“Quirky” businesses on a road just up from a Merseyside beach are calling for more people to visit their “nice little shopping area.”
At the top of the hill in New Brighton on a small stretch of Seabank Road is a number of small independent businesses from cafés and DIY stores to butchers and greengrocers just round the corner from the town’s Vale Park.
Even though it is close to the town’s railway station, one café said people don’t often realise it’s there. A Facebook page was set up a few years ago to showcase what’s on offer but with the rising cost of living, businesses said they need people in the area more than ever.
Dave Owens who runs the butchers said he’s seen a decline in recent years. Benches are peeling, weeds are growing, bins are rusty, and railings that have been smashed for three years. These are a number of issues he thinks need sorting out.
He said, “The varnish is coming off the benches. It’s just the council seems to spend any money in Birkenhead and nothing up here. They need to spend money down in New Brighton. Everything is going to Birkenhead.”
Parking is also a big issue according to Mr Owens. Every day he said people park in the 90-minute bays and stay there all day due to a lack of enforcement. He thinks this is driving away business because customers don’t have somewhere to park outside the shops.
He said, “You wouldn’t believe the amount of people who say they haven’t been in because they can’t get a parking space. They need to spend some money on it,” adding: “We need them to come up here and start ticketing people”.
Other businesses agree. Rob Woods from the Flying Dutchman said, “Parking is a nightmare. All the traffic wardens seem to go down to Victoria Road. No one comes up here for weeks on end. People come here to park for weeks and weeks.
“If customers can’t park, we lose business. We just need a traffic warden here once or twice a week.
“It would make a massive difference. When it works, well you can see it works perfectly. People pull in. They come out and it works fine for an hour, an hour and a half and then they are gone.”
Mr Owens said he had raised the issue regularly with Cllr Tony Jones who represents New Brighton and believes little progress is being made. Cllr Jones said he passed the concerns every time the issue was raised onto council enforcement who came up and took action where appropriate.
Carla Beardmore (pictured, main image) who runs Kollektiv, a cafe that also sells artwork, blankets and other local artisan goods, disagrees with the need for parking fines. She thinks free parking on places like the seafront is one of the best things New Brighton has to offer.
Carla said, “It does mean less trade. I just think [no parking restrictions] would make a real difference. If they lifted it it would immediately make people come here more.”
She also pointed out that it is only a small stretch of the road that is currently subject to parking enforcement and parking is also available on the side streets. Carla said, “Maybe if people are aware you can park on the side streets then they would spend more time in the area.”
She said, “The biggest problem is getting people from the front up here because there are loads of shops up here,” adding, “People say they didn’t know it was here. This is a good road but you get that all the time.
“It needs people. Not the local people. The people that say they didn’t know it was here. It needs tourism but that has been an ongoing battle. I do not know if you can cure that but it would be good if people knew we were here. If people visited the area, that would make a difference.”
Carla thinks the stretch of road has the potential to become something like Lark Lane, somewhere another road in New Brighton Victoria Road is often compared to, adding, “They are really behind here. Liverpool is miles ahead”
The idea of tying Seabank into other parts of the town including Victoria Road and the waterfront seems to be a common thread with businesses across New Brighton.
Mike Kavanagh, from Seabank Motors points to the new Stagecoach open-top bus that will run from Seacombe to New Brighton.
The bus will take people to the waterfront but not stop off on the way and he thinks this is a missed opportunity to bring people into their part of town.
Mr Kavanaugh said whatever issues the street has, the biggest is rising costs for small businesses. The council used to fund flower pots, Christmas lights, clean the weeds, paint the benches, and installed cameras but these were cut in recent years as Wirral Council faced financial difficulties.
He said, “There is so little money about and people are struggling with managing rates going up and everything else.
“It’s hard when nobody is supporting us. The biggest problem we have found in the last year is that both of our churches are running regular food banks. The street is trying its best to adapt to the times but the current climate that people are working within is just very very difficult.”
Wirral Council will reopen public consultations later this year for the New Brighton waterfront about its development plans for the coastal town building on the wider regeneration strategies laid out in the draft Local Plan.
In an interview with LDRS, council leader Paul Stuart said, “I think the historical feeling is that Birkenhead gets everything and Wallasey gets nothing and those comments from residents go back to when I was a child. I remember my parents saying it.
“That seems to be a common complaint that comes across on the doorstep, that all the regeneration goes into Birkenhead but none of it comes into Wallasey.”
“I think we will soon see it start to spread along Dock Road and it will just be great to be able to just carry that on through to Liscard and New Brighton.”
Stagecoach were also approached for comment.
Main image: Carla Beardmore from Kollektiv, New Brighton