People in New Brighton have said what they want to see as Wirral Council continues developing its plans for the coastal town.
New Brighton sits on the northeastern tip of Wirral and was at one point one of the largest seaside resorts in the UK with a giant outdoor swimming baths, a pier, and a promenade. Since its heyday, it suffered years of decline losing a number of buildings, its pier and later the baths in a storm.
But in recent years local people have seen a bit of a turnaround with new businesses on the seafront and a revival of Victoria Road. Recently it was announced a new Greggs was coming to the town.
A long-awaited draft masterplan for New Brighton is also expected to be published in the autumn by the council which would outline plans for future development along the seafront.
Karen Guerreiro, from Wallasey Village, believes New Brighton has absolutely improved in recent years. She said, “Just the people that come down here. We are going to have a picnic on the dips. You just wouldn’t before.”
Karen thinks a waterfront playground similar to the one in Southport would be good, adding, “That would be brilliant for all ages with climbing frames, because then we would be here and go into town more often.”
Local people want to see a number of things. There are calls for the marine lake deck to return so people can go crabbing again and for free parking to stay.
Asked about the new Greggs, Ella from Wallasey said the place had been vacant for years, adding, “I would have liked for an independent to go in there but the rents are too high.”
Helen Robinson who runs the Seaside Cafe down in the seafront agrees. She said, “I’d rather have the units full than empty. We never wanted the supermarket but it works. The last thing we want to do is go back to the forgotten resort that we used to be.”
Pointing to the closed Queens Royal hotel and abandoned plans for a Wetherspoons, she added, “What we want is the units full and operating. We don’t want them sitting derelict. You can’t get a sausage roll in here anyway so it’s no competition.”
Helen said one of the main problems in New Brighton was the lack of toilets on the promenade with many using her cafe as a result. She also said spaces for family barbecues alongside an adventure playground would help bring people in.
On top of this, she feels events held over the summer are taking business away from the seafront rather than adding to the town.
In the past when festivals like the Wirral show took place, Helen said buses used to run from the show into the town bringing people in. She said, “Tie everything together, tie into Victoria Road, connect it all together.
“The artworks are good because it’s getting people walking around and even the bits you don’t like, you are still talking about it. We need something that connects it all together.
“New Brighton needs a little more stuff, a good play area and a nice map telling everyone where stuff is. Vale Park is lovely but a lot of the people who come into this cafe don’t even know about Vale Park.
“There are a lot of plus sides to New Brighton including the fact you can bring your kids down with £30 and have a nice time when times are so tough for people.”
People also want to see the town keep some of what it has, including the town’s arcade and fairground which had been a feature all their lives. They argued New Brighton was not a “posh place” and survives on staycations when some cannot afford to go abroad.
The Bright Spot Arcade gets 20% of its business from Liverpool. David Wilkie (pictured, main image) who runs it said the town needs entertainment all year round not just in the summer season, adding, “In the summer, we are making money. The rest of the year we break even.”
In plans to renovate the seafront, he is currently developing proposals that could see a new four star hotel, 130 luxury apartments, and a miniature village of New Brighton but still keep the leisure facilities on offer.
He said the plans are a long way off, but added, “It will put us on the map and bring value to the area. If I can do it right, it will be fantastic.”
Some local people feel the town does need to change. Ella said, “It’s going to be different. It can never go back to that and that was nice at the time but it can never go back. There’s so much room to expand in New Brighton.
“There’s a glimpse of that on Victoria Road. You always want to see local people doing well instead of always giving it to big corporations all the time.”
Lydia Hardman, who works at the Driftwood Cafe on Victoria Parade, feels “New Brighton has picked itself up quite well” but thinks more events aimed at young people would bring in a new crowd.
Lydia said, “It would be nice to have a more younger audience coming in. We get people coming in remembering their youth but I find more and more young people are coming to New Brighton, I feel it’s developing into that.”
Mike Brown used to come to New Brighton as a child but hasn’t been back for years. Now 75, he said, “New Brighton has changed and none of this was here when I was last here” pointing to the new businesses on the waterfront.
The town’s ballroom where his mother and father met no longer exists as well as the ferry and the original Cavern. He added, “I wouldn’t regard it as a seaside resort. It has a beach but there always used to be something happening.”
He added, “Liverpool has become more of an international city and New Brighton has become what it is. It’s not the way I remember it. A lot has changed, even the Mersey doesn’t have the same smell. It’s obviously a lot cleaner than it was.”
However, he said, “It’s nice to be back. I shan’t come back in my time but it’s nice to say I have been back.”
Main image: David Wilkie runs the arcade on New Brighton’s seafront.
All images credit: Edward Barnes