THE owners of Grade I listed buildings in an area described as one of Wirral's 'jewels' are being urged to ensure they comply with strict planning laws.

Hamilton Square in Birkenhead has 63 grade I listed buildings and is the largest group of such historic buildings outside London.

More listed buildings can also be found in the Conservation Area, which includes the square and several surrounding streets.

Council officers will now work with the buildings' owners who are breaking the rules, from installing prominent satellite dishes to having incorrect windows, to find solutions and protect the historic buildings.

Cabinet member for housing, Cllr Stuart Whittingham, said: "All of those who own these buildings will have known from the outset that they have a responsibility to maintain them according to the details of the historic listing.

"But I can assure people this is not a sledgehammer to crack a nut and we aim to work closely with the owners to find ways to ensure they have access to the trappings of the 21st century while also respecting the historic nature of the buildings.

"While they own the buildings now, they are also custodians of these magnificent buildings for future generations to also enjoy and have a responsibility to care for them appropriately."

Planning enforcement officers will shortly be contacting the buildings’ owners reminding them of the heritage background to the square, the need to remedy the existing breaches of planning control, as well as the assistance we intend to offer.

In addition, there will be a sheet of FAQ’s to help them understand their responsibilities as owners of listed buildings.

Alan Chape, chairman of Conservation Areas Wirral, said he fully supports the Council's initiative in tackling the breaches of planning control in Hamilton Square.

He said: "The square is notable for having the largest number of listed buildings, in a single area, outside London. It is one of the jewels in the crown of Wirral's 26 conservation areas.

"At present it is disfigured; not least by the increasing number of TV satellite dishes that have been installed on the front of more than 20 Grade 1 listed buildings.

"Conservation Areas Wirral has been pressing for this kind of action for some time and is pleased that, at last, the Council has the resources to enact this initiative."

Chair of Wirral’s planning committee, Cllr Stuart Kelly, added: "We will be seeking to remedy minor breaches such as redundant alarm boxes and satellite dishes through negotiation and raising awareness without the need for formal action.

"And we will work with the buildings’ owners to come up with alternative solutions to issues such as satellite dishes, perhaps by helping them set up a communal one in an inconspicuous location, agreeing a suitable format for adverts, alarm systems, internal alterations and so on, and encouraging the owners to work together where possible to keep costs down."

Wirral Council’s Heritage Champion, Cllr Jerry Williams, added: “Hamilton Square is rightly famous for its imposing architecture, and we want to ensure it is maintained to the highest possible standard.

"I have no doubt that most people will understand that, having chosen to be located in such impressive surroundings, they have an obligation to protect and maintain their buildings to best possible standard."