New homes ‘positive step forward’ as New Ferry plans approved

New homes to be built in New Ferry following the 2017 gas explosion have been hailed as “a positive step forward” to help it “turn a corner”.

On Thursday, 18 April, councillors approved unanimously the creation of 43 new affordable homes on the Woodhead Street car park and a former Co-op store in New Ferry.

It is the next phase of plans to regenerate the town following an explosion that took place in March 2017 providing 33 homes and 10 flats.

The explosion tore through the town’s high street, destroying businesses and homes, injuring 81 people, making 78 people homeless overnight and leaving 28 businesses closed behind police cordons. Seven businesses were destroyed and never reopened and since then, those who live in the town argue it has continued to see a decline.

Wirral Council has been working with its partner, the Regenda Group, to develop plans to provide new homes in the town centre including on the site of the explosion itself alongside funding to improve the high street. Work has already begun on new homes on two other sites which would provide 34 new homes.

Councillors praised the scheme for a new green space looked onto by all the houses in the development, access to the nearby high street, and argued any benefits from the development would outweigh the potential negatives.

Cllr Sue Powell-Wilde said, “I think this is a very nice little development,” adding, “I think this has the potential to enhance the area significantly.”

The plans for the third site on Woodhead Street Car Park came to the council’s planning committee after being met by 18 objections and a petition signed by 330 people who are concerned about the loss of a car park in the area.

They argue this will impact nearby homes and businesses and that the plan goes against a public consultation which had support for keeping the car park. 

Mark Craig. Credit: Ed Barnes

Mark Craig from the New Ferry Residents Association said, “What is the point of holding a public consultation if you are not prepared to listen to the views expressed?” He said the loss of the car park would have a serious impact on the existing businesses in New Ferry, adding, “Traders will lose their customers and their businesses too.”

However, councillors pointed to data showing the car park was underused arguing new homes would bring more people to shop on the high street.

Bebington councillor Jason Walsh said, “It will be a positive step forward for the area,” adding, “You should shop locally more when you walk and it’s well connected and got good bus routes on New Chester Road.” 

Cllr Kathy Hodson, who grew up in Bromborough, sought to reassure fears about the lost car parking arguing it was a far more enjoyable experience walking to shops. She said, “Car parks do not spend money but residents do. There will be lots of people living in the houses with families who will send little Jonny out to go and get a loaf.

“Please be reassured I think New Ferry will come up and it will be a nice community area with beautiful homes and a nice park in the middle.”

Pointing to the number of empty shops in the town following the explosion, Cllr Steve Foulkes said, “It needs to turn a corner after the horrific explosion. It was struggling prior to the explosion. It does need regenerating and it needs to be done carefully.”

At the same meeting, councillors also approved a change of use to allow a new children’s home in Egremont to go ahead as well as allow 40 apartments to be occupied in Hoylake that were part of a wider development that promised a cinema in the former Hoylake Town Hall.

Image: The new green space that would be created under the plans for Woodhead Street car park. Credit: John McCall Architects

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