While residents have been kept in the dark over plans to develop on local Greenbelt land, the charity they believed had safeguarded them from such a threat has given its support to the borough council’s proposals.
As part of their Local Core Plan Strategy, Knowsley Council in Merseyside plans to redesignate Greenbelt land to allow for large-scale housing and business development. The largest area of land heading for redesignation is a 77 hectare site, 43 hectares of which are the site of a former colliery. The remainder is made up of farmland and land owned by property company Maro Developments (set up by Matalan founder John Hargreaves).
The 77 hectare site is a triangle of land located at the junction of two major motorways, the M62 and M57. It was targeted by Maro in 2004 for business development and the possible site of a new Matalan headquarters.
Knowsley plan to remove Greenbelt status from the triangle of land within the M62, Cronton Lane and Fox’s Bank Lane, as well as land on the opposite side of the M62
The Land Trust (formerly known as the Land Restoration Trust) has been working towards creating a country park on the colliery site since 2007. It was given the land for that purpose in 2011. But, surprisingly, it has shown support for business development on the land adjacent. This is despite the fact that the land is Greenbelt, and does not adjoin urban areas. Development on the site would fundamentally change the context of the planned country park – instead of being surrounded by agricultural land as it is at present, if the council’s plans go ahead, it would be surrounded by factories and associated infrastructure.
Although partially restored in the 1990s, the former colliery site south of Liverpool has remained closed to the public since mining ceased there in 1984. Over that time the site has developed into a beautiful and diverse wildlife habitat.
In 2007, the Land Trust – a charity which manages open green space on behalf of local communities – said it wanted to “establish a 43 hectare informal park” on the Cronton Colliery site, “a place where people can walk, run, cycle or ride horses, a site rich in wildlife and attractive for local people to enjoy”.
In 2011, when ownership of the land was handed over to the charity, chief executive Euan Hall said: “At long last, the Trust is proud to be able to start working towards opening up the former colliery which has cast a shadow over the local community for some time”.
So last year the future of the site seemed finally secure – and things looked even more promising earlier this year when the Land Trust held a high-profile competition to find a design for the country park. Michael Lee Architects of London were named winners in April.
But in mid-November, Knowsley Council’s plans to strip the colliery of its Greenbelt status came to light. Debbie King who runs a nearby riding school was searching for details of the country park public consultation event when she came across a company advertising advice to developers who might want to build in the area. The company was highlighting opportunities that would come into effect with the implementation of Knowsley’s Local Core Plan Strategy (LCPS). Read more of this post