Birkenhead Market
The existing market is to be demolished. Image from Google

Wirral pushes on with revamp schemes

Neil Tague

The local authority has set out a preferred course of action after it secured £27.8m in Future High Streets Fund support for Birkenhead and New Ferry.

At the end of 2020, it was confirmed that Birkenhead was to receive £24.6m from the Government fund, with New Ferry, still struggling with the after-effects of 2017’s explosion, was awarded £3.2m.

Wirral Council’s economy regeneration & development committee will next week be asked to approve next steps.

The pressing issue for Wirral is finding an interim location for Birkenhead Market, in line with the council’s plans to demolish the existing facility and replace it as part of the Wirral Growth Company’s redevelopment of the town centre.

The committee will be asked to empower the council’s director of regeneration and place to scope out a design, costed model and fit-out for the preferred option, Unit 2 St Werburgh’s Square and St Werburgh’s Square itself, which has won out over options including a shipping container model on Europa Boulevard. Wirral will now seek a short-term lease with owner Mars Pension Fund.

Around £14m of Birkenhead’s FHSF allocation is committed to the new and temporary market project.

With New Ferry’s high street vacancy rate more than doubling since 2017, with Bebington Road’s vacancy rate topping 40%, Wirral had sought £4.6m from the FHSF, settling for a reduced offer of £3.2m.

Three key projects are proposed: the first seens the condensing of parking from three sites into one, freeing up space for 79 residential units and 11,000 sq ft of new retail space with more appeal than the dated stock currently on offer elsewhere.

The second project is the one-way reopening of Bebington Road, introducing short-term parking bays to a pedestrianised but underused retail pitch. This would combine with the opening up of School Lane, with officers reporting that the removal of bollards would improve connectivity between car parks and village hall to the west with the main retail area.

Further matters to be discussed include sign-off for a funding agreement with Peel L&P that will allow the next stage of the £23m Maritime Knowledge Hub at Wirral Waters, providing 58,000 sq ft of sector-specific commercial space, including a new build element and the restoration of the grade two-listed Hydraulic Tower.

Peel is to develop the scheme, with the council taking a 250-year lease. Building will not start until 80% of the space is pre-let.

A further item on the agenda seeks approval to make a loan to Peel L&P to enable delivery of mixed-use development at the Egerton Village part of Wirral Waters. Egerton Village is billed as a 14,671 sq ft low-level gateway community.

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