A MAJOR threat has emerged to the future of Wirral’s protected Green Belt land, according to the council.

For the local authority’s chief executive has told the Globe there is likely to be “no other option” than building on the Green Belt if Government housing targets are to be met.

But Tory group leader Cllr Ian Lewis told this newspaper today the problem rests squarley at the authority's door as it has failed to take appropriate action earlier.

Government housing ministers have set town hall chief’s a target of identifying land to build 12,000 new homes by 2035 - despite knowing there is not enough brownfield or urban land available to meet this number.

Mr Robinson says this means releasing some Green Belt land is unavoidable.

He said: “Having an up to date, current Local Plan in place is vital.

"It’s a fundamental legal requirement every council in the UK must meet, and it actually protects the borough from unwanted developments and helps us make local decisions on what we want Wirral to look like in the future.

“Government ministers have made it absolutely clear to us that if we don’t deliver our Local Plan, and if we don’t conduct a full review of our Green Belt land, then they will come and do it on our behalf.

“The land we have available for housing right now, compared to the land we need to meet our targets, means some level of Green Belt release is inevitable.

“The leader of the council has been unequivocal on this subject: Green Belt release must be the absolute last resort.

"This is why we’ve spent such an extensive amount of time reviewing every square inch of the borough, trying to find alternatives and more imaginative uses of existing development land.”

Later this month the council’s cabinet will meet to consider proposals for Green Belt release and other development in the borough.

Should cabinet agree to the initial proposals, a comprehensive programme of consultation with every Wirral resident would take place from September.

To develop the proposals for consultation, each plot of Green Belt land has been subjected to five key statutory tests:

Control the unrestricted sprawl of large built up areas

Prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another

Assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment

Preserve the historic setting and special character of historic towns

Assist in urban regeneration by encouraging the recycling of derelict urban land

The proposals for consultation will include those sites which could be safely removed from the Green Belt without compromising the character and rural setting of the local area.

Mr Robinson continued: “We are legally obliged to set a Local Plan for Wirral.

"It has to provide us with enough land to meet housing targets for the next 15 years, and the land – to quote the legislation – must be suitable, available and deliverable.

“If we don’t do this then we have been told in no uncertain terms that it will be done for us.

“The council leader [Cllr Phil Davies] has been clear we must ensure our plan is delivered locally, with local needs and the views of local people at its heart.”

Tory group boss Cllr Lewis is unimpressed.

He said: "To listen to the council, you would think they have no responsibility whatsoever for the failure to protect our green belt.  

"Once again, they are shifting the blame to the Government. 

"Fifteen years ago, Wirral Council, like every other council, was told by the then-Government - a Labour Government by the way - to produce a plan to protect the green belt and identify alternative sites suitable for development. 

For 15 years, Wirral Council has been among a small number of councils that have failed to do this and it is now in panic mode.

"This week, the chief executive tells us what the council should have done but fails to say why it hasn’t. 

"The chief executive is also incorrect when he states the leader of the council has said that ‘green belt development is a last resort’. 

"The Labour leader of the council actually told the Globe, in February last year, that he was ‘not prepared to allow our green belt land to be built on’ and that he was ‘resolute about that commitment.’

"So resolute, in fact, that he gave away green belt land at Saughall Massie and is throwing money at a scheme to build luxury houses on green belt in Hoylake while rumours persist that Brackenwood golf course is under threat.

"Had Cllr Davies and his Labour comrades introduced a local plan, as the law requires, none of this would be happening.

"There is no evidence to support the loss of our green belt. 

"It is, instead, due to a political failure by those running the Council to redevelop neighbourhoods in Birkenhead, Egremont and Seacombe.  

"Areas that are in desperate need of regeneration and more affordable housing. 

"These are areas that have established transport links, GP surgeries, schools and parks and where the local shops need all the support they can get, as we have seen within the leader’s own ward of Birkenhead & Tranmere.

"The real reason our green belt is under threat is because a five-bedroom Band H council tax house in Hoylake will bring in more cash to the town hall than a three bedroom Band A house in Birkenhead."