Wirral Council yet to spend £19.3 million allocated for levelling up projects

Wirral Council has only spent 1.46% of levelling up funding it received over two years ago.

The local authority received £19.6m in the first round of levelling up funding from the government in October 2021 to go towards funding several major projects to regenerate the area outside the Woodside Ferry Terminal. However, figures released by the council show much of the money has not been spent with none so far on some projects.

Two years on, £19,361,123 has not been spent yet. £287,748.18 has been spent so far by Wirral Council with the vast majority, £267,948, having gone towards the re-development of the International Battle of the Atlantic museum.

A planning application recently went in for this scheme and conservation work is under way to preserve the U-Boat 534 submarine with the roof now restored. A total of £2,665,177 is expected to be spent on the project going forward.

The transformation of the Woodside Ferry Village has also seen £19,800 spent with £376,200 expected to be spent in the future. This aims to “create a space for independent businesses, events and performance where people can enjoy Woodside Ferry Village and the waterfront location,” and “develop a programme of events for the local community using music, art, exercise, theatre and play.”

The Battle of the Atlantic Museum is planned for the Woodside area. Credit: MGMA Architects

However, no money has been spent on improving the public realm around the One O’Clock Gun and the bus station, refurbishing the ferry terminal’s landing stage, or reconfiguring the area outside the terminal to “support active travel, reallocating space to pedestrians and creating a coherent movement corridor between Birkenhead town centre and the waterfront.”

These projects however are expected to all be delivered by the end of March 2025 and the Woodside Ferry Village project is expected to be delivered by the beginning of April 2024. The Battle of the Atlantic museum is expected to be delivered by March 2025 and any cut off for funding is now March 2026.

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority in October 2022 said work would begin at Woodside following the refurbishment of the ferry terminal at Seacombe and the terminal would now close. A spokesperson said the delay was to ensure best value for money and the scheme would meet the same standards as the Seacombe refurbishment.

A Liverpool City Region Combined Authority spokesperson said, “Last year Mersey Ferries services to Woodside Terminal were temporarily paused in advance of planned works to refurbish the landing stage and terminal building. This coincided with the reopening of Seacombe Ferry Terminal following extensive modernisation and refurbishment work.

“The aim of these works is to deliver the best facilities for Woodside Terminal, so that it can continue to serve Mersey Ferries passengers – whether they’re commuters or leisure cruise customers – long into the future.

“Following a reassessment of the project and its needs, a decision was taken to seek a new contractor to deliver the high-quality improvements while providing best value for money. We expect to appoint a new contractor in the coming weeks.

“We will provide further updates on the project and its timelines as soon as we’re able. Our commuter and leisure services are continuing to operate from the Gerry Marsden Ferry Terminal on Liverpool’s waterfront to Seacombe as usual.”

The overall plans for Woodside may also be subject to change as the local authority rethinks a nearly £6.4m project to create a new transport museum within the planned Dock Branch Park running along an old Birkenhead trainline.

According to a Wirral Council investment plan, this is due to delivery challenges over land ownership and inflation. It is now considered the scheme would be undeliverable within the £6.395m budget.

The investment plan said the council and National Museums Liverpool are “both very keen to continue exploring options for a significant visitor destination and initial thoughts are that a location should be explored to be delivered in the medium to long term.” This includes looking at a site in the Woodside area “that could potentially be suitable for a future project with more significant budget”.

Wirral Council recently received £10.7m of levelling up funding to regeneration Liscard. However this will only be handed out if the council can show it can deliver the scheme by March 2026, is good value for money, and the bid would still benefit from government funding.

Leader of Wirral Council, Cllr Paul Stuart, said, “Liscard has struggled like so many town centres up and down the country as shopping habits have changed, and it has been important to the council to help it adapt to the changes in economic circumstances. This is a huge boost for the town and the funding will go some considerable way towards helping us make sure Liscard has a bright and prosperous future.”

Wirral Council declined a request for comment.

Lead image: Most of the money has not yet been spent regenerating the area around the Woodside Ferry Terminal. Credit: Wirral Council

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