Wirral Council to hire temporary staff to deliver regeneration plans

Wirral Council will spend £2.7m hiring temporary staff to help deliver its plans for 17,000 new homes.

The local authority’s draft Local Plan, which outlines the developments, is currently under review by the government following hearings in 2023.

The policy goes into planned developments across Wirral up until 2040 which aim to deliver regeneration of its urban areas and avoid development in the green belt.

The draft Local Plan is currently in the final stages of development after the Planning Inspectorate, a government body, recently made a number of requirements and changes for the council to deliver on before the plan gets final approval. These relate to what types of homes need to be provided under the plan as well as how the council will gradually increase the number built each year.

Now, the local authority is asking councillors to approve using £2.7m of profits from its joint venture development company the Wirral Growth Company over two years to fund a “multi-disciplinary team to drive delivery of priority regeneration projects up to March 2026.”

These include 23 projects, largely in central Birkenhead, funded by £73.5m that look to regenerate different parts of the town. These include funding for Merseyside’s oldest standing building Birkenhead Priory, the local authority’s old treasury building becoming a health hub, while a former housing association headquarters is being transformed into a space for local artists.

According to a Wirral Council report published ahead of a policy and resources committee on 20 March, the council has been given over £150m from the government to help deliver its plans. Councillors are also expected to move £12m forward for Liscard at the same meeting.

Local plans have to be reviewed every five years to make sure they are delivering on what has been set out. While understood to not be linked to the £2.7m funding proposal, planning inspectors Tom Bristow and Mike Worden have asked in a letter sent to the council for more work to be done monitoring progress going forward and bring in an early review policy due to a number of identified locations for development in a decade’s time being broad or “where possible”.

The council said the vision set out in the plan will help deliver more than 17,000 new homes and 6,000 new jobs. However, in their letter, Mr Bristow and Mr Wordon said they currently expect over 9,300 homes to be delivered by 2040 through the plan.

Councillors are being asked to approve the funding for new staff due to a risk the council may not be able to deliver a number of different projects before March 2026 as well as any further plans beyond this. The report said the regeneration programme had expanded due to the council’s success bringing in external investment and government support.

Concerns have previously been raised about the number of staff leaving the local authority’s regeneration department and the expertise that would be lost as a result. Explaining the recommendation to hire new staff, the latest report added, “Recruitment and retention of staff is very challenging and there is a risk that internal roles may not be filled. Given this, the Council needs flexibility on how we recruit supply chain and resource.”

New staff will be hired through a list of pre-approved council suppliers and “roles have been identified based on current gaps within the delivery teams that could risk slippage to the prioritised Regeneration Programme.”

The report said, “This largely includes technical skills and design team staff to deliver the programme to the timescales required,” adding, “These skills would plug in alongside the Council’s existing project managers within the delivery team, bridging any technical skills gaps and assessing current projects as well as those coming forward in pipeline.”

Projects that will be supported by the new funding include plans to develop areas around the concept of a new park along a railway line in Birkenhead, the Birkenhead waterfront, Hind Street, Birkenhead town centre, Wirral Waters, Liscard, New Ferry and New Brighton.

The council will also assess as part of the changes which projects need to be given priority to “enable the Council to maximise impact with its funding and resources” and give “clear direction on project delivery.”

Image: Visual of what the Hind Street development could look like. Credit: Ion Developments

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