Agenda item

Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, Bidston Hill

At the meeting held on 21 June 2012 (minute 5 refers), the Cabinet deferred consideration of the report of the Director of Law, HR and Asset Management so as to allow officers to provide further clarification of matters in relation to the Unitary Development Plan.


An update of the Director’s report is attached.


At the meeting of the Cabinet held on 21 June 2012, Members had considered a report by the Director of Law, HR and Asset Management that sought approval to a request from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to demolish the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory on Bidston Hill. (Minute No. 5 refers)


Members had indicated that they had been contacted by concerned constituents regarding a previous planning decision made in 2004 with reference to the Unitary Development Plan stating that use of the building should not changed.


The Head of Asset Management had confirmed that demolition of the building as detailed in Section 4 of the report did not require consent for change of use.


However, Members asked for consideration of the report to be deferred to this Special meeting to allow Officers time to provide further clarification.


Consequently, an updated report was presented to the Cabinet on this matter.  The Head of Asset Management, who was in attendance at the meeting, informed that the Bidston Preservation Trust (BPT) had identified the Proudman Building as being suitable for use as a Taiko Drumming Centre and had therefore requested ‘a stay of execution’ before demolition in order to give it time to acquire the necessary funding.


As the building was owned by NERC, the BPT had been directed to NERC’s agents in order that it could explore the proposal in more detail.  The proposal was being developed by the Rock Ferry Community Partnership, which established the Wirral Taiko Dragon Drumming project.  The Partnership hoped to instruct consultants to develop its proposal in detail and intended to contact NERC to register its proposal for the building.  Consent for the demolition under the terms of the lease would not prevent these discussions taking place and was still considered appropriate.


The Cabinet noted that the site of the Proudman Observatory had previously been shown in the Unitary Development Plan (UDP) as being subject to Policy EM11 (a policy specific to Bidston Observatory and the Poudman Oceanographic Laboratory).  In 2007, that policy had been deleted (Cabinet meeting on 28 March 2007, Minute 314 refers) and was therefore no longer part of the development plan.  The site was now shown as without notation and any planning applications that might be submitted for the site would be subject to other policies of the UDP, particularly those relating to impact on Listed Buildings and the Bidston Hill Area of Special Landscape Value.  The advice within the National Planning Policy Framework would also be a material consideration in the determination of any planning application.


Letters had been received from residents who lived adjacent to the Laboratory and circulated to Members, making the point that although the property had been marketed for a number of years no suitable offers had been received.  They were in favour of the building being demolished.

The Head of Asset Management reported that yesterday he had been made aware that the BPT had applied to English Heritage for Listed Building Consent.  He therefore, recommended the Cabinet to defer its decision to allow him to obtain advice regarding the way forward.  The Cabinet noted that it was accepted good practice not to give consent to the demolition of the Laboratory whilst a decision on Listed Building Consent was awaited from English Heritage and that it may be over six months before this determination was received because of the various processes English Heritage would follow.  In the meantime, the Council could undertake work in terms of the heritage value of the Laboratory.


The Head of Legal and Member Services informed that if the Cabinet made a decision to demolish the Laboratory before English Heritage had made a determination on the application for Listed Building Consent it may cause reputational harm to the Council, if later, English Heritage agreed that the building should be listed.  Alternatively, such a decision by the Cabinet at this time could result in legal action.


The Cabinet was aware that if its decision on demolition of the Laboratory was deferred until a decision was made by English Heritage on whether to grant Listed Building Consent the result would be that NERC would continue to incur costs.




(1)  in the light of the new information provided, the Council, in its capacity as freeholder, defers its decision on whether to consent, in accordance with the terms of the lease, to the demolition of the Proudman Laboratory building, pending the application to English Heritage for Listed .Building Status;


(2)  Officers make early contact with English Heritage to request that it expedites its processes, in respect of its decision on whether to grant Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory Listed Building Consent; and


(3)  a further report be presented to the Cabinet at its meeting on 6 September 2012, when hopefully the outcome of TDC’s application to English Heritage for Listed Building Consent for Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, is known.

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