Site of Birkenhead’s Ritz Cinema to be redeveloped

Proposals to build a 132-home development on the former site of Birkenhead’s Grand Ritz Cinema, demolished in 2001, have been recommended for approval by Wirral Council’s planning committee when it meets next week.

The site on the eastern edge of Birkenhead town centre, just off Conway Street, has been empty since the Grand Ritz was knocked down in 2001.

The cinema opened in 1937, was bomb damaged in an air raid in 1940s, and re-opened in 1947. Most recently, it was used as a bingo hall before its demolition, and the site is currently used as a surface car park.

Now, the site owned by Marcus Machine & Tools will be redeveloped to house a seven-storey apartment block with retail and commercial space.

Designed by Wallasey-based architect Garry Underwood Associates, the building includes 132 apartments on the upper floors along with 12,300 sq ft of mixed-use space on the ground floor.

The proposals also include cycle parking for 120 bicycles, an internal communal terrace for residents, and roof top gardens on the building’s lower elevations. There will also be 27 car parking spaces, accessed via Oliver Street East.

Part of the ground floor was originally earmarked for use as a library, but no agreement to use the space as such has been reached, and the developer has decided against bringing forward ground floor space for this use as a result.

There will be no affordable housing provided as part of the scheme, with a viability assessment by the developer which said it would not be viable to provide any. Wirral Council’s requirement for the development would ordinarily have been 10% affordable homes.

Council officers said the design of the building was acceptable despite objections from the Hamilton Square Conservation Area Advisory Committee, which argued the design “does not reflect or echo the grade two-listed Conway Centre and as such fails to give special regard to preserving the setting”.

The advisory committee also argued the development would be more commercially viable if it were smaller, allowing affordable homes to be provided on the site.

The council’s planning committee is due to meet on 19 April.

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