Allerton Priory Public Inquiry
“A precious gem may be beautiful in itself, and its beauty enhanced by cutting and polishing, but it is generally agreed that a fine, carefully designed setting, enhances that beauty. If a chunk of that setting is removed, and the gap filled with totally disparate material, the beauty of the entire jewel will be seriously diminished”.
Florence Gersten From John Davies report
The recent Public Inquiry brought by Redrow Homes to appeal against Liverpool City Council’s refusal to allow the build of 160 executive houses on land adjacent to Allerton Priory ended on Friday 24th November 2017. The Inquiry lasted three weeks in total at significant expense to the City and came to an unsatisfactory conclusion for all main parties.
5 Year Housing Supply
The Council and Redrow could not agree on Common Ground for the 5 Year Housing supply. As a result the Closing Submissions for all three parties could not be made on the last day of the Public Inquiry.
Since the close of the Public Inquiry: Turley, who is acting for Redrow, has authored and issued the Statement of Common Ground for the 5 Year Housing Supply.
LCC continues to assert it has a 5-year supply. But Redrow seeks to persuade the Inquiry’s Inspector that LCC is a persistent offender with regard to failing to meet its obligations to meet it’s 5 Year Housing Supply. *1
This matter is of great importance because if a consistent shortfall can be proved then the Council will need to demonstrate an additional housing supply. This factor may persuade the inspector to favour Redrow’s development plans and this may well impact on further potential developments on Liverpool’s green space.
The significance of Grade II* Allerton Priory mansion as a piece of architecture was not in dispute. What was debated was how significant the boundary wall (and the land it contains) was to making an important contribution to the setting of the Priory. The parkland estate, despite some losses and interventions, retains a high degree of authenticity and integrity.
Gersten went on to say:
The Estate’s role is an exemplar of the last known remaining substantially intact example left in Liverpool of a ‘Merchant Prince’s’ scaled down version of a great country estate. Built by one of Liverpool’s most renowned Victorian architects, Alfred Waterhouse. It was John Grant Morris, one of the ‘Merchant Princes’ of Victorian Liverpool and also a mayor of the City, who commissioned the mansion.
During the course of the Inquiry there was compelling evidence to show the importance of this land in terms of it’s Local Green Space protection (OE3) policy and it’s value within the Green Wedge which seeks to protect and improve it’s open character and landscape quality. Numerous local residents read out statements describing the importance and value of this particular landscape and it’s setting. Redrow argue that Liverpool’s current (UDP) Green Space policy is out-of-date.
It was also demonstrated that the interior grasslands have a clear ecological value that cannot be adequately mitigated or compensated for. This type of grassland is locally scarce and this particular wildlife habitat is one of the largest of its type in Liverpool.
The site is currently identified as a potential Local Wildlife Site and meets criterion for its butterfly assemblage as well as the interior grasslands providing foraging for 37 bird species.
Ecosystem harm in 2017
Until this year the land had not been mowed since the current owner acquired the site in 2006. But in 2017, after the appeal for the inquiry was granted, the grass land has been mowed three times: once before the site was surveyed by the appellant’s ecological consultants when they prepared their evidence for this Inquiry, a second time shortly before this Inquiry opened and a third time in November prior to the inquiry inspector’s final site visit on 23rd November. In spite of efforts by the land owner the site supports a valuable ecosystem - that will significantly change if the appeal is allowed.
Equestrian Centre plans
Planning permission had been approved for an Equestrian Centre to be built on the application site but there was no evidence to support any intension for this to come to fruition.
There would be clear and specific harm to a number of matters of importance:
• To the significance of heritage assets
• To nature conservation and biodiversity
• To the functions green space serves, and
• To the purposes of the Green Wedge.
Save Allerton Priory’s representation as a main party at the inquiry added significant weight of evidence for the rejection of this appeal: particularly from SAP’s expert witnesses on Heritage, Ecology and Planning. SAP also acknowledges the evidence and support brought to the inquiry by the representative of the CPRE Liverpool District Group.
Comments from Steve Hopley.
Steve Hopley, Chair of Allerton Priory Environment Association and one of the leaders of the Save Allerton Priory campaign (which acted as a Main Party at the Inquiry) stated in relation to the way in which the Inquiry ended:
“It fizzled out rather unsatisfactorily in the sense that the public were not privy to each party's conclusions by way of their closing submissions. SAP’s closing statement will reinforce the requirement for the protection of the land’s heritage, ecology, listed curtilage and green wedge designation; all of which should mean that there is a quadruple protective lock on this land”.
“I am concerned that, should Redrow win the argument of insufficient Housing Supply, Liverpool will become the new wild-west-frontier for cowboy ‘developers’”.
“In addition, the Inspector’s site visit on Thursday was excellent. The Priory views were sublime and displayed the Calderstones/Woolton Green Wedge at its best. All heritage assets could clearly be seen form many vistas. It was obvious that the proposed scheme would be a blot on the landscape from all points of the compass”.