Regeneration of West Wirral
Chair Councillor Gerry Ellis introduced Howard Mortimer and congratulated him on a great job he and his team have done in recent years.
Howard Mortimer gave a detailed presentation on the following two topics:
- The Regeneration of Hoylake & West Kirby
- Hoylake Golf Resort in the Birkett Valley
He explained that the Council was seeking investment in and the improvement of areas of West Wirral on the “back” of the return of the Open Championship.
The target areas are: Wirral Country Park, West Kirby Town Centre and seafront, Hoylake Town Centre and seafront and Hoylake Golf Resort – east of the town
This is because these areas and townships would benefit from investment to bring about improvements to what the area offers to deliver environmental and economic benefits to the local community, improve business prospects and help make West Wirral more attractive for residents, businesses and visitors.
He summarised the progress to date since 2005:
Wirral Country Park - Study by WS Atkins, Money spent on pathways and cycleways
Central Hoylake - £3million Phase 1 Public Realm improvements along Market Street complete
West Kirby Seafront - £300k improvements and investment in a range of facilities around the seafront including: The Boardwalk, Coronation Gardens and Hilbre Island.
Opportunity to focus on investment potential in West Wirral, particularly private sector resourcing, crystallised originally through the return of The Open Championship in 2006. The staging of the Women’s Open in 2012 and the further return of The Open to Royal Liverpool in 2014 is seen as continuing and reinforcing the opportunity to market West Wirral as a place to invest.
That said clearly the current economic climate continues to be uncertain with a further down-turn still yet possible and bank lending still very unpredictable.
This added to the major cut back announced recently in respect of Public Sector Spending means that the chances of any significant Public monies being available to support the regeneration of West Wirral must be very limited for many years to come.
Whilst council officers continue to examine possible ways in which the necessary resources might be assembled, there is no guarantee of success in the current economic climate.
The Greater Concourse Project – This £20 Million proposal features a new Fire Station, Health Centre and a Town Centre Square or Piazza enabled by a new retail development. The project has now been reviewed with a view to re-entering the market place. Both the Council’s Public Sector partners; the Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service and the Primary Care Trust, have recently been asked to re-confirm their commitment to the project. The MF&RS has already done so with great enthusiasm and indicated its willingness for the new station to be partly used for community purposes. Market place interest in the project remains buoyant. Further public consultative events are planned.
Public Realm Improvements – Phase 1 – Central West Kirby 1st Phase improvements to the public realm are proposed for Dee Lane and Upper Banks Road with an approximate value of £1.1 million. This, if resources can be found, would be in respect of road and pavement surfaces, lighting, street furniture, signage and planting. Council Officers are currently seeking the necessary resources, again there is no guarantee that this will be successful.
The Crescent – Pilot pedestrianisation – this proposal is currently on hold at the request of the traders on the Crescent given the present state of the economy.
Coronation Gardens Frontage – Following investment in the gardens themselves the Council is interested in the replacement of the current café buildings (through the private sector) fronting the gardens and alongside the promenade. This proposal, supported by The Friends of Coronation Gardens, is subject to delay and legal process.
Hoylake - Phase 2A “Station Gateway”
£1 million Public Realm and Environmental improvement scheme between the Station and the Quadrant
There is broad agreement between the various partners – Mersey Rail, Mersey Travel, Mersey Electrics – we are currently seeking a detailed agreement.
Important project in the light of the forthcoming Women's Open and The Open.
Scott Wilson study providing a broad vision of potential future improvements subject to detailed consultation and resources.
The Council gives due credit to local fund-raising efforts in the area of the new Lifeboat Station resulting in the restoration of the model boating lake.
A report to the Council’s Cabinet in respect of West Wirral regeneration is anticipated within the next 2 – 3 months.
Hoylake Golf Resort in the Birkett Valley
The title “Hoylake Golf Resort” is a technical and working title. If the project proves deliverable, its final name would be a matter for the council and the developer. However an initial suggestion for such a name might be “Hoylake Carrs, [in the Birket Valley]” Hoylake Carrs invokes an ancient name – Carrs is Old Norse for “Bogland area with gorse bushes and brushwood”
The proposal is in the light of the return of the Open Championship originally in 2006 and again, in 2014. It provides an opportunity to focus on the regeneration of the area and the potential of significant investment. This includes bringing about improvements to Wirral's’ Leisure and Recreation “offer” and the accompanying economic benefits.
A Regeneration Masterplan was agreed in November 2004 after much public consultation. The measures agreed were short-term, medium-term and long-term. The potential Golf Resort is a long-term objective and the biggest in scale and value.
In pursuing this aspiration the Council is seeking to maximise benefits for local residents and businesses.
Key Objectives under-pinning this project – what we are trying to achieve
• We seek to maximise the potential of the target area through high quality investment and remedial works which:-
- Transforms and uplifts the site creating a high quality environment
- Helps to protect the agricultural economy within the valley offering diversification opportunities
- Creates new leisure and outdoor recreational facilities including a new championship golf course, 4 / 5 star hotel, restaurant, spa, conference facilities, horse riding, fishing and so forth.
- Ensures the protection and enhancement of wildlife habitats and the footpath network
- Seeks major improvement to flood protection within the Birket Valley.
Ideas from the public so far include:
• Potential investment in the Gilroy Nature Reserve?
• Market garden restoration has been proposed along with some education initiative about farming?
• Some orchard planting has been proposed?
• Green Belt - The UDP identifies the whole site as Green Belt (where national planning policies apply).
• Remedial Action - It also identifies the site and the land within it as “in need of remedial action”
- Any developer must demonstrate Very Special Circumstances in a planning application
- A planning application – may need to be notified to the Secretary of State before the Council will be able to determine it and that it could be called-in for a public inquiry, to allow the Sec. of State to take the decision himself. An ultimately successful application will need to demonstrate overwhelming and wide-ranging benefits both economic and environmental.
- Flooding is a big problem both to local farmers and the Municipal Golf Course, its users and others. It causes a deal of problems particularly in the winter and spring. Construction of the new golf course could mitigate any flooding problems, whilst providing wildlife habitats.
- Resourcing – This project is a 100% private investment scheme.
- Landownership – The Council owns about 40% of the target land, the balance of the target area is in a range of other ownerships. The Council has had useful, initial discussions with the other land owners.
- Land Assembly – would be the responsibility of the Developer
The first study – The Needs Assessment – examined the detail of the planning scenario and concluded the project was difficult but potentially achievable and with the signs of strong market interest. The second study addressed technical and engineering issues. This study also included initial discussions with a range of local Stakeholders Groups. In July 2008 Wirral’s Cabinet approved that Officers should seek expressions of interest from the market place.