Wirral Growth Company is to start work on two five-storey office buildings totalling 190,000 sq ft in the summer, after its 15-year regeneration strategy for the Birkenhead town was signed off last night.
The 50:50 joint venture between Wirral Council and Muse Developments lodged plans last year to transform Birkenhead town centre, creating office and residential space and a new market hall. The 1.4m sq ft masterplan was approved unanimously by the council’s planning committee yesterday.
Mike Horner, development director at Muse Developments and a director at Wirral Growth Company, described the approval as a “pivotal moment for the partnership as we get ready to start on site in the coming months and realise our collective vision for Birkenhead and the wider Wirral”.
“Delivering major programmes of regeneration in our towns and cities takes time and requires a meticulous approach from all partners, to make sure we get things right,” he added.
The first phase of work received full planning consent and will see the joint venture construct two office buildings on plot A of the 27-acre masterplan – the site of the Milton Pavements shopping complex that Wirral Growth Company bought last year.
In December, demolition specialist PP O’Connor was appointed to knock down part of the retail complex to clear the way for a start on site. Other elements of the scheme for which outline consent has now been granted include an additional 90,000 sq ft offices and 36,000 sq ft of retail, as well as the relocation of the town’s market.
Outline approval has also been granted for 650 homes, a 110-bedroom hotel, and a 300-space car park. The development site stretches from the Pyramid Shopping Centre of the A552, to Price Street, where Europa Boulevard ends, and includes 10 individual plots.
Earlier this year, the council bought the 70,000 sq ft House of Fraser building, next to the Pyramid Shopping Centre, to facilitate the town centre regeneration scheme.
The masterplan was developed following an extensive period of consultation with the Wirral community, intended to ensure the JV delivers a “highly accessible” central business district with energy-efficient Grade A office buildings and extensive public realm and green space, according to the partners.
Wirral Council is to occupy part of the new office space as part of its strategy to reduce occupancy of environmentally inefficient and costly buildings within its estate. Under the future phases, the replacement Birkenhead market will aim to provide a “vibrant food and beverage hall with a thriving traditional market, stimulating a daytime and evening economy not seen before in the town”, the JV said.
The masterplan is also intended to help kickstart the wider regeneration of Wirral Council’s so-called Leftbank area, various strands of which were unveiled last year.
For Birkenhead specifically, Wirral Council has clinched various pieces of Government funding to support its regeneration plans, such as £25m from the Future High Streets Fund. It has also submitted a £45m bid to the Towns Fund, for which the Government is expected to announce successful applicants in the coming months.
AHR Architects masterplanned the 15-year Birkenhead town centre project and Barton Willmore was the growth company’s planning consultant.
Alan Evans, director of regeneration and place at Wirral Council, said: “The significance of this decision can’t be understated. This is a crucial time for Birkenhead and the whole Leftbank area of the River Mersey.
“The central business district will provide a catalyst for the rest of the town centre and extend out into the surrounding neighbourhoods and beyond. We are grateful to our partners at Muse Developments as part of the Wirral Growth Company for their efforts in securing this important part of Birkenhead’s future.”
The council is also consulting on a 20-year vision for the rest of the town through the Birkenhead 2040 framework, which was launched in March, Evans noted. “This will see the transformation and repopulation of the town with the creation of a series of new high-quality neighbourhoods, a new urban linear park to complement Birkenhead Park and a world-class mixed-use waterfront.”
Greg Dickson, planning director at Barton Willmore, said: “The application has been informed by a rigorous three-stage consultation exercise, that provided a deliverable 15-year plan to breathe new life and investment into the town centre.
“This includes a new commercial heart, alongside residential neighbourhoods and revitalised retail and leisure facilities that have been designed to build on the town’s existing assets and draw inspiration from its maritime location.”
Once Milton Pavements has finished being demolished, the first phase of development is scheduled to be on site in the middle of 2021.