Plans to revive a Wirral town devastated by an explosion six years ago could see more than 40 homes built.
A car park in New Ferry could be entirely replaced with 43 new houses as part of plans to revive the town following the gas blast that caused huge damage in the town centre.
If the plans are approved, the Woodhead Street car park off New Chester Road and the former CO-OP supermarket next door would be replaced by 43 homes and a new green space according to a planning application submitted by The Regenda Group to Wirral Council. This will include 10 flats and 33 homes.
Regenda was chosen as the local authority’s regeneration partner to help deliver three housing schemes in the Wirral town centre which was partially destroyed by a gas explosion in 2017. The explosion tore through several shops and restaurants and left much of the high street closed for months due to safety issues.
Separate work to build 34 new homes on the explosion site itself and land opposite is expected to begin soon, but the latest plans for the car park promise to “establish and maintain a strong sense of place, creating an attractive, welcoming and distinctive housing development.”
However, the project has been criticised by the head of a local community group over the lack of new shops provided and the complete removal of the car park and its disabled parking spaces. Previous plans included both.
Mark Craig from the New Ferry Residents Association said he and members in the community had gone to the council as far back as 1999 with plans to revive the town centre. He now feels that if the car park is built upon, people will stop visiting the town’s remaining shops and won’t use other car parks because of antisocial behaviour problems.
He said, “If approved as presented, this application would be the biggest disaster to hit New Ferry since the explosion. In fact, it will be worse because it will kill the district centre off. This is a classic example of how to destroy a local district centre by taking its car park away.
“I know there is a need for housing but what I disagree with is it taking up all of the car park. We need some car parking provided.
“Why does the council not listen to the community? Why bother having a public consultation if, at the end of the day, they have all made their minds up about what they are going to do? The community told the council what they wanted but everything the community asked for has been thrown out and totally ignored. The whole point of having a community consultation is meaningless.
“I personally feel let down as I have fought for this regeneration for 24 years. We deserved so much but as I said previously it’s an opportunity missed.”
Previous plans endorsed by Wirral Council showed only part of the car park being used with more flats built and overall 45 homes provided. 70 parking spaces would also be kept under the plans which did not include at that time the former COOP building the local authority later bought in 2022.
In 2019, the local authority also said at least 20 spaces should be kept or created elsewhere in the town centre. However, a design and access statement submitted by Regenda said concerns around the development had been “either addressed entirely or issues minimised as much as feasible” with the council in charge of providing parking elsewhere.
A Wirral Council spokesperson said, “Wirral Council’s commitment to the regeneration of New Ferry has been unwavering. It has been a painstaking process – and has required significant investment from the council in recent years – to acquire all the land and property within the three sites to get the development to this stage.
“We are grateful to residents and businesses in the area for their patience and understanding while this process has been ongoing.
“The plans that have been submitted for the third phase of the New Ferry regeneration programme include residential re-development of the current Woodhead Street car park. This car park has been significantly under-used for several years, with the most recent survey showing optimum occupancy at 30%
“Based on analysis of previous and anticipated usage, the existing free car parks at nearby Grove Street will adequately accommodate demand for local businesses, their staff and visitors to the area. The smaller car park on Grove Street will also benefit from a revamp as part of the wider regeneration plan.
“Subject to planning permission, the new homes that will be developed on the site of the Woodhead Street car park, in partnership with the Regenda Group, will provide 77 high quality and affordable new homes, providing a mix of houses and apartments to the area.”
A petition has been set up calling for the Woodhead Street car park to be kept and people can make representations on the planning application up until 3 January, 2024.
Image: The new green space that could be created under the plans for Woodhead Street car park. Credit: John McCall Architects