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Future of Ingleborough memorial field to be decided next week
THE future of Ingleborough Road memorial field could be decided next week – and it would appear campaigners against development are facing a blow.
Tranmere Rovers FC have asked Wirral Council for permission to sell their former training ground at Ingleborough Road, Birkenhead, to make way for a new housing estate.
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.
Campaigners have fiercely fought the proposals, arguing the site’s historical significance should be preserved for future generations.
The 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 at Ingleborough 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 year, Rovers also withdrew their original application in February before later re-submitting it.
In documents to go before the planning committee next Thursday, those against the proposal highlight the field’s memorial history as a reason for refusing the application.
A key component of the objectors’ case is a covenant preventing the land being used for anything other than sports and leisure purposes.
A statement issued by the local authority said: "The outcome of the planning decision will have no legal bearing on the covenant and any request to remove it would have to be negotiated separately with the council."
Protestors also claim Wirral Council’s position as main sponsor of the club could mean it has a “prejudicial interest.”
However, more residents have logged their support for the scheme than those against it, with the need for extra housing in the borough and Tranmere Rovers’ community work being listed as reasons.
Those in favour of the application, including Tranmere Rovers Supporters’ Trust, argue the sale is vital to secure the club’s future.
Among other listed reasons to proceed are: the plans take into account the history of the site and make adequate legacy provision; it would benefit the community more than a closed-off memorial, and that the fields as they stand do not serve purpose for anyone as there is no public access.
In recommending approval, planners say benefits of the overall proposal considered together with the leisure centre improvements are "deemed significant."