Go ahead given for 40 flats at former Hoylake town hall

People will soon be able to live in a new block of 40 flats linked to a development that also promised a cinema backed by James Bond actor Daniel Craig.

The development, which was labelled the Beacon Project, promised to transform the old Hoylake town hall into a cinema and arts space, cafes, a fine dining restaurant, and small retail units. 40 apartments on four levels above ground floor artisan spaces were also approved by Wirral Council in 2018.

However, the commercial side of the development managed by Hylgar Properties has stalled while the flats built by Torus Housing have since been completed.

The original planning permission said people could not move into the homes before the commercial side was finished so it was requested by Torus that the condition was changed.

Councillors said there was “no justification for deliberately attempting to leave the flats empty during a housing crisis”. The change was approved unanimously on 18 April at a planning committee meeting.

The stalling of the cinema and promised arts and fine dining space has raised concerns in Hoylake as the project had been funded with £3.64m from the government in 2018.

The project was backed by a number of people including James Bond actor Daniel Craig, who grew up in Hoylake, who said, “Bringing a cinema back to Hoylake is a truly wonderful thing for this and for future generations.”

In 2022, Hylgar said it was still committed to delivering the project but in March 2023, a spokesperson for the firm said, “We are working with the government departments to progress the works but do not have any further information at this time.”

The application to change the terms of the development came to the planning committee after 16 letters of objection were received by the council. Representing local residents, Hoylake councillor Andrew Gardner said there was “quite a lot of disquiet in the village” as it would have been a signature development for Hoylake.

He said, “There’s no cinema. Work has stopped completely and we can get no information out of the government or the developer really as to when that is going to come forward. Changing the phasing actually creates the residents’ worst nightmare in that you get the flats but you don’t get the development which everyone was so excited about.”

He said the project initially had a lot of goodwill, adding, “This is a project that has gone horribly awry. We are not getting what was promised and now we’re having to get the nightmare of the flats but no cinema.” 

However, he urged the committee to approve the changes, adding, “What we don’t want is 40 apartments sitting there empty forever and a day perhaps.”

Though some concerns were raised about a lack of parking, the development was praised for its good transport links. Cllr Kathy Hodson said people could walk to nearby shops and argued once the flats are occupied, this help the commercial development move ahead.

She added, “You might find that the actual cinema and everything else happens once there are 40, 80, or more residents to spend their money and go to the pictures so it might happen in the end anyway. We can all hope can’t we?”

Cllr Steve Foulkes said it was difficult to get investment in former public buildings and finance was often a key issue, adding, “It’s a case of the chicken and the egg, which came first?” He said there were positives as it would provide new housing on a brownfield site but the council would “need to keep the pressure on the other development to fulfil its full promise.”

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