Money from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund will help kick-start the regeneration of Birkenhead town centre as well as New Ferry, devastated by an explosion in 2017. Tony McDonough reports
Almost £28m is to be injected into Wirral to kick-start two major regeneration projects.
The borough has secured the cash from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund and it willl be used to create new housing, retail and community facilities in Birkenhead town centre and in New Ferry.
Birkenhead will receive a £24.6m grant which will be used by Wirral Council to kick-start a number of projects in the town including building a new market on the site of the current one, address the “over-engineered” road network and to improve pedestrian access and bring forward 180 new homes at Europa Boulevard, delivered by Wirral Growth Company.
Chair of Wirral Council’s Economy, Regeneration and Development Committee Cllr Anita Leech said: “This is such fantastic news for Birkenhead. The size of this grant is going to enable us to do so much. This is not about adding a lick of paint, this is about delivering fundamental change within our town centre.
“The transformation will have sustainability at its core and the funding will enable the specific projects which we have identified to progress at pace, as well as paving the way for other developments to take place, creating a genuine synergy amongst emerging schemes within the town centre.
“We have ambitious regeneration plans for Birkenhead and the borough and we are already making tangible advances in the town centre with the purchase and imminent demolition of the vacant Milton Pavements area. The addition of the £24.6m Future High Streets Fund will continue that momentum and will make the future of Birkenhead a reality.”
Since a whole section of New Ferry was destroyed by a huge gas explosion in March 2017 there has been a major push for the area to receive assistance to begin a regeneration effort. Now it is also being awarded cash from the Government fund.
The £3.2m it has been awarded falls short of the £4.6m that was requested, the council says it will still “significantly support and underpin” the wider New Ferry regeneration masterplan. This will transform the town with a mixed development of 79 new residential units and nearly 11,000 sq ft of retail space.
Cllr Leech added: “This is good news that we have been waiting on for a while and although the offer falls short of what was bid for, it is still to be welcomed. Residents and business-owners alike have told us what they believe are the issues that needed addressing to drive footfall back to Bebington Road and make the area more attractive. It is exciting that those plans can now move forward.
With progress also being made on the wider regeneration plan, the future for New Ferry is looking positive, which is the very least this inspirational community deserves.”
There were also plans to enable the council to buy and redevelop the site of the former Co-op supermarket on the corner of Bebington Road and the main New Chester Road, which currently comprises 20,000 sq ft of vacant retail space.
The aim is to enable further residential development on this site, with a proposal for 27 new homes, including three-bedroom houses and maisonettes and two-bedroom apartments.
Council officers will be working to reassess the original bid so that the revised level of funding can be spent in the most effective way possible. The council will also be seeking to appoint a development partner to deliver the wider regeneration plans in the New Year.