Plans for new U-boat museum at Woodside given greenlight

Plans to create a new museum, café, and bar on the Woodside waterfront have been given the final sign off.

In October 2023, Big Heritage CIC, which runs the Western Approaches museum in Liverpool, revealed its plans to revamp and completely transform the U-Boat Story Museum in Birkenhead.

The project is being funded by part of a £19.6m levelling up grant which looks to introduce a new green space, improve the Woodside ferry terminal, and create a new international Battle of the Atlantic attraction.

Planning permission has now been granted for the project and Big Heritage previously said it hopes to get spades in the ground by early summer. The new museum is currently expected to open sometime in August 2025 but will fully launch once £21m plans to improve the wider area are complete.

The current single-storey museum will be demolished with a new three-storey building built in its place which has been “designed to be tall enough to be seen across the Mersey while ensuring that views from the Hamilton Square approach are maintained.” Council officers when making the decision said it “would make a positive contribution to the character of the area while conserving the significance and setting” of the Woodside Ferry Terminal.

The new museum will take people through different levels seeing the U-boat including from underneath where you can the damage left when it sank in World War Two. A new American Grumman TBF Avenger bomber plane is also being brought in which was used to attack German submarines like the U-Boat.

Work has already been done to protect the U-534 submarine from the elements while a 3-D scan of the entire U-boat takes people right inside the wreck.

Dean Paton

Dean Paton, Big Heritage’s CEO, previously told the LDRS, “I think by 2026, we will have an offer on Woodside that will be the envy of any town in Merseyside. A huge strong new attraction. What is going to make people drive two hours to come to Birkenhead? You are not going to drive that distance for one thing as it’s not a full day out.”

Mr Paton said by linking the museums together with Western Approaches, it will help draw Liverpool’s many tourists over the water, adding, “Where is the audience? Our challenge is they are literally sailing off every day. There’s nothing for them to get off for. It’s a unique opportunity to capture that market.”

Pointing to Merseyside’s history with warship building at Cammell Laird and heavy bombing during the Blitz, he said, “It’s the perfect location for it. We are quite excited about it. It’s a big coup for Birkenhead and it’s the type of thing you see down in London,” adding, “The way we are going to present it as well is going to be really unique. All the pieces of the jigsaw are there.”

Big Heritage hopes the new museum will be one of the first projects delivered with the regeneration funding. The new U-boat museum is also not the only project Big Heritage is developing in Woodside with plans to open two other museums in the area in the next two years.

The company took over the Wirral Transport Museum in 2023 and has been working on plans to double the size of that museum since. They hope to reopen it fully by the summer of 2026 as well as open a new museum at the Shore Road Pumping Station in the same year or 2027.

Lead image: Plans for new U-Boat Museum. Credit: MGMA Architects

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