Controversial Calderstones housing scheme the size of EIGHT football pitches. By Larry Neild

HOUSING developer Redrow is just days away from winning the green light for one of the most hotly contested residential developments in decades.

Despite hundreds of objections, Liverpool City council’s planning committee is being asked, by planning officers, to approve the scheme that will see 13 acres of the Harthill Calderstones estate disappearing - that's an area bigger than eight football pitches - to make way for luxury houses costing around half a million pounds each.

Such a land grab from Liverpool’s cherished green wedge has not been seen for generations. The parks and parklands have always been considered not for sale at any price

Just like the city council tried to convince people that the Sefton Park Meadows was incidental space in Park Avenue, Liverpool 17, it is attempting, but failing, to convince many people that the land zoned for Garston-born Steve Morgan's detached houses is merely land off Harthill Road.

Given support for the Harthill scheme by Mayor Joe Anderson,  the chances of the Labour-dominated planning committee rejecting the plans are low.

Many local people believe the go-ahead for the scheme will cost Labour dearly at the ballot box in south Liverpool.

One of the objectors is local resident and Labour councillor Richard Wenstone who represents Church ward alongside the leader and deputy leader of the Lib Dems, Richard Kemp and Andrew Makinson.

Wenstone expresses concern about the impact of the Redrow scheme on traffic along narrow Harthill Road with its "blind bend" in the middle, close to Calderstones school.

Such a land grab from Liverpool’s cherished green wedge has not been seen for generations. The parks and parklands have always been considered not for sale at any price.

In the 1990s, when green spaces in South Liverpool were last threatened, it became an election issue leading to the Lib Dems, under Mike Storey, spectacularly gaining control from Labour in 1998.

Within 24 hours, Storey, now Lord Storey, pledged that Liverpool’s green spaces would not be sold.

Storey had campaigned, as a rookie councillor, in the 1970s  when an earlier Labour council had attempted to earmark a slice of Sefton park for housing. That scheme was dropped.

The council insists that the Harthill land, up until now used by the Beechley riding stables, Calder Kids and the miniature railway (which it has pledged to relocate), is not open to the public.

The Redrow scheme for 51 homes will mean the axing of dozens of mature trees and a dramatic change in the green vista.

Just weeks ago Liverpool Confidential reported how Liverpool has the least amount of green space of 10 major British cities, with just 16 percent of the city’s land mass considered such. That compared with the 50 percent of Edinburgh’s green space, taking it to top of the list.

The loss of green space in the Calderstones area is cited as one of the main reasons for a mass of objections.

Calderstones, for many years headquarters of the city’s parks and gardens department, was considered the city’s king of parks.

It remains a destination for families from every part of Liverpool and much further afield.

The Planning Commitee will visit the area, prior to assembling at the Town Hall at 11am on Tuesday to decide the fate of the Harthill site.

'Objections not sufficient to justify a refusal'
The Draft Liverpool Local Plan, which could have come to the rescue of the Harthill estate, was published for consultation last September and representations to it are currently being reviewed by the council.
Rather than wait to see its conclusions, council officials say the Local Plan is at a very early stage and, accordingly, is given very little material weight in the assessment of the Harthill planning application.
Instead the official used the Collins dictionary definition of the word “park” to demonstrate that the Harthill site was not part of the Harthill/Calderstones park estate.
"Whilst the site falls within the defined boundary of P7 of the UDP map which is referenced in Schedule 8.3 as Calderstones Park, it is important to note that the site does not comprise part of a 'park' in the way that the term is ordinarily understood," reads the speil.
But the report does accept the site is part of the Calderstones/Woolton Green Wedge and is designated as Green Space in the city’s Urban Development Plan, covered by policies which seek to protect the site from inappropriate development.
The head of the council’s planning department, in his conclusion, says he accepts the application has generated significant objection but says that is not sufficient reason to justify a refusal.
He also accepts that this is a finely balanced application where any identified harm must be carefully weighed against the wider benefits that the proposal would bring.
He adds that on balance the Redrow plan is acceptable, as is any identified impacts on openness/greenspace, highways, design, ecology, archaeology, trees and the amenity of nearby occupiers.
So who is objecting to the Redrow plan for Harthill?
Calderstones School, formerly known as Quarry Bank, the school attended by John Lennon, for one. Then there's Harthill Allotment Association and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. Friends of Harthill and Calderstone’s Park have sent in petitions signed by more than 1,000 people. Over 1,000 letters objecting to the plan have been sent to the council. Local councillors have also objected, including the Green Party in Liverpool.