Council staff to relocate to new offices in spring following interior fit out

The keys to the Mallory and Irvine buildings on Alice Ker Square Birkenhead town centre have now been handed over to the council following a 22-month construction period.

Wirral Council will now look to move employees into a number of floors in the Mallory building by next spring in 2024.

The developments were named after George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, mountaineers who took part in expeditions to Mount Everest with links to Birkenhead.

Building work was forward funded by a £75m investment by Canada Life Asset Management and delivered by the Wirral Growth Company (WGC), the council’s joint company with Muse Developments, and Morgan Sindall Construction.

Director of Development Management at Muse Steven Knowles said, “Phase one has been delivered, while phase two will see the creation of a vibrant new market hall for Birkenhead. Canada Life Asset Management’s inward investment into Wirral demonstrates the strength and potential of what we’re creating here and further cements our commitment to delivering a vibrant town centre.”

To get the buildings prepared for use, the council is expected to spend £9,248,000 refitting the offices after an additional £4m was approved earlier this year.

This money will be spent on creating up to 1,000 workstations as well as installing storage and welfare facilities, internal walls, CCTV, flooring, heating, plumbing, and electrics.

The interior of the building ready for fitting out. Credit: Edward Barnes

Cllr Paul Stuart said, “Our regeneration plans are incredibly ambitious and this one of the first demonstrations of what’s coming to Birkenhead and the Left Bank.

“We’ve committed to revitalising the town and breathing new life into its business and retail spaces. The council is showing a clear commitment not only to driving forward the regeneration projects but to joining them and becoming part of the change we want to see.”

According to the council’s unaudited accounts for 2022-23, Wirral Council would face paying £1.34m if it did not occupy one of the buildings and this cost would increase over time. The accounts added the council carries no risk of failed income from this building “as budgets from exiting other buildings are available to fund the lease cost.”

This is because the council will no longer be using the Cheshire Lines Building on Canning Street from April 2024 though it will look to enter a new lease for the basement space currently occupied by the archive service.

Plans are for the second building to be occupied by another organisation and according to the 2022/23 accounts, it has entered into early negotiations with a potential occupier for the ground floor. According to the 4 October Policy and Resources report, a formal marketing launch for the second building is now expected to begin.

The report added, “CBRE (a commercial letting agent) have undertaken a market analysis and advised that the buildings are excellent quality, compared with the floor plate offer in the northwest Grade A office currently has very little competition in the marketplace.”

However if it is unable to find an occupier, council accounts show it could face a liability of £873k a year for 35 years for the second building and this will increase. After 35 years, the council can purchase both of the sites for £1.

Reports presented to committee show the council will not be able to transfer the leases until those 35 years are up though it does have the option to sublet both buildings. The council must also pay for any repair or rebuild costs in the event of damage or destruction to the buildings.

The 4 October report also said the council will need to pay the landlord of the Cheshire Lines building compensation for repairs and reversing any changes to the building. This is currently being negotiated by the council.

Cllr Stuart said, “Moving hundreds of council staff into the Mallory building is one of the ways we are laying the foundation for revitalising Birkenhead. When fully let these buildings will see thousands of people working in the heart of the town, bringing new footfall and passing trade to local shops.

“Having the council as an ‘anchor tenant’ in the building will also help give confidence to private firms and public sector partners to encourage relocations to this dedicated commercial business district.

“This is one step in the delivery of massive regeneration in Birkenhead and the Left Bank of Wirral. This will play a key role in supporting retailers and businesses in the town centre, and making Wirral an even better place to live, work, visit and bring up families.”

Concerns have been raised by Green councillors regarding the new offices. At a full council meeting, Cllr Jo Bird said, “Over £9m is an awful lot of money, more than £100 per square foot,” adding, “Many of the decisions about the Wirral Growth Company have been made in secret by a very small number of councillors and it’s time for more transparency and challenge about how public money is used.”

Image: Irvine (Red) And Mallory buildings. Credit: Edward Barnes

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