The Guiding Principle for the UDP
2.1 Strategic Planning Guidance for Merseyside specifically identifies the promotion of urban regeneration as a key objective for the UDP. The policies and proposals within the UDP taken together are designed to address, in land-use terms, the objectives of urban regeneration which include:
- concentrating new building and investment within the existing built-up area;
- restraining building at the fringe of the urban area;
- treating for redevelopment derelict or vacant land;
- concentrating resources to upgrade and replace obsolete urban fabric;
- fostering private investment;
- providing a lasting improvement to the local environment; and
- developing and enhancing existing and new public and community facilities.
2.2 Urban regeneration is a long-term strategy for physical, economic and environmental revitalisation of the Borough, and particularly those parts experiencing the most disadvantage. It is a corporate strategy dealing with the social and economic fabric of Wirral, as well as its physical condition. The main justification for this emphasis is that in a substantially built-up area, any other development strategy would represent a serious waste of past levels of investment and existing infrastructure.
2.3 The Urban Regeneration Strategy has been followed in Wirral since the late 1970's and was formally expressed within the Merseyside Structure Plan. The UDP provides another opportunity to focus attention and give urban regeneration a realistic local expression within land-use planning policy.
2.4 The Strategy has strong support both locally and nationally. This is reflected by the wide range of initiatives and organisations operating within the Borough. These include Merseyside Development Corporation, Government Office on Merseyside, Wirral Task Force (DTI), City Challenge Initiative, Objective One status, Urban Programme, Urban Partnership, City Grant, Derelict Land Grant and Assisted Area status. It is sensible to pursue the Strategy in order that past achievements and investments can be consolidated and expanded.
2.5 Urban regeneration does not imply retaining the existing urban fabric at all costs, except where Wirral's heritage is threatened. Nevertheless, whilst large areas of land within the urban areas remain vacant and underused there is little justification for developing new greenfield sites outside the existing built-up area. The emphasis of the Strategy is, therefore, to put the heart back into run down areas which are not reaching their full potential, whether they be industrial heartlands, housing areas or parks and open spaces. In this sense the Urban Regeneration Strategy embraces all sections of the UDP, providing the basis upon which the policies and proposals are formulated and directing the way in which they will be implemented.
2.6 Policies of development restraint outside the urban areas are of vital importance in directing development and investment to the areas of greatest need. Such policies are contained within the UDP, with particular emphasis given to maintaining a "tight" Green Belt in Wirral. It is through the dual approach of establishing priority areas for investment and operating restraint outside the urban areas that the Urban Regeneration Strategy can be successful.
2.7 Priority areas for urban renewal have justifiably remained unchanged since the late 1970's. They comprise the designated Inner Urban Area and the Outer Council Estates. Whilst not all parts of these areas may suffer from reduced social or environmental standards, the boundaries have been drawn to include the main areas of the Borough where social and environmental conditions are poorest and where older urban fabric is in most need of renewal. Urban regeneration is not a short-term goal but a long-term commitment. In many areas action needs to be continued if the benefits of past improvements are to be sustained.
2.8 The priority area approach is not intended to totally preclude action or investment outside designated areas. Indeed, carefully controlled development outside the areas can often directly support local improvements by providing jobs, contributing to a general buoyancy in the economy or by providing facilities that could not reasonably be provided elsewhere.
2.9 If resources are spread too thinly, there is a danger that action to tackle problems will be insufficient and therefore ineffective. Therefore, the Council has set further priorities and timescales in terms of target areas within the priority areas. By concentrating investment within these smaller areas, problems of deprivation can be tackled systematically to foster confidence and generate momentum.
2.10 In addition to the designated areas of the Merseyside Development Corporation, the Council will continue to designate Neighbourhood Renewal Areas, under the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. Within these Areas, action to tackle a range of housing, environmental, employment and social problems will be undertaken using a wide range of public spending programmes.
2.11 Furthermore, the Council has also identified special initiative areas for extra investment, supplemented by the City Challenge Initiative for central and north Birkenhead and south Wallasey. Taken together, these areas comprise the target areas for public expenditure throughout the UDP period within the Urban Regeneration Strategy.
2.12 The use of planning obligations through legal agreements with developers, entered into under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, should be applied in support of the Urban Regeneration Strategy. There is scope for achieving local benefits through this procedure. The UDP, however, cannot be prescriptive. The Local Planning Authority will seek such agreements in appropriate circumstances and Policy URN2, which can be found in Section 4 of the Plan, sets out the Council's general approach.
2.13 It must be recognised, however, that there are not likely to be many opportunities to secure planning gains on the scale being offered in other parts of the Country where the development industry is more robust. Similarly, the opportunities for unilateral undertakings by a developer will be severely limited.