By Ana Madureira
Calderstones Park has been the stage of a battle opposing the Liverpool City Council (LCC), alongside with private housing developer Redrow Homes, and Liverpool Open and Green Spaces Community (LOGS) for the past four years.
The controversy started when, in February of 2017, the Liverpool City Council, by the hand of the Mayor Joe Anderson, gave permission to Redrow Homes to build 51 luxury homes on Allerton’s Harthill Estate.
LOGS and the Save Calderstones Park campaigners argued that the land in dispute, housing a former council depot, the horse stables at Beechley Riding School, a miniature railway and a kid’s play facility, was under green wedge legislation and should not be built on.
But, the Liverpool City Council replied saying that the development proposal did not refer to a zone part of the park, as the people could not have access to it.
After raising 50,000,000 signatures, a petition to stop the house developer to build on the site was taken to the High Court in Manchester where a new chapter began.
Mr Justice Kerr ruled in favour of LOGS on the 18th of January on the grounds that LCC had misinterpreted part of its own policy relating to green wedge’s protection, placing too little weight on concerns raised by the council’s conservation officers.
Justice Kerr said: “The local planning authority’s conservation team, like the environmental health and highways officers and the drainage engineer, has expertise in conservation matters and like them is paid by the local taxpayer to express them in the public interest.
“A balanced report would have summarised the view of the conservation team as a negative internal consultation response, counterbalancing the relatively positive ones from highways, environmental health, and the drainage engineer.”
In an immediate response to Justice Kerr’s decision, Mayor Joe Anderson declared the scheme dead assuring that no building would be done in Calderstones Park.
But a new page is set to be written after the announcement, on the 22nd of February, that Redrow Homes and LCC will challenge Justice Kerr’s decision.
LCC Chief Executive Tony Reeves assures that the plans to build on the park will not live again but clarifies that the appeal is a matter of national interest.
He said: “The Mayor has been absolutely clear that Harthill scheme will not go ahead or be resurrected in any form, and I want to reassure people that, whatever the result of the appeal, that position will not change.
“As it stands, Mr Justice Kerr’s judgement casts doubt on established principles, and leaves councils up and down the country open to challenge on their assessment of policies which have been in place for many years.”
A spokesperson for Redrow Homes said: “Redrow is appealing on a point of planning law and it is no longer specifically about developing the Harthill Road site”.
Eric Smith, LOGS director, believes that the park is safe but believes that other green wedge zones in Liverpool might be in risk.
He said: “The LCC Chief Executive has put in writing that Calderstones Park will not be touched, so I presume it’s safe.
“We’re very disappointed, we can’t see any reason for the council appealing this decision. They say it’s because of national importance, but why does that concern Liverpool City Council? We think it’s because Calderstones lies in the green wedge and that they actual want to build in other parts of the Liverpool’s green wedge and that’s the reason they’re appealing.”
The LOGS director believes there is a reasonable chance that the first decision will be maintained and does not understand why the council keeps fighting.
He said: “I’d like to know why he (Liverpool’s Mayor) put us to so much trouble? This has cost tens of thousands of pounds and tens of thousands of hours and the outcome was inevitable going to be that the parts were in the park and they were covered by green wedge legislation and shouldn’t be developed on. We knew that from the very beginning.”
No date was yet confirmed for the new court appearance.
Photo courtesy of Save Calderstones Park Facebook group.