Gogglebox heroes Leon and June weren't enough to save 13 acres from Redrow. By Larry Neild

BRITAIN'S best known armchair critics, Gogglebox’s Leon and June, joined in the battle over green space at Liverpool’s Calderstones today.

The TV husband and wife, who live in Allerton, used Twitter to directly address Mayor Joe Anderson expressing dismay at the council disposal of land the size of eight football pitches, to developer Redrow, for luxury houses worth £500,000.

June, who tweets on behalf of the couple to their 218,000 followers, asked: “Mayor Anderson, why are you selling off part of Calderstones Park? What makes you think everyone is happy with this plan? I’m certainly not.”

It was one of a series of exchanges on the social media site imploring the mayor to reconsider the controversial plans, but the city leader denied selling the parkland off and insisted he had created more green space than ever.In the end, however, the might of an army of several hundred protestors, more than 1,000 names on a petition, hundreds more objections and the words of the Gogglebox duo were not enough.

There were cries of “Shame!” from the public gallery as the planning committee today voted by 4-1 to approve the Redrow scheme, endorsing a recommendation by the planning officer and in line with Mayor Anderson’s strong support.

It might go down in history as Liverpool’s St Valentine’s Day Massacre, the day Mayor Joe Anderson’s controversial plan for 51 luxury homes on the Harthill Calderstones park estate was given the green light.

This morning, up to 200 people, many chanting and waving banners, demonstrated at the entrance to the park as members of the council’s planning committee arrived for a site inspection.

The loud chorus of protests – “Redrow Joe”,  “Don’t build on our park”, and some with expletives – left planning chairman Cllr John McIntosh and his committee in no doubt about the depth of feeling.

Liverpool City Council planning committee make a site visit to Calderstones today before handing 13 acres of land to Redrow to build 51 luxury houses worth £500,000 eachLiverpool City Council planning committee make a site visit to Calderstones today before handing 13 acres of land to Redrow to build 51 luxury houses worth £500,000 each

But whether the vocal protests were enough to justify deputy planning chairman Tony Conception describing them as a “screaming howling mob” is questionable. The vast majority of men, women and children, were well mannered and well behaved.

The decision to allow Redrow to build 51 luxury houses went ahead after objectors fought a long and hard battle.

Many thought that as Redrow owner Steve Morgan was born in Garston, he as much as anybody would have realised the impact taking a 13-acre slice of the cherished Harthill/Calderstones estate would have on Liverpool.

Dozens of trees and shrubberies will be axed to make way for the opulent homes.

Unimpressed: June and Leon

Although Mayor Anderson insists Harthill is not part of Calderstones Park, that claim does not wash with lifelong visitors to the park. The sale of the huge site, so wealthy people can live in an exclusive part of south Liverpool, is the first attack on city parkland in more than a generation.

Caroline Teare posted on one of the social media sites a cutting from the Liverpool Daily Post and Mercury dated June 25, 1914.

It read: “Alderman Grant’s go-ahead committee are arranging an interesting little programme for their annual inspection of the parks of the city on the 8th prox (ie July 8). The chief event of the day will be the formal opening  by the Lord Mayor of the Harthill estate recently acquired as an extension of Calderstones, which it adjoins. 

“The new grounds, which are well timbered and laid out in beautiful lawns and paths, will relieve the crampness of Calderstones and be a notable addition to the many “lungs” of the city.” 

Plod keeps an eye on things

The Liverpool Echo of July 9, 1914, carried a photo of the event referred to in the cutting as “Liverpool’s Newest Park”. 

So many people crowded the entrance at the park that the police had to be called to enable the minibus to leave the site. The vehicle was delayed by around half an hour before the road was cleared after the arrival of several police vehicles. 

Liverpool’s Lib Dem leader, Cllr Richard Kemp, who predicted ruling Labour would lose seven seats at the next council elections over the decision, told the committee afterwards:  “I say to Redrow, even if you win today it is just a battle, you will not win the war.”

There was also strong opposition from one of Anderson’s own councillors, Richard Wentstone. He described the scale of the development as enormous.

Wentstone, who represents Church Ward which includes the Harthill estate,  told the committee that they had seen how beautiful the estate looks, adding they should keep it that way.