Councillors on Wirral Council’s Economy, Regeneration and Development Committee last night rubber-stamped moves to speed up the acquisition of the remaining land and properties currently standing in the way of a major regeneration scheme of New Ferry.
Members of the committee unanimously accepted a recommendation that the Policy and Resources Committee should authorise council officers to begin the legal process that could lead to the last few sites remaining in private ownership to be acquired through Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs).
Officers remain keen to reach agreement with the owners of these properties without the need for the CPO process, but with outline planning permission in place for the redevelopment plans and the recent announcement of future high street funding to support the scheme, the authority, as a last resort is prepared to make use of its powers to enable the regeneration to proceed.
The council wrote to the owners of the remaining land and property earlier this year urging them to negotiate with the council. This has led to some owners coming forward and progress is being made regarding the acquisition of a number of these properties.
However, there remains around 15 properties and some other pockets of the land that the council still needs to acquire to ensure that the full scheme can be delivered.
In the same committee report, members were also given an update on the significant progress already made on the comprehensive regeneration plan for New Ferry. This included the recent announcement of a successful bid to the Future High Streets fund of £3.2m to support the regeneration plans and details of other community projects in the area.
They were also told that the council hopes to identify and appoint a preferred development partner this summer to work with them on this project, which incorporates three separate areas of land in the area.
One of the three areas earmarked for development is the site of the March 2017 gas explosion on Boundary Road, while another development will be opposite the explosion site where many existing retail and residential buildings were damaged beyond repair in that blast.
The third site incorporates a block of largely derelict and disused retail units along the main New Chester Road, as well as part of a council-owned car park on Woodhead Street that backs onto the explosion site.
In total, across the three sites the proposal is for the building of up to 79 new residential units – a mixture of two and three-bedroom houses and one and two-bedroom apartments. Currently, there is planning consent for more than 1,000 square metres of retail floorspace across the sites.
Cllr Anita Leech, Chair of the Economy, Regeneration and Development Committee for Wirral Council, said: “Residents and businesses in New Ferry are quite rightly desperate for this transformation to take place as soon as possible.
“They have made their views known through a number of consultations and have played a significant part in helping shape and design the plans that we are looking to take forward.
“It has been a highly complex process, however, with much of the land needed in private ownership. The council has made steady progress, through an investment of more than £1.3 million, on acquiring pockets of land across the three sites and now is the time for us to conclude the purchase of the remaining land.
“This is essential to avoid any delays in appointing a development partner to bring these much-needed regeneration plans to fruition as quickly as possible.”