THE council's deputy leader has said maximising the use of brownfield sites for new homes would be top priority as development of the borough's Local Plan moves to its next stage.

The Government said the plan must require building at least 803 new homes every year across the borough over the next 15 years.

Last year the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released revised figures indicating the target could be lower – closer to 500 – which would have significantly reduced pressure on Wirral's Green Belt.

The Council had asked if the revised figure could be used but has been told it must use the original estimate.

Deputy leader Cllr George Davies, who is also cabinet member for housing and planning, said the focus will be firmly on brownfield sites for the newly built homes – areas which have already had development on them – and on maximising the use of this land to provide as many homes as possible and protect Green Belt from unwanted and unneeded building.

He said: "It's also important to highlight that although we will look to maximise development opportunities in brownfield sites we will not compromise on quality and we will ensure that the approach of creating sustainable and vibrant communities for all is at the heart of everything we do."

All local authorities are required by the Government to produce a Local Plan which determines what sites should be made available for development, and what type of development.

This includes where there should be housing, new employment and mixed uses following an in depth review of land across the borough.

All councils must use Government data and the Government formula to set its housing target.

Cllr Davies said: "It's disappointing the Government want us to use the higher figure but despite this I am determined that we will do everything in our power to protect Wirral's most beautiful natural locations.

"As we go through the process of developing the Local Plan we are becoming more convinced it is possible to develop even more brownfield sites."