrance Day © The Wilfred Owen Stroy

Wirral Council, who have sent the DCLG all the relevant planning application documents, are now awaiting a decision from the Secretary of State, who will study the validity of both arguments and decide which course of action must be taken.

Dean Johnson, one of the primary Ingleborough Road campaigners, told JMU Journalism that the stop notice was a decision he had expected ever since the planning permission was initially granted.

He said: “We wrote to the national planning council unit the as soon as the planning was granted for Tranmere Rovers Football Club and we have lobbied national bodies all the way through this campaign against the development.

“Many letters have been sent, maybe half a dozen a week, to the most notable and influential people in the country. They say the pen is mightier than the sword and this seems to be the case here.

“It is clear the Department for Communities and Local Government have responded because of the validity of our concerns and moral issues to this decision. Even at a glance there are obvious conflicts of interest and the shadow of misrepresentation in favour of private gain.”

Mr Johnson also believes that such a decision by the DCLG is important as it takes this row out of the hands of the local council, and if it leads to a public inquiry it will “open the debate to a larger area of thought than individuals split between loyalty to a war memorial and a financial windfall from the sacrifice of others”.

Tranmere Rovers declined to comment on the issue.

About Ryan McCann, JMU Journalism