Major funding decision ahead for ambitious Birkenhead development project

A major development of nearly 1,600 homes on the Wirral could take another huge step forward if funding is approved on Monday.

On 17 July, an economy and regeneration committee has been recommended to approve £2.255m to go towards developing the Hind Street Urban Village.

The planned development would be located behind Birkenhead Central Station on what is currently derelict, industrial land. It is an ambitious plan to create new shops, a primary school, hotels and new public spaces alongside the 1,578 new homes.

The project is part of the local authority’s plans to completely revamp Birkenhead and includes removing two flyovers that currently lead to the Birkenhead Tunnel and the Clifton Crescent roundabout. The development site also runs alongside the edge of the proposed Dock Branch park.

A council report for the meeting said the project “will result in new investment in the heart of Birkenhead and will contribute strongly to levelling up in one of the most deprived areas of the country.”

A planning application is currently being developed which will outline plans for the development across 20 hectares, the equivalent of 49 football pitches, after a consultation took place earlier this year.

The scheme is expected to be fully finished by 2035 with the building of the new homes expected to begin in 2025.

A report published before the meeting on 17 July said, “The scale and location of the regeneration area presents an opportunity to create a sustainable, market changing urban village that helps to set a standard for future development in the face of the climate emergency.”

The report said the funding was needed to give “funders and the council certainty over construction costs for the remediation.”

It added, “Certainty regarding these costs will form the basis of the grant funding applications to Homes England and Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.”

The funding, if approved, will go towards getting developer support, building a business case, and assessing the value of the scheme. Future funding will later be sought from the committee to help develop a new two form school on the site.

The £2.255m will be funded from borrowing but the local authority said it expects costs to be recovered of up to £1.439m from the Liverpool City Region and Homes England. The council is also assuming that £16m will be recovered from developers and funding partners during the course of the development.

2023 will be a significant year for Wirral Council where it is expected to spend £86m on regeneration projects across the borough. Some funding is required to be spent this year or it will be handed back to the government.

However, a review of different projects by council auditors warned there were “significant risks and challenges” to the council, in particular over the Hind Street Urban Village.

In response to a question on the issue, the council’s chief internal auditor Mark Niblock said, “We know that Wirral has a significant regeneration development in play. That is very laudable but brings with it a significant amount of risk.”

Images: WBC

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