Calderstones is a stunning park with woodland, lake and fields that is hugely valued by everyone in Liverpool, and particularly the thousands of people who, like myself, use it throughout the year.
As well as providing a welcome recreational facility for the people of Liverpool, the park is home to the historically valuable 1,000 year old Allerton Oak, the six Neolithic Calder Stones and the mansion house. I am delighted that the future of the park and its historic artefacts has been secured through the council working with national grant-making bodies and the charity the Reader Organisation, for which I act as patron of its North West Programme. As well as leading on the preservation and restoration of the Calder Stones, and of the mansion house as an international shared reading centre, the Reader Organisation has established the Storybarn, the Reader Café and Ice Cream Parlour and valuable social enterprises in the heart of south Liverpool.
However, I know that separate plans by Liverpool City Council to work with its strategic housing developer Redrow to build around 50 homes on sites adjacent to the park have caused real concerns. The council says that the housing is being built on land next to, but not part of, the park and that money raised through the deal will be used in part to rehouse those organisations that are currently using the land. Across the city as a whole, Redrow and the council are working with housing association Liverpool Mutual Homes and builder Willmott Dixon to build 1,500 new homes and bring 1,000 dilapidated homes back into use over the next five years.
Those who are opposed to the development around Calderstones Park have said that the land should be considered part of the park and that additional housing in the area will lead to traffic and other environmental problems. I know that these are some of the issues that will be contested at the coming judicial review into aspects of the planning proposals, including the future of the model railway and, separately, an application for a Village Green on part of the Harthill site. Members of Parliament are duty bound not to influence judicial processes.
The need for quality, affordable housing in the right place and supported by the development of local amenities is regularly raised with me by constituents, as is the need to protect our green spaces. As a Member of Parliament, my duties are to provide assistance to constituents where it is requested and to represent the people of Liverpool Wavertree to Parliament, government and government departments. The provision of housing and the supporting infrastructure such as roads and schools is strictly speaking a matter for the council.
However, I work closely with city councillors who are elected to represent and lead on the issue to share information and concerns. I believe that it is really important that MPs foster a good working relationship with their councillors, and that we work together while respecting our respective roles. For instance, I supported Cllr Richard Wenstone, as one of the councillors covering the planned housing developments in the Harthill Estate around Calderstones, when he lodged two objections around aspects of the proposed development with Liverpool City Council. These concerned traffic pressures and the historical importance of the site. Cllr Wenstone is standing down at the election on May 3 and I know that the new Labour candidate Nigel Parsons agrees with the approach taken by Cllr Wenstone.
I have met with representatives of the Friends of Harthill Estate about these and other issues. I have also visited the stables and heard from a number of trustees about their ambitions for horse riding in the city. Recently, I attended a meeting of Labour Party members who live in the ward where we discussed this proposal in detail.
I will continue to work closely with the councillors across the constituency to make sure that constituents’ views are heard and listened to. This is vital in ensuring that the need for additional homes to meet growing needs is carefully matched by the needs of existing residents and the need to protect our green spaces.