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Future of Ingleborough playing field to be decided next week
CONTROVERSIAL plans to transform Tranmere Rovers' former training ground into a housing estate are expected to be approved by Wirral's planning committee next week.
The club has asked Wirral Council for permission to sell its Ingleborough Road site in Birkenhead, to make way for development of 90 houses.
The scheme, recommended for approval by planning officers on Wednesday, goes hand-in-hand with a parallel application to create four full-sized football pitches plus one junior academy pitch and one training area on land near the Solar Campus in Leasowe Road, Leasowe.
The schemes have the support of the club's supporters' trust, who recently said development would be in the interests of the community, the club and supporters.
But campaigners say the proposals are 'disrespectful' to the memories of Wirral soldiers killed in the First World War, who have been honoured with a plaque. They have campaigned for the last four years against the plan.
Ingleborough field is a dedicated memorial to 88 former students of Birkenhead Institute who lost their lives in the First World War, among them the renowned war poet Wilfred Owen, who was educated at the school.
Eighty-eight trees representing the fallen soldiers were planted around the field as a "living memorial" to them in the 1920s. The development proposals include a memorial plaque to the 88 men.
A decision over the scheme has been delayed three times in the last two years, Rovers' also withdrew their original application in February 2012 before later re-submitting it.
Among the campaigners is Dean Johnson. He told the Globe: "The council seems Hell-bent on getting this through.
"There are people living near Ingleborough who don't want this application to be approved. The plans just seem to have been cobbled together.
"Ingleborough is a memorial for 2014 and these plans are disrespectful. The sale of the land would be a short-term fix for Tranmere, but wouldn't solve their problems long-term."
Mr Johnson continued: "The Birkenhead Institute Old Boys have made a concerted effort over the last year to stop this development from going ahead.
"It's been such a personal issue that's caused so much upset and has really galvanised us.
"We have even offered to buy the field and have tried to speak to the club about this, but have been ignored.
"The Open golf has shone a great light on Wirral, but the treatment of Ingleborough is the other side of the coin.
"It's downright disrespectful and reflects badly on Wirral. There's been no sensitive discussion. It's just been a fight."
The Globe has contacted Tranmere Rovers and is awaiting its response.
A council spokesperson said: "It would not be appropriate to comment ahead of the Planning Committee meeting where these plans – and all representations received in relation to them – will be given full consideration."