Wirral Waters regeneration update following progress in critical year

The developer behind what has been described as the “largest and most exciting regeneration project in the UK” has provided an update after a “critical year.”

Peel L&P is the developer behind the Wirral Waters regeneration project which promises to deliver 20,000 new jobs, 13,000 new homes, and create new employment space including a business park on the peninsula.

The developments would take place on the land surrounding the docks in Birkenhead and are a key part of Wirral Council’s draft Local Plan, a housing policy currently under government inspection that focuses on developing brownfield sites rather than green belt.

During 2023, construction work continued on Miller’s Quay, a five-building development providing 500 apartments, overlooking the Birkenhead docks. Peel said this had been a critical year for the scheme and is on schedule to deliver 150 homes by the summer of 2024 and 350 more in early 2025.

Millers Quay

Two other developments providing new apartments and housing in Redbridge Quay also went on the market for sale, while an announcement is expected in 2024 for Egerton Village, a new retail, restaurant and events space.

However, many projects from MEA Park to a new maritime research centre to the Vittoria Studios housing development are still to get off the ground.

A planning application for the Marine, Energy and Automotive Park (MEA Park), a waterside manufacturing campus with 1m of industrial space, still needs to be approved by Wirral Council. Plans were submitted in June 2022 for 1,800 homes at Vittoria Studios but are also yet to be approved.

Wirral Council did not respond when asked for an update on either of these two projects. A new piece of infrastructure network using heat pumps to keep buildings warm is also waiting for planning permission though this was submitted in August 2023.

Planning permission was granted in 2023 for the Maritime Knowledge Hub, a new research centre looking at making the maritime industry environmentally friendly. Peel said they hope to be on-site in 2024 but the development has reportedly been delayed due to a rise in interest rates following the government of former Prime Minister Liz Truss making previous funding plans unsustainable.

Wirral Council is now looking at funding the scheme differently and updates are expected on both the heating network and the Maritime Knowledge Hub at the local authority’s economy and regeneration committee in January 2024.

Peel L&P have previously highlighted the need for a good public transport network in the area and councillors have criticised a lack of transport links. In October 2021, Wirral Council announced a new mass transit plan with a hydrogen-powered bus network along with better cycling and walking facilities.

The scheme is considered a catalyst for Wirral Waters and its wider Birkenhead regeneration plans with ideas drawn up for lightweight trams to also connect to the Merseyrail network.

However, in October 2023, Birkenhead councillor Pat Cleary asked when councillors would receive an update and when work could start on any proposals. A report had been promised to councillors in early 2022 but this is now expected in early 2024.

In response, the council also said the first phase plan was completed in July 2023 and was currently being reviewed by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. The report will outline the project’s next steps including time scales and funding options but no date has been scheduled in the next financial year.

Wirral Council did not respond when asked when an update is due to come to committee.

Lead image: How Wirral Waters might look in the future. Credit Wirral Waters

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