Controversy as council refuses permission for Bidston church sign

There is fury and disgust and accusations of council tax waste over a council decision to refuse a church sign.

A replacement for a church sign at the St Oswald’s Church in Bidston Village had been refused by council officers over its size, location, and look, arguing it would be “harmful to the character and appearance of the conservation area and its key views.”

The sign would have been 1.8m high and 1.2m wide and made of aluminium. The church said they had gone with a metal sign because this would last longer after the old wooden one rotted away.

According to the church, Bidston residents, and councillors in favour of the sign going up, no one was against the new sign and Bidston councillor Julie McManus escalated the decision to the council’s planning committee on 14 September.

However, councillors still voted to refuse the sign seven to three. Three Conservative, two Green, one Liberal Democrat and one Labour councillor all voting to reject the sign on planning grounds arguing it “does need to be smaller and in a better position.”

Afterwards, Cllr McManus said she felt “disgusted” by the decision, adding: “I am furious. I am disappointed. I feel like crying. As councillors we are here to support our residents.”

She said, “I feel like walking away right now. I am so disappointed in my fellow councillors and the views of the residents have not been heard. We are regenerating the whole of the Wirral in so many ways and we are supposed to be short of planning staff. Why are we wasting our time on a church sign?”

Another angry resident said, “People need to know their council tax is being wasted on an item like this. There are so many issues and we are spending money on items like this.”

However, Cllr Kathy Hodson argued objectors “must have sufficient planning rationale” to argue against the recommendation to refuse.

She praised the officer report and addressed concerns the church might struggle without a new sign, adding, “I find it rather disingenuous that the church will stand and fall on the basis of a metal sign.”

While examples had been pulled up of similar signs at other churches across the Wirral and in other conservation areas, it was argued this church was different due to its prominence, listed buildings around it, lack of trees around it, and the conservation area.

Cllr Simon Mountney said, “I don’t accept that a big blue sign invites more people in rather than a small brown wooden sign and there are other issues I disagree with. However, I take Cllr (Steve) Foulkes point that the church is an important part of our community and we should support it.”

He added, “I want to support them and I want the church to survive but no matter to who it is, rules are rules I’m afraid. We are the council and we have to try and enforce the rules.”

The issue was made complicated by the fact the church had already spent £1,000 on the sign, claiming this was done after they were told this would be approved. The alternative location proposed by officers would also be placed on or near historic graves.

Reverend Joe Smith said the sign was important in letting people know what was going on at the church which has been a warm hub and a youth club in the past.

He said, “A new board we believe will breathe new life into our building. It will help create and preserve a new interest in the asset to a much higher degree for future generations.

“Please give us an opportunity to advertise and celebrate this fantastic church. Too many churches are closing across the UK because of a lack of interest. Please give us a chance to turn it around at St Oswalds and save ours.”

Images: The proposed sign outside St Oswald’s Church. Credit: St Oswald’s Church

Why not follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Threads? You can also send story ideas or letters to the editor to