Wirral Council sets out its bold plans for Birkenhead

A detailed ambitious and inspirational regeneration plan for Birkenhead has been sent to the Government to bid for £45m from the Town Deal scheme.

By outlining the possible scale of change in a comprehensive Town Deal Investment Plan, Wirral Council is aiming to secure the full £45m by illustrating how Birkenhead’s maritime and entrepreneurial heritage, its enviable position on the left bank of the River Mersey, facing the world-famous Liverpool Three Graces and its determination to innovate, will lay the foundation for a tangible transformation of the area.

If successful, the funding will see a number of flagship projects get the green light to progress, capitalising on synergies which already exist in recent private and public sector schemes such as the Wirral Growth Company town centre development. This could also bring in a further £54m in match funding from other private and public sector sources.

The impact of the projects will be considerable and will include capital funding investment, covering building and equipment rather than revenue “day-to-day” costs, for new workspaces for business growth and for diverse arts and cultural facilities, as well as education and health & well-being infrastructure. It will also see investment in Birkenhead’s waterfront and the newly-named Dock Branch Park, representing a truly unique opportunity to change the face of the town centre by turning nearly 1km of disused railway into an invaluable park and active travel community asset.

The proposals outlined in the investment plan will also complement work to be undertaken in the town centre as a result of the award last month of £25m from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund. This will include the development of new housing, a modern, purpose-built market and a mix of highways schemes which will make the town centre a much easier place to access.

Birkenhead was one of only 101 towns invited to apply for the Government’s Town Deal grant last year. The scheme itself was devised so that any town which decided to submit a bid would have to address specific themes including economic growth, sustainability, educations & skills and connectivity.

In addition, the Government stipulated that plans should advance those projects which were endorsed by the community and local businesses.

In order to help shape the Town Investment Plan in line with the criteria, a Town Deal Board was established in February 2020, representing people who both live and work within the borough. Since then, the members of the Board, including MPs, councillors, representatives of local businesses and voluntary and community groups, have been working in partnership to deliver an investment plan that reflects the aspirations of Birkenhead’s local communities.

After the Board initiated a comprehensive consultation of the proposals at the end of last year, it was able to take into account more than 700 separate digital pieces of feedback and comment to help in its selection of a number of flagship projects which will underpin the transformation of the town.

Councillor Anita Leech, Chair of Wirral Council Economy, Regeneration & Development Committee, said: “A critical part of assuring the success of this Town Deal Investment Plan was having the input of our resident and business communities. We want these ambitious development programmes to be meaningful to local people so they can see their potential to bring about sustainable change which will lead to an improved quality of life for those who live, work and visit this area.

“The regeneration of Birkenhead is not just about transforming the landscape, it’s about inspiring people to take a leap of faith to be a part of community-based enterprise so they not only contribute to our local recovery but to sustainable growth, adding to shared wealth and prosperity.”

Chair of the Town Deal Board and CEO of Eureka!Mersey, the new science and discovery centre which is planned for Seacombe, Leigh-Anne Stradeski added: “With an impressive foundation on which to build and a Town Investment Plan that draws on the strengths and engagement of local people, we are confident that the time is right for a major investment to enable us to deliver the future that Birkenhead deserves. The plan presents us with an opportunity to move into a new era of prosperity and success which can be shared across all communities.”

Welcomed as evidence of the Government’s confidence in the Birkenhead plan, the council has already been awarded £1m as “accelerator” funding through the Town Deal process to help certain creative and culture projects get underway. These projects are fundamental to the successful regeneration of Birkenhead and this has already started to take shape around Argyle Street and the neighbouring area, which is fast-emerging as a creative quarter in its own right.

After a rigorous assessment process, the council will be set to announce the names of the successful recipients of accelerator funding in the next few weeks.

The Government is expected to announce the outcome of the bid to fund the Birkenhead Town Investment Plan in April 2021.