A number of major changes could be coming to Birkenhead as Wirral Council develops two major plans.
The plans could reshape two areas of the town including the St Werburgh’s Quarter near Birkenhead Central station and the Cleveland Street area near the Wirral Waters developments that would see hundreds of homes built.
This includes 1025 homes built around Cleveland Street through a mix of family homes and apartment blocks while St Werburgh’s will feature 240 homes onsite and would be a “key focus” for 4,000 new homes built in new neighbourhoods around the town centre.
A number of major changes are proposed as part of the plans including the removal of two flyovers leading to the Queensway Tunnel, new public spaces, parks, and a new school.
One of the key aims of the Cleveland Street project is to provide different facilities such as playgrounds, restaurants, leisure centres, or cinemas all within 15 minutes of the homes.
The council hopes by doing this it will create “a walkable mixed-use compact environment that enables an active and local lifestyle” where people will have short commutes into Birkenhead or Liverpool by train.
Wirral Council is currently getting a second round of public feedback on its plans. 85 people responded to an initial consultation on Cleveland Street. More than 70% were in favour of mixed housing types in the area as well as keeping its look and existing businesses.
30% were “hostile to restrictions on movement or vehicle use on travel” if linked to schemes providing public amenities such as leisure facilities, shops, and schools within 15 minutes.
However, a PlacED community engagement report engaging with 324 people found “ideas of tree-lined and green streets, planting, and of the ’15 minute concept’, were received positively.”
A new high street
The St Werburgh’s development will reconnect Grange Road to the area around the new Birkenhead Market which is planned to be built on the site of the old House of Fraser building.
There are also plans to build “a landmark tall building” in the town centre at the end of Grange Road forming “a key arrival space to the town centre.”
The current Birkenhead Market site could be demolished to make way for a possible new health and leisure centre as well as residential and retail units.
Removing two flyovers
Considered “essential” to connect the town centre to Birkenhead Central, the removal of the flyovers is planned as a result of restructuring the roads in central Birkenhead
According to the draft masterplan, “this is of critical importance to the success of the town’s regeneration and the role that St Werburgh’s can play at the arrival space for the town centre. The removal of the flyovers provides the opportunity to create a new public square in front of Birkenhead Central Station and the King Edward VII memorial clock tower.”
New public spaces
A number of new public spaces are proposed including a new greenspace next to where the Central Hotel in Birkenhead currently is. This will be called Central Square which will be one of three new squares in the St Werburgh’s area.
In Cleveland, there are three new greenspaces proposed called Duke Park, Middle Walk, and Corporation Walk off Corporation Road. The plan is for all houses to be within 300m of a park and trees will cover 30% of the area.
22 private communal courtyards are also proposed and in Middle Walk, allotments, orchards, pergolas for community gatherings, and play areas are planned. A school hall will also be created as part of the new Cleveland Street school and made available to the public.
New play areas, cafes, and sports facilities
There are potential plans to relocate the Vue Cinema next to Conway Park train station and the Europa Pools leisure centre into the town centre. It is also hoped the St Werburgh’s area can become a cultural centre for Birkenhead and tie into the Hind Street urban village.
In Cleveland, there are plans for a nursery, play facilities, cafes and bakeries. 14 small play areas are planned as well as three larger ones for children aged 5-11. One of these will be the sports ground at the Cleveland Street school which will be available to the public after hours.
This is all part of the council’s plan to provide play facilities within 100 metres of homes. Currently, sports and play facilities are located in parks like Birkenhead and Central Parks and according to the report, there is currently “almost nowhere to sit in tranquil, safe and well-maintained public spaces” in the Cleveland Street area.
Getting rid of the Central Hotel
The Central Hotel on Clifton Crescent is a derelict burnt out building that is at the centre of the council’s plans to regenerate the town centre in St Werburgh’s. There have previously been calls for a compulsory purchase order to see the building bought and removed.
In the council plans, cafes, bars, entertainment, or restaurants are proposed on the ground with a hotel above. There is also an option for more homes on the site but there is “a strong preference for a high-quality hotel offer” on the site. It is understood no compulsory purchase order has been made for the hotel.
In the town centre, the council is currently proposing to move parking into three different areas including realigning the ramp to get into the Conway Street multi-storey car park to free up more space on the street.
In the Cleveland Street area, three “car barns”, effectively multi-storey car parks, are proposed which will provide hundreds of unallocated car parking spaces as well as electric vehicle charging stations. These will have “adaptability” in mind if they are not needed for cars in the future and could be used for urban farming, houses, “small community hubs,” or workspaces instead.
The spaces provided amount to one car parking space for each three-bed dwelling, and half a space for one, two- and three-bed apartments. A key focus for the Cleveland Street area is improving cycling facilities too with a number of new cycle lanes proposed as well as secure cycle parking spaces.
Image: The new Berner Square would sit on Cleveland Street next to the proposed new Cleveland School. Credit: Wirral Council