PLANS to build 90 homes on a listed war memorial look increasingly likely to get approved by Wirral council.
A report by planning officers recommend giving the green light to the scheme by Tranmere Rovers FC to develop the Ingleborough Road site in Birkenhead for housing.
The field had been part of the Birkenhead Institute school and 88 trees were planted in memory of the school’s former pupils who had died during World War I.
Despite a major campaign which has received national attention, in part due to the site’s links with the war poet Wilfred Owen who was a former pupil at the school, the council planning officers said the scheme should go ahead.
The report is due to be considered by councillors on Wirral council’s planning committee next week when they will make their decision.
It says there had been “strong representation over the importance of the site as a war memorial, but added: “planning legislation and the development plan do not require that special attention is given to preserving its character or appearance.”
The report says that according to the UK National Inventory of War Memorials “Ingleborough Road Memorial Playing Field is classified as a war memorial” but that this does not provide any legal powers of protection.
It also said that 84% of nearby households consulted by Tranmere Hall Residents Association supported the development and added: “Members must make a judgement on the appropriate weight and significance that can be given to the heritage asset.”
Tranmere Rovers have said if the plans are approved they would to retain a war memorial feature.
However local campaigner Dean Johnson, who has battled Tranmere’s plans since they were first revealed, said he was disappointed with the recommendation.
He said: “The planning departments recommendation of these plans sets the precedent to build on any memorial and green space in the borough, it runs roughshod over their planning policies the council’s heritage statement and the Armed Forces covenant.”
The planners recommend putting 21 conditions on the development, if it is approved, which include protection for the trees on the site.
Another condition says the development “shall not be commenced” until the replacement playing field and facilities in a parallel planning application for Woodchurch “have been implemented and made available for use”, unless and alternative timescale has been agreed.
That linked scheme for the Woodchurch Leisure Centre, which Tranmere want to develop as a new training ground, with new pitches and offices, and which would also be available for community use, is also recommended to be approved.
A spokesman for Tranmere Rovers said the club had no comment.