Agenda item

Public Questions

Notice of question to be given in writing or by email by 12 noon, 30 January 2023 to the Council’s Monitoring Officer via this link: Public Question Form and to be dealt with in accordance with Standing Order 10.


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Please telephone the Committee Services Officer if you have not received an acknowledgement of your question by the deadline for submission.



The Chair indicated that 11 public questions had been received.


Jon White attended the meeting to ask a question on what the KKP Indoor and Built Facilities Strategy says about the community swimming provision in the Borough. The Chair responded that the Strategy was commissioned by Wirral Council’s Planning Department and was a publicly available document and offered a paper copy or the link to be sent.


A supplementary question was asked on where children will learn the important life skill of swimming if 3 more swimming pools were lost, it was agreed that a written response would be provided within 10 working days of the meeting.



Jane Langsdale attended the meeting to ask a question about the Wallasey Central Library site and what specific plans the Council had for the future use of the land and building if it ceased to be used for its original purpose. The Chair responded that The Council had not developed any specific plans for the future use of the land and / or building that currently houses Wallasey Central Library in the event that it was ceased to be used as a Library.


A supplementary question on what enquiries had been previously made about the use of the land at Wallasey Central library and the Chair stated that a written response would be provided within 10 working days of the meeting.


Barbara Hardcastle attended the meeting and asked a question on continuing covid restrictions in libraries which had led to activities and groups being unable to be reinstated and opening times being limited. In response, the Chair outlined that whilst restrictions had been lifted regarding social distancing, and the Government had removed legal restrictions, Councils were directed to follow guidance. The guidance meant the Council must provide additional fresh air to our buildings and as a ‘Duty of Care’ (as building owners) and therefore is obligated to provide adequate fresh air for members of the public/employees, and to provide adequate ventilated spaces that are supported by statutory ‘Approved Documents’ and the likes of CIBSE etc. It was also prescribed by law in Regulation 6 of the Workplace (Health and Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

Whilst the guidance meant ventilation numbers cannot be ignored, the Library Service is working with the Facilities Management section to increase these where possible with investment in CO2 monitors to provide data to enable the numbers to be revisited and in some sites installation of mechanical ventilation to improve this. The implementation of the New Library Model would see the reintroduction of evening opening hours in the 4 Central libraries.


A supplementary question was asked around why there were not already CO2 monitors installed in libraries and the Chair stated that a written response would be provided within 10 working days of the meeting.



Jessica Keeler submitted a question around restrictions in Libraries planning and facilitating activities and events since the pandemic. The Chair indicated that a written response would be provided and minuted. The prepared response was the same as the above question submitted by Barbara Hardcastle.


Philippa Jones submitted a question on whether a feasibility study had been done on the accessibility to Birkenhead Library should it be relocated to Hamilton Square. The Chair indicated that a written response would be provided and minuted. The response was that Members had been advised that in the case of options where co-location of assets has been proposed, these proposals couldn’t be regarded as robust at this stage. Fully completed business cases, site surveys, planning conditions and delivery plans would need to be satisfied, and any capital submissions and resource capacity requirements identified.


Ann Doughty submitted a question on capital investment that Birkenhead Library received from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and how the financial risk of proposals to relocate the library were to be mitigated. The Chair indicated that a written response would be provided and minuted. The response was that the Council’s Library Senior Management Team is in regular contact with DCMS and has kept the department fully appraised of any changes, and any proposed options for Library services. Any implications of budget proposals where there could be an impact on capital investment programmes would be discussed directly with DCMS.


