WIRRAL Council has been warned that Government intervention is likely in determining where new homes should be built after it was accused of failing to produce a local development plan.

Under The Planning Act of 2004, local councils are required to have a clear 'local plan' for development, clearly stating the areas which were to be protected and conserved, such as the Green Belt, and those areas which would be considered for development for housing and commercial use.

In a letter this week Sajid Javid MP Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, notified Wirral council leader Phil Davies that the formal process of Government intervention has begun.

Mr Javid expressed concern at the lack of progress by the council on making a plan, adding: "In the 13 years that have passed since the 2004 Act was introduced your council has failed to meet the deadlines set out in that timetable."

In response, the council said it had made progress on its Local Plan and would be "happy to discuss our progress with Government".

In a statement, Wirral's Conservative group said that in the 13 years since, the failed to produce a plan, as a result, various sites around the borough have been lost as developers and builders exploit the absence of a plan that can be enforced by the authority's planning committee.

It cites failure to protect the Green Belt at Saughall to accomodate a new fire station, the care village at Thornton Hough and the threat posed by houses for the 'Golf Resort' at Hoylake as examples where the absence of a Local Plan is having a detrimental impact on Wirral.

Councillor Adam Sykes said: "Opposition councillors, green space campaigners and residents have been asking for the protections that a Local Plan would give yet, every time, we have been met with waffle and inaction. 

"A Local Plan would clearly show which parts of Wirral could be developed, such as brownfield sites, and which should not, such as our Green Belt. 

"Now, because of the failure to meet even the most basic timetables in coming up with a plan, the Council is facing Government intervention to produce one. 

"The Leader of the Council has been given until January 31 to explain Wirral Council's failure over these 13 years and to come up with ways to rectify it.

"He needs to act quickly if Wirral’s Green Belt is to be saved."

A council spokesperson said: "Wirral has made progress in developing its Local Plan.

"To date, we have consulted on a range of options and also on a draft of the full plan, and we have consulted on housing needs and land supply.

"At the moment, we are also reviewing all development options, before deciding on the final sites to be included for development in the Core Strategy Local Plan.

"The Leader of the council has been clear, that any development on Green Belt land must be our absolute last resort and we will not be forced into it to meet Government housing targets.

"That is why we are doing extensive work to fully explore all of our options, and we will be happy to discuss our progress with Government."

Liberal Democrat planning committee spokesperson Cllr Stuart Kelly said: "Yes the council have been desperately slow in pulling together the local plan but if it is the intension of Government to intervene to draw up Wirral's local planning document then it is a real threat to the local green belt and green spaces.

"Two wrongs don't make a right and we could end up with planning policies that do not respect local circumstances."

Wirral is one of 15 local authorities has been warned that Government intervention is likely on where new homes should be built.

The other 14 are: Basildon, Brentwood, Bolsover, Calderdale, Castle Point, Eastleigh, Liverpool, Mansfield, North East Derbyshire, Northumberland, Runnymede, St Albans, Thanet and York.