Decision details

Change to proposal of Town Deal project at Birkenhead Priory

Decision Maker: Director of Regeneration and Place

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: No

Is subject to call in?: No


The Director of Regeneration and Place has approved the reallocation of £127,000 of grant funding from the Town Deal Grant for Birkenhead Priory (“the Project”) for the refurbishment of the Undercroft at Birkenhead Priory to serve as a visitor centre instead of allocating this amount for the construction of a new Pavilion Visitor Centre at Birkenhead Priory.

Reasons for the decision:

Following development of the Project, including a more detailed understanding of utility supplies and amendments to the proposed interactive display, it is proposed that the £127,000 previously allocated to the provision of a new build visitor facility at Birkenhead Priory will be spent on the refurbishment of an existing space in the Undercroft at Birkenhead Priory that is currently underused. The space identified lends itself well to a refurbished visitor facility and the outputs of the Project remain the same. The space will be brought up to modern standards which will appeal to a greater range of visitors and organisers. The key pillars of this work would be reinterpretation and new facilities in the Undercroft and improving accessibility to the Refectory to facilitate a wider variety of events.
It is proposed to revise the Project to locate the Visitor Centre not in a newly constructed Pavilion at Birkenhead Priory, but instead to make use of the historic Undercroft; built in the 14th century, its stunning vaulted roof and the original flooring are still intact. This currently houses a museum and small shop space, however this was created over 30 years ago and the content has barely changed during that time. Visitors are unable to closely view and appreciate the historic nature of the space due to the hazard presented by gaps in the current wooden walkway.
Above the Undercroft is the Refectory, a large indoor space. This is ideal for hosting events and groups in all weathers, and a hub for community engagement activities at Birkenhead Priory. However, it is recognised that its appeal as a venue and access is currently limited, due to only being accessible via stairs.
The total funding allocated to the Project is £353,480. Of this £127,000 is allocated for the development and construction of a visitor centre. The other aspects of the Project with a total budget of £226,480 will be proceeding as described in the initial Business Case.
The creation of a fit-for-purpose Visitor Centre in this space will involve:
•Redesigning the Undercroft display, to include: new cases to improve visibility of objects, create new interpretation to be clearer and more accessible to visitors. Reconfiguration of display layout to improve visitor access.
•Installation of new transparent flooring to properly display and improve access to historic ancient flooring, which will make the space more accessible to a wider cohort of visitors.
•Installation of a platform lift to increase engagement opportunities with events and exhibitions within the Refectory.

Alternative options considered:

Do Nothing: Proceed with current plan for the construction of a new Visitor Centre construction as a Pavilion. This option has been disregarded because:
•Further investigation of the utility provision on the scheduled ancient monument site revealed complications in providing such a structure with electricity and water.
•The interactive visitor content originally anticipated to occupy this space is not being completed as planned.
Not to provide a Visitor Centre: Proceed with the rest of the Project without the Visitor Centre element. This was discounted as it would also mean that we would not meet the objective stated in the Business Case “to enhance the visitor experience and increase visitor capacity and accessibility”.

Publication date: 30/01/2024

Date of decision: 30/01/2024