Ann Edwards attended the meeting and asked a question around biodiversity net gain plans for the land at Brackenwood. The Chair outlined that the full response would be minuted and is as follows: As its function, Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG - under the Environment Act 2021) was designed to ensure developers delivered a mandatory minimum of 10% net gain on any development site versus its baseline. If developers had demonstrated the mitigation hierarchy and were unable to satisfy the required net gain on the development site, they were required to provide and/or purchase what are known as BNG units off-site on ‘offset’ or compensation sites. This then had to be managed in perpetuity (or a minimum of 30 years) and would be outlined in a Biodiversity Gain Plan and secured through a Conservation Covenant (or similar mechanism). This ‘plan’ would be developed and owned by either the developer if on-site or their own land, private landowners (if providing BNG units for sale), or the Council if on Council owned land. The Council was assessing all Council owned land for its potential to satisfy the forthcoming demand for BNG as offset sites and Brackenwood offered a unique opportunity to provide this on a large multi-functional scale – whilst delivering significant ecological and environmental benefits. It was anticipated that the delivery and long-term maintenance of BNG works would be funded up front through the sale of BNG units. Wirral Council was in a similar position to all authorities across the Country, responding and reacting as new information on BNG delivery emerges, and DEFRA were due to release further instruction and guidance in the coming months. This would inform Wirral Council’s BNG Strategy and long-term approach.

Robin Clarke attended the meeting and asked a question on how the Council could accurately determine the financial pressures set out in the report given that it had not recognised the impact of a 10% national increase in golfing participation rates or the disproportionate transfer rates from members at Hoylake compared to Brackenwood. The Chair responded that the Council had provided all the information it has on the attribution issue in the Freedom of Information response. This matter would need to be considered further if Members instructed Officers to negotiate Heads of Terms for a transfer of this asset. This matter would then be referred to a future meeting of this Committee for decision. This approach is recognized in the submission by Brackenwood Golf Community Limited. In terms of the national increase of 10% in participation rates, there were already a significant number of existing golf courses in Wirral, and to the South of the Borough, which were able to cater for any increased demand due to the capacity that is currently available.


Daniel Keane attended the meeting and asked a question on sports pitch provision in Bebington and ensuring that Biodiversity net loss was not created as a result of such developments. The Chair responded that the Council has undertaken a Playing Pitch Strategy, which is publicly available on its website. This identifies that there are significant shortfalls for all sports, for all pitch types, across all areas of the Borough. There are no other available sites in Bebington of this scale and size for new pitch provision. If the golf course is not transferred there is significant space (115 acres in total) which can be used to provide playing pitches and Biodiversity Net Gain. The Local Plan identifies brownfield sites for housing. These sites need to be supported by new playing pitches to meet the increase in demand. There is already a shortfall in pitches in Wirral so new sites need to be found to support the growth identified in the local plan. This is the best use of the site to fully support the Council’s “brownfield first” strategy in the Local Plan.


Lief Prior attended the meeting and asked a question on how the Council proposed to manage fly tipping and maintenance of Brackenwood Park, the course or other existing buildings with no budget allocated should a Community Asset Transfer not proceed. The Chair responded that the Council had existing measures in place to deal with fly-tipping so there would be no additional cost should a CAT not proceed for Brackenwood Golf Course. The course closed on 1 April 2022 and therefore the course did not require maintaining as a golf course and all items required had been removed meaning there were no health and safety requirements.

Brackenwood Park is not part of the CAT transfer, and this area would continue to be maintained by the Council. If the officer recommendation was agreed then a further report would be brought back to Committee in June 2023 outlining the opportunities for pitch provision and Biodiversity Net Gain on the site, how this would be funded, and the timescales involved.


Keith Marsh attended the meeting and asked a question on Brackenwoods Biodiversity Net Gain Strategy and how it supported the Council’s Local Plan delivery and brownfield first strategy. The Chair responded that to fully support the Local Plan’s “brownfield first strategy” two significant things were required – sites for playing pitch provision and sites to achieve Biodiversity Net Gain. Returning the golf course to its former use would not provide a site for playing pitches, indeed it would remove a very significant site of 115 acres and therefore this would not support the Local Plan. The BNG Strategy was welcomed but this was a high-level strategy which would require more detail and specific measures to fully assess the benefit of this strategy towards the BNG targets required. It was the Officers’ view that there were a significant number of golf courses available in Wirral and to the South of the Borough and that they have the capacity to cater for those of all levels and abilities to play the game and that there was sufficient capacity at these courses to meet any increase in demand.