Hoylake & West Kirby Regeneration Projects
The Chair welcomed Howard Mortimer, Strategic Services Development Officer, and invited him to update the Area Forum on plans for the regeneration of Hoylake and West Kirby.
Howard Mortimer reported that further to the presentation on regeneration plans for West Kirby at the Area Forum meeting in October, two reports will be presented at the Cabinet meeting on 19 March. Neither report will be confidential, apart from financial aspects concerning the Sail Project. The reports, which will contain updates and recommendations on the projects listed below, will be posted on the Council’s website on or about 12 March.
Wirral Country Park – New Visitor Centre: The intention is to build a new Centre and to improve access and car parking provision at a cost of about £5 million. So far, resources have been secured for about half that sum.
Canopies in West Kirby: Due to the economic downturn, traders do not feel comfortable about the proposal to renovate the canopies at present. The situation will be kept under review and, hopefully, there will be more a more positive response from the traders when there is an improvement in the economic climate.
Public Realm Improvements: The intention is to try to assemble the necessary resources, and then to ask the Council to support the proposals. There had been strong support in favour of the proposals at the exhibition in the Concourse in September. Another exhibition will be organised in West Kirby.
The Crescent: The traders have expressed significant concern about the proposal to operate a pilot scheme for pedestrianisation in 2009/10 due to the impact of the recession. The concerns will be replicated in the report to Cabinet.
The Promenade: There will be NO recommendation to introduce echelon parking on the promenade.
The Greater Concourse:Plans for the Concourse include a new fire station, health centre, a large public square and public realm improvements, at an estimated cost of £16/17 million. The proposals have been taken to the market place and eight developers have expressed interest. A shortlist of four has been drawn up and various processes have been completed. It is hoped that the project will be picked up in conjunction with the Council’s Asset Management team.
The Sail Project: The Cabinet has extended the lock out agreement with Carpenter Investments Limited until the end of April. The Cabinet will make a decision on whether or not it wishes the scheme to go ahead with Carpenters.
Hoylake: There is potential for a second phase in Market Street, in the area between the railway station and The Quadrant. The project will require some complex agreements between the Council and its partners. Negotiations are ongoing to try and achieve agreement before seeking support from the Cabinet.
Hoylake and Meols Promenade: The Cabinet will receive a report on a study of the projects aspired to for the promenades. Public meetings are being organised with residents and Friends’ Groups in the first week in April to look at the prospects for early investment in the central area.
Golf Resort Project: Formal expressions of interest will be invited, possibly within two weeks. It is hoped that the project will attract expressions of interest, worldwide.
The Hotel: Plans for a hotel are in limbo.
The Chair thanked Howard Mortimer for the presentation.
The Chair introduced Hugh Dalgleish and invited him to pass on the views of local residents on the plans for the development of West Kirby.
Hugh Daglish explained that the West Kirby Working Group consists of a group of people who have combined to try and persuade the Wirral Council of the need to do things differently. The Council is relying far too much on consultants and developers for regeneration schemes and general planning, and it is not listening to the views of the people. Decisions at Council level have been secretive and officers’ responses to pubic questions have been somewhat evasive. Furthermore, Wirral Council is not following national guidelines or even its own policies for the involvement of the public in decision-making.
Jim Wilkie, Howard Mortimer, Councillors Hale, Green and Watt, responded to the issues raised.
Members of the public protested loudly about the short period between the publication of the report and the date of the Cabinet meeting.
Howard Mortimer explained that the report would include artists’ impressions and elevations. If the Cabinet is minded to proceed, it will be a requirement on the developer to develop the detail to the extent where it can be submitted to the Planning Committee. The Council will advise Carpenters of the need to hold public meetings.
The Chair suggested that everyone should write to members of the Cabinet expressing their concerns.
Members of the public raised the questions/comments:
Q [John Martin] When the Wirral Country Park was created, Cheshire County Council shared half of the cost.
A We are talking now about building on land that is in Wirral.
Q When the Cadbury plant was built in Moreton, many of the senior managers stayed at the Dee Hotel in West Kirby. It is still in existence. Why consider another one?
Q [John Martin} The case has not been made for a hotel and plans don’t exist. The sailing club could be improved at very little cost – simply move the outside tap just a little way up the road. You could make the sailing club look more attractive by putting on a modern type of roof, and it would not cost a great deal. There is no need for a hotel, nor to improve the sailing school. There is no case for a hotel on that site whatsoever.
Q [Lorraine]. I raised a point about land ownership at the last meeting. The land is not registered with Land Registry. Is it in the Council’s ownership? If not, who does own it? I think the issue needs to be looked at.
A [Howard Mortimer] I recall a conversation with Lorraine last time. If the Cabinet is minded to continue with the routes that Carpenters are proposing, then after 19 March, Carpenters will become the preferred bidder. The Council will work with Carpenters to develop a development agreement and the lease will be made over to this activity in a way that is acceptable. There are a number of options, but the most likely one is that the land will be made over on a long term basis at a peppercorn rent, and the Council would continue to hold the freehold of the site.
Q Can we have a straight-forward answer to the question of ownership?
A [Jim Wilkie] I was not aware of any questions over the ownership of that site. I will speak to the Estates people.
[Howard Mortimer] A lot of Council properties, land and estates are not necessarily registered with Land Registry.
Q [Cllr Watt] Following various questions put to me over the summer, I raised the question, ‘Would the Council consult about convenants?’ The answer I was given was, ‘Yes, we do own the land and there are no convenants on it’.
The Chair suggested that Lorraine pursues her query further with Jim Wilkie at the end of the meeting.
Q [Margaret Campbell]Why didn’t the Council do an independent assessment of Carpenters’ questionnaire in response to the concerns expressed about the questionnaire? It is the Council Officers’ job to examine the evidence and present a balanced view on which Councillors can make their decisions.
A [Howard Mortimer] The consultation was carried out by the developer, not by Council officers. We did go through the questionnaire and checked what Carpenters were saying to us. We agreed in terms of the questions asked against the percentages given, and if they were factually correct.
[Cllr Elderton] I would like to raise a point of clarity and information. As Chairman of the Planning Committee, I am used to dealing with facts and clarity. Aldi had a clear set of plans, presentations and a visual impression. Carpenters have had a year to come up with detailed plans and elevations, but they have still not done so. If they manage to convince the Cabinet