Parking is the most urgent issue to be addressed as Wirral Council prepares to develop its masterplan for West Kirby.
The coastal town sits on the northwest corner of the peninsula and is known for being a “holiday place” filled with independent bars, cafes, and shops according to visitors and residents alike.
Wirral Council is in the process of building on its draft local plan, a policy that outlines different developments across the Wirral with at least 13,000 homes built on non-greenbelt sites.
While the plan itself is currently under government inspection, more detailed frameworks for different neighbourhoods are now being developed.
One of those is a masterplan around the West Kirby concourse, a leisure centre that sits right next to the town’s railway station. People in the area described the current building as an eyesore and that the car park around the back was becoming a problem area for antisocial behaviour.
Pressure is on for the council to develop a masterplan after it was heavily criticised by the Planning Inspectorate, a government body, when they overturned a decision to refuse permission to build flats on the old West Kirby fire station site.
As the masterplan for West Kirby had not yet been developed, the council was told it could not rely on this when it argued the proposal for 32 flats was premature.
Later this year, people will be asked by the local authority to give public feedback on plans that will reportedly include some wider proposals improving the street scene as well as the plans for the concourse area.
One local councillor, Andrew Gardner, also said more pedestrianisation on the Crescent, a small street opposite the town’s train station could potentially be back on the cards. This proposal was first put forward in 2008 but was later dropped despite public support due to concerns of local traders.
Dean Harris took over a butchers on the street in 2006. He said, “I am a little bit concerned if we did pedestrianise we would stop the traffic from out of town? I am not against it but I am a little bit concerned.
“It would look beautiful as a walkway but we have to consider how it would affect people coming in and affect deliveries and disabled drivers. There’s a lot to consider when you change the scenery of a town.”
Eileen Middleton who works in the town’s greengrocers said more pedestrianisation could be a continuation seen on Crescent Walk and bring more people into the area, but added, “A lot more people would wander down here but then more parking is needed for that.”
Where you can park was consistently a problem people wanted improving with several pointing to the construction of the West Kirby sea wall as an example of how heavily the town relies on parking.
The sea wall was built to protect houses along the seafront but saw hundreds of parking spaces temporarily taken away. Businesses said this made 2022 their “worst performing summer” turning West Kirby into a “ghost town.”
Richard Fergie who runs the Good Hood on Banks Road said, “That summer just didn’t really happen but definitely this summer we have come back tenfold. It’s vibrant, it’s busy. It’s the perfect place to have ice cream or fish and chips.”
Having moved to the town two years ago, he said parking was his only complaint as the town has a “real sense of community,” a hub of independents, and safe streets, adding, “What more could you want from a seaside town?”
Despite the positives, parking is still a daily issue for businesses with no rear access for some and locals complained of people parking on side streets instead of paying for the town’s car parks.
Mr Fergie said, “Parking is dreadful. You cannot park in this area at all. The only reason I bring it up is because it is a big factor for customers coming into the restaurant,” adding, “You drive around and around just trying to get a space.”
Though improvements to parking was the main issue that came up, people said antisocial behaviour was a big issue, particularly around the concourse and near the town’s Morrisons. Others wanted more sun shelters, particularly down on the promenade on hot days.
Sally Casher said, “There seems to be a lot of wasted area. The concourse feels like a bit of a wasted space, if there were more restaurants up there perhaps that would improve things.”
Hoylake councillor, Andrew Gardner, represents an area that includes much of West Kirby’s town centre. He wants the council to engage with the public properly on its plans and feed that back into its proposals.
He said, “So many of these things are decided by funding. It starts off with this is what we can get money for, let’s start a consultation and the money decides where it’s going to go.”
He added, “What are its strengths and what are its weaknesses? Then we look about building on those strengths and supporting opportunities.”
When asked about places like Bold Street in Liverpool where pedestrianisation has been successful, he said, “It’s not Bold Street. Just because something works there doesn’t mean it works here.”
Though he sees some proposed changes such as a plaza at the concourse as a good idea, Cllr Gardner’s worry is that any loss of parking spaces from increased pedestrianisation might see older customers leave.
He said, “Making it that town isn’t going to work,” adding, “I do not think the people of West Kirby think like that. Parking is a huge issue. It’s a tourist town with a visitor economy and it’s got a very good night time economy. Evolution not revolution.”
Image: Sally Casher and Eileen Middleton both work at Colin Lunt greengrocers