THERE could be fresh hope for Wirral's Green Belt campaigners as new figures reveal that the Government over-estimated the need for more housing in the borough.

The figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reveal that the target for housing is actually close to 500 homes per year - dramatically lower than the first proposed 800 homes.

Earlier this month a protest was held outside Wallasey Town Hall ahead of an extraordinary meeting on the Green Belt land release after the Government reportedly told the council it had until 2035 to build 12,000 homes.

All local authorities are required to produce a Local Plan which determines what sites should be made available for development - ministers had threatened if the council doesn’t meet their timetable for a plan, they will take it out of the local authority’s hands.

This includes where housing, new employment and mixed use sites should be released for development and, through a full review, decide what Green Belt land might be released for development.

Wirral Council leader, Cllr Phil Davies said: “We received notification from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) that the base figures for household growth for Wirral are to be downgraded to more accurately reflect the real changes in population we are experiencing here in the borough.

“The new ONS figures published indicate the number of new homes actually required is in fact less than 500 - nearly half of the number first proposed.

“We have argued that the original figures were too high and were leading to a miscalculation which threatened our Green Belt.

"Indeed, I wrote to the minister advocating that we should not have to slavishly follow the Government's national formula – and we have been proved right.

“We now need to review what this means for our Local Plan and we will be writing to Government ministers to reaffirm our commitment to developing a robust Local Plan but urging them to take these new calculations into account so we can protect our Green Belt.”

Liberal Democrat planning spokesman and Oxton ward Cllr Stuart Kelly claims that there is now 'no need' to release any of Wirral's Green Belt land.

Cllr Kelly told the Globe: "These new figures provided by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show a much smaller estimated population growth for Wirral and consequently much lower demand for houses.

“What this means in practice is that there is no need now to release any green belt, there is enough brown field land to meet our needs.

“We argued from the beginning that the figures were based on out of date data we told the Labour cabinet to challenge the figures.

“The Labour Cabinet and its officers knew that ONS was updating its projections in September; they also knew the projection was likely to be lower.

“Unforgivably Wirral Labour Cabinet chose to go ahead and consult on green belt with the wrong numbers causing great worry and upset to many people; they owe the people of Wirral an apology."

Many residents also questioned why, when 13,000 homes were promised at Peel Holdings' Wirral Waters site, there was the need for decimating almost 50 of the borough’s Green Belt sites.

In a leaked letter circulated to all Wirral councillors in August, Peel said it remained 'absolutely committed' to the 13,000 figure it proposed at the site, but that number relates to the entire 30 year project – spanning to 2040 and beyond.

Local MPs also slammed Peel for 'failing' to build the homes and were told to "put a roof over people's heads or get out of the way and let someone else do it."

In response, a spokesman for Peel said the company remained "absolutely committed" to house building on the site.

Last week, Peel revealed that work could soon be starting on the project with cabinet meeting on October 1 to rubber-stamp the plan's finer details.

A series of public consultation events on Wirral’s Local Plan for housing have been attended by more than 1,500 people so far.

Full details of the Local Plan proposals, plus information about how you can have your say, is available online:

All comments must be received by October 26, 2018.