Concerns raised over future of land key to ‘unlocking’ 2,000 new homes

Questions have been raised at Wirral Council about the future of land key to “unlocking” at least 2,000 Birkenhead homes.

At a full council meeting on 4 December, councillor Stuart Kelly asked what was happening with land near Lime Kiln Lane in Seacombe. The land forms part of the planned Northside regeneration area that’s “a crucial part of the spine” of the local authority’s plans and where Wirral Council is hoping to relocate a number of businesses displaced by plans to build thousands of homes.

However, Cllr Paul Stuart said the council was “undertaking a strategic review of its future requirements for council depots” including at its four main sites which include Cleveland Street depot in Birkenhead. He said the outcome of this would come in January 2024 to be considered by the council’s management board.

A masterplan document as part of the framework for future Birkenhead developments said Northside regeneration area “is a critical neighbourhood supporting the wider regeneration programme, ensuring that businesses are, where possible, not displaced from Birkenhead.” Northside also contributes to the employment land requirements to help facilitate job growth in Wirral needed to be demonstrated in the plan.

The Cleveland Street plans would provide 1,025 homes and a new neighbourhood with parks, new businesses, and a new school though the council’s housing trajectory said the first 50 of these homes wouldn’t be delivered until 2028.

Cleveland will also link into the Wirral Waters Vittoria Studios development by Peel L&P which would provide 1,800 homes on the docks. However, the first 200 homes of these are now not expected to be delivered until 2028 and a 2022 planning application is still to be approved.

Wirral Council thinks a grant of £143m would be needed in a worst-case scenario to get the Vittoria Studios development off the ground. Credit: Eden Planning and Development

In response, Cllr Kelly said, “It doesn’t really matter what the neighbourhood’s operation requirements are because if you want to regenerate Cleveland Street for housing, then Cleveland Street [council depot] is going to have to move.

“That was the original plan in the Birkenhead 2040 vision document and I’m surprised to hear that’s now not front and centre on the agenda for that area. We can’t regenerate Cleveland Street until we remove some of the businesses and the depot from that area.

“Why don’t we have a date to relocate them and why can’t we say whether we’re actually going to?”

Cllr Stuart said there was “no date set in stone with regards to the relocation and decanting of any local businesses until we have a plan in place for where they’re going to go and when they need that land.”

Several questions were raised about regeneration over the course of the evening including when reports looking into how regeneration projects are governed and a cost, detailed, and joined up regeneration plan will come forward. Councillors were also asked by traders to oppose the proposed move of Birkenhead Market into the former Argos store in Birkenhead.

Greg McTigue, vice-chair of the Birkenhead Market Tenants Association, pointed to historic comments by former council leader Phil Davies that said, “If we are to deliver our ambitious plan to regenerate Birkenhead, we need to place a thriving and successful modern market at the heart of our plans.”

Opposing the Argos move, he said, “It is confidently forecast and this I can verify is that at least 35, perhaps 40 jobs, will be lost and 35 to 40 businesses are going to be sacrificed if this move is enforced on the market,” adding traders “are totally dispirited at this time by the latest proposals, this is not the outcome we the traders want or deserve.”

Lead image: The new Berner Square would sit on Cleveland Street next to the proposed new Cleveland School. Credit: Wirral Council

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