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Future of Wirral memorial field to be decided tonight
THE future of a Wirral war memorial field will finally be decided tonight after more than a year of fierce campaigns both for and against the controversial plans.
The borough's planning committee, which will meet at Wallasey Town Hall, will discuss Tranmere Rovers' proposals to build almost 100 homes on their former training ground at Ingleborough Road, Birkenhead.
The scheme, which is recommended for approval by planning officers, goes hand-in-hand with a parallel application to revamp Woodchurch Leisure Centre creating new state-of-the-art training facilities for use by the club and the public.
A legally-binding order attached to the submission would ensure the centre is radically improved with new office suites, two training pitches, a floodlit all-weather synthetic pitch and four junior football pitches.
However campaigners fighting against the club’s plans believe the field should be preserved due to its historic nature.
The former Birkenhead Institute is a lasting memory to the school’s fallen heroes who fought in the First World War with wartime poet Wilfred Owen being among the dead.
Those against the scheme also believe a special covenant protecting the land from being used for anything other than sports or leisure should play a key role in the decision-making process.
Lead campaigner Dean Johnson has argued that the council’s position as sponsor for the club could prejudice the final decision while some councillors on the committee have received hospitality treatment from Rovers.
But Councillors Brian Kenny, Anita Leech and Steve Foulkes have since confirmed they will not be attending and will be sending deputies in their place.
Councillor Kenny told the Globe: “We took advice from our legal department and I felt it was best not to attend. I have attended matches in the past and I did not want my decision – whether it be for or against – to be thought of as being influenced in any way.”
Labour councillor Denise Realey confirmed she would be attending as she went to a sponsored game more than two years ago while it is still not known to the Globe whether or not Tory councillor Paul Hayes will take part.
In recommending approval, planners say benefits of the overall proposal considered together with the leisure centre improvements are "deemed significant."
The meeting starts at 6pm tonight at Wallasey Town Hall.