Birkenhead shopping centre purchase ‘a success story’ according to councillors

The multi-million pound purchase of two major shopping centres has led to Birkenhead “becoming quite vibrant again,” it has been claimed.

In May last year, Wirral Council forked out more than £10m to purchase the Pyramids and Grange shopping centres as part of wide-ranging regeneration plans. Almost 12 months on, senior councillors have argued the move has paid off with reported increase footfall across both sites.

Cllr Paul Stuart, Labour leader of the authority, said the purchases had been a “success story” for the council.

According to Wirral Council, the numbers of people visiting the town centre increased by more than 180,000 in the second half of 2023. The council said this and increased social media engagement shows the public is “returning to both (shopping) centres in ever-increasing numbers” and that the town centre is “on the right path”.

Members of the public interviewed by the LDRS however were more sceptical the town was seeing a resurgence, even with increased numbers brought in by some events. Footfall is still 2.7m less compared to 2019 and one person said the number of empty shops in the town was depressing, comparing it to “a ghost town.”

Leaders from the two biggest political parties on the council, Labour and Conservatives, heavily praised the local authority’s management of the centres at a policy and resources committee meeting on Tuesday.

Opposition leader Cllr Jeff Green called for more transparency and awareness around the centres’ finances and how they’re managed arguing things were going well for the council.

He said, “We were seeing it’s becoming quite vibrant again so it’s a bit of a good news story. I think the more people know about how all that is working and what the council is involved in on the people of Wirral’s behalf if you like, the more information that is out there that can be shared, the better.”

He said, “People may not know how well the Pyramids are doing in terms of extra footfall, the voids, so on so forth and it’s actually turning into, as it stands at the moment, a success story,” adding, “We did something controversial and actually it’s worked out well in terms of regeneration.”

In response, council leader Paul Stuart said, “I think it is probably fair to highlight those risky decisions or decisions that have been made in the past that we’ve been criticised for as a council either by elected members, the media, or people outside this organisation who just want to have a snipe,” adding, “We need to shout loud louder about the things that we get right and the things we do right.”

He added, “The purchase of the Pyramids, that is a success story and we’re going to get reports coming forward and there are people out there, members included, that criticised us for doing that and probably still do. Maybe they should read the reports themselves as well.”

Image: Birkenhead town centre photographed during lockdown in 2020. Credit: www.birkenhead2020.com

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