Final approval for Birkenhead public realm improvements

New cycle lanes, walking routes, and some major changes to Birkenhead town centre have been given final approval.

The plans are expected to cost nearly £12m with a number of public realm improvements and changes to Grange Road West, Grange Road, the Charing Cross junction, Europa Boulevard, and Conway Street. This is after an initial consultation found public support for the schemes.

Part of Grange Road West is expected to become a trial low traffic neighbourhood with new public spaces and planters reducing the road down to one lane. New cycle and walking routes would be installed around Conway Park train station.

Councillors at a Wirral Council environment and transport committee voted to move the schemes forward ahead of a March 2024 deadline with an additional £1.625m of funding and will now be implemented.

This went ahead with full support from Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat councillors but the committee’s three Conservative councillors voted against. The plans had previously moved forward with unanimous support at earlier committees.

The Conservatives suggested requesting a deadline extension from the government to allow the committee time to look at a second consultation. However this was called “daft” and slammed by the other parties who said any delay would mean missed funding deadlines.

Labour councillor Steve Foulkes said the Conservatives were “hedging their bets” and becoming anti-active travel arguing the council needed to speed up its regeneration programme “and make things begin to happen.”

Cllr Foulkes said, “We would actually say no we don’t want £1.6m. What local authority with a regeneration scheme turns down money like that? And the risk is that we are not in control of that deadline. That deadline is set by government.”

He added, “You need to do something different. This is different and it’s scary sometimes doing different things but sometimes you have to do and take that plunge.”

Cllr Liz Grey also said a delay would see the council miss out on future investment, adding, “I believe it is saying goodbye to far too much and the people of Birkenhead deserve much better than that.”

Green councillor Jason Walsh said the schemes would bring jobs and other benefits to Birkenhead, adding, “You are wanting to delay it because you are guessing that hundreds of people might have not agreed with it. That’s a big gamble to waste this money.”

However, the Conservatives hit back pointing to the delay of a cycle lane at Birkenhead Road supported by Labour which saw funding handed back but Cllr Liz Grey said Labour had learned from that experience.

Cllr Max Booth said while he supported aspects such as improving public areas, he repeated his call on the government to give more flexibility to councils to engage with people on plans.

Cllr Vida Wilson also said she had concerns about the proposal, adding, “With regard to these cycle lanes they seem to be going from nowhere to nowhere. We are being asked to rush this item through without proper consultation to everyone involved. Not everyone can ride a bike.”

Images: Wirral Council

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