New Ferry reaches ‘key milestone’ as work begins to build 34 new homes

After being ripped apart by an explosion, New Ferry has reached “a key milestone” as work begins to build 34 new homes.

In March 2017, the furniture Homes in Style store off Boundary Road in New Ferry exploded destroying and damaging 63 buildings in the surrounding area and injuring 81 people, two of them seriously.

The explosion has had a long-lasting impact, with a number of shops and restaurants on the high street destroyed and many in the community still remember where they were when it happened.

Since then, Wirral Council has been pursuing plans to regenerate the town with millions of pounds of public money spent acquiring land it did not previously own and developing plans to build new homes and revamp the town’s high street.

Planning permission was approved in 2023 which was welcomed by many in the community but faced some criticism over a lack of new shops. The first phase will see 34 new homes built by housing association Regenda Group in partnership with the council followed by a second housing development on a car park and the town’s former Co-Op.

20 homes will be built on Boundary Road with 13 one-bedroom and seven two-bedroom apartments people will be able to rent to buy and another 14 on Bebington Road which will be let out at an affordable rent through Regenda. A decision on another 43 homes is expected in April.

One of two sites that have started redevelopment. Credit: Ed Barnes

Work has now started on both the site of the explosion itself as well as the site once occupied by homes and shops obliterated by the blast.

Wirral Council regeneration committee chair Tony Jones said the developments would provide homes for new generations of Wirral residents, adding, “This is a positive new step. It’s been a long time in the making and I am absolutely delighted that we are here now.”

Much of the land now being developed wasn’t owned by Wirral Council meaning it needed to be bought individually. Cllr Jones added, “These things do take time because of the negotiations. Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand you can wave on Friday and start building on Monday given the number of parties involved.”

The council has spent £1.5m buying up land for development including the town’s former Co-Op building and successfully bid for £3.2m to do up the high street. Cllr Jones said, “I know it is so important for residents and businesses to finally see spades in the ground on a comprehensive development that will deliver much-needed affordable housing to the area, for both rental and rent to buy.”

This site, pictured in 2023, is now being redeveloped. Credit: Edward Barnes

Regenda Group behind the development also successfully bid for £1.9m to help provide affordable housing from Homes England. Stephanie Harrison from Regenda said, “As a regeneration company with a community focus, we’ve pledged to bring many benefits to the local community.”

David Ball, the assistant director for housing delivery, has been involved in rebuilding the community since the explosion. He said the local authority’s initial priority was to provide support to the businesses and residents in the area but would now focus on continuing to regenerate the town centre.

Mr Ball added, “Regeneration is a continuous process so it will be ongoing so what we will see is 70 new homes in this area. It will bring in new people, it will meet local housing needs but it will also help the shops that are here.

“It will rebuild this community and give it a sustainable footing as we go over the next few years from there. The future is looking very bright and positive for the area now we have started on the regeneration. It will bring more money and more people which has got to be a positive.”

Illustration of plans for the New Ferry explosion site. Credit: Regenda Group

Bromborough councillor Ruth Molyneux said, “It’s amazing. It’s really exciting and things are starting to get going and obviously the homes to buy or rent at an affordable price for people most in need.”

She added, “Once it’s regenerated, the more local people are going to come in and invest,” adding, “We need local people to use those shops before we even think about opening any more and of course the more people that are here, the more than people are going to use the shops.”

Wirral South MP Alison McGovern who has raised the issue in Parliament said, “Whenever I am here in this spot, I remember the moment of the explosion. I remember my front door flew in, and then going up the road and seeing the devastation.

“It’s taken a long time because the Tory government didn’t help us quickly enough and then Covid held us back but I am so happy today to have diggers on site and to have spades in the ground and to have New Ferry regenerated again.”

She said, “The job isn’t over,” adding, “It’s been a long hard road but New Ferry is going to be the place that it always was to those who live here.”

Lead image: (L-R) Wirral Council Assistant Director David Ball, Cllr Ruth Molyneux, Cllr Tony Jones, Cllr Jo Bird, Alison McGovern MP, and Stephanie Harrison from Regenda. Credit: Ed Barnes

Why not follow birkenhead.news on Facebook, Twitter, and Threads? You can also send story ideas or letters to the editor to news@birkenhead.news