Birkenhead could see “a complete and utter change” after four major projects were given approval.
The developments will see a revamp of Birkenhead’s main high street; Grange Road, part of Grange Road West reduced to one lane, new cycle lanes and walking routes on Conway Street and Europa Boulevard, as well as major changes around Woodside, Argyle Street, and Hamilton Square. Trees, planters and new green spaces are included in the plans.
Funding for this comes to nearly £35m but some funding has to be spent by March 2024 and Wirral Council will need to approve a contractor before then.
To do this, the local authority will appoint two contractors arguing this is best value for money with one to develop Birkenhead town centre and the other to develop its waterfront.
Funding plans were also approved for a new “Egerton Village” with a dockside restaurant, art studios, and shops on Tower Road as part of the Wirral Waters developments there. This could see the project finally move forward but it will be subject to a number of conditions being met by Starship Group and Peel Waters, formerly known as Peel L&P, who are behind the £4m project.
At the meeting, economy and regeneration committee chair Tony Jones called on councillors to move the projects forward given the tight funding deadlines in two months, adding, “I think it’s fair to say if we do not agree this report we aren’t going to see anything.” The council had previously said it hoped to appoint a contractor for both schemes by the end of 2023.
On the town centre schemes, he said, “This is now all about delivery and if we get cracking we are actually going to see a complete and utter change to some of the roads that we are so familiar with, some of the traffic jams that we are all so familiar with.”
Concerns were raised about why the decision around the town centre schemes would not be going to the council’s senior Policy and Resources committee. However, council legal officers said there was a clear need for the contracts to be awarded for the projects to go ahead.
The plans were ultimately approved by the council which will see two contracts awarded by its regeneration director David Hughes which should see nearly £12m invested into Birkenhead town centre and nearly £23m along the waterfront.
Assurance was also sought about the Egerton Village proposals and what would happen if Starship, Peel’s chosen partner on the scheme, failed to deliver the plans for the restaurant, shops, workspaces, and studios. Regeneration officer Tom Booty said Peel Waters were responsible for ensuring the project was delivered, adding, “It would be in Peel’s interest to do that. They wouldn’t want a half-built building in their portfolio.”
He said Starship, a Wirral-based company, would have their offices next door to the new development with a “very healthy” track record, adding, “It’s a bit of a showcase for them.” He said, “There are no guarantees but the discussions we have had is that they absolutely want to do it and they are pushing us for progress.”
Councillors also asked for an application to be made to the government for funding to help support a new heat network in Birkenhead that would power homes using waste water and cut down on energy bills for those living in new homes. The plans could cost more than £40m to implement but private company interest is expected to be strong.