LDRS reporter, Ed Barnes, was granted access to the huge area that Wirral Council hopes to turn into a modern urban village of 1,600 homes.
The Hind Street Urban Village development will bring in over £300m of public and private investment into Birkenhead and is one of the largest planned projects being carried out by Wirral Council as part of its regeneration plans.
The development in partnership with Ion Developments would seek to transform the area behind Birkenhead Central station with new homes, businesses, schools, corner shops, a gym, new public squares, and hotels. The scheme will be rolled out in phases and is expected to be complete by 2035.
Investment is expected to come from Homes England and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority for the project as well as more than £200m private sector funding.
Up to 1,578 homes and apartments are proposed as part of the project with the first phase seeing up to 624 homes being built. The plans will also see major changes to Birkenhead town centre with two flyovers removed restoring the town’s streets back to their old layout.
Standing outside Birkenhead Central station, Steve Parry, the managing director of Ion Developments, said, “If you look at this and where we are standing now, it cuts off the station from the town centre. The main reason (for getting rid of the flyovers) is connecting this area to the town centre. It will mirror what it was originally.
“The idea behind this scheme and the others is to repopulate the town. If people live in the town, they are more likely to visit the town centre and not just bypass it.”
The flyovers were built in the 1960s when there was only one tunnel and no motorway. Since then, Mr Parry said there had been a shift of people from the east to the west of the Wirral and with another tunnel later built in Wallasey, the Queensway isn’t anywhere near capacity.
Mr Parry said, “The modelling that we have done so far is that there was very little or any impact. Most of the tunnel traffic is at the AM and PM tides and the peak flows are not that much higher.”
The Hind Street site where the homes will go is currently derelict with the old car park crumbling and little sign of its past gasholders and terraced houses. It has now mainly been repopulated by common wild grasses and self-seeded plants and trees according to Ion.
Alongside the houses and infrastructure, the development will also run along the end of the Dock Branch park. An old train line through central Birkenhead, the new park will provide a green walking and cycle route through the town.
As part of the Hind Street plans, staircases will lead up to the new park as well as improvements made to Birkenhead Central.
Ion also hopes Green Lane railway station would see a similar refurbishment. Mr Parry said, “How many places can you live where you have a station one end and another one the other end?”
“It is far quicker to get from Birkenhead to Liverpool city centre. It is really what the selling point is with this.”
For the development to go ahead, there are a number of significant issues for the scheme to make the plan viable. One of these is moving the gas supply for the whole of Birkenhead to a new upgraded facility in the corner down to about the size of two garden sheds. This will cost around £5m.
Underneath the tarmac is what was once a beach that was reclaimed with the building of Cammel Laid. Mr Parry said, “The real issue is the problem of not contaminating the water supply. This is the lowest place in Birkenhead. This was once a beach.
“This was a bend that used to come in from the river. The river was then narrowed. If we went down far enough, any contamination is one of the issues we have got to deal with.”
Another issue is the historic beach. He said, “There’s nothing solid underneath here so if you want to build something, you have to dig about 100 feet down so there are plenty of piles that will go into the ground in the construction.”
However in order to keep costs down, developers will be looking at reusing as much material on site and putting it back into the ground due to landfill charges
To address the issues and ensure any risk to the council is managed effectively on Hind Street too, council auditors have previously said, “Future focus must be given as this development progresses to the commissioning of consultants, the clear responsibility for the managing and reporting of any cost overruns, and the regular reporting to the Project Board of any issues that may affect project delivery schedules.”
In response to these, auditors said, “A number of important actions agreed with management in these areas are currently being implemented to strengthen and improve existing arrangements and the effectiveness of these will be monitored through targeted follow-up audit work during 2023-24.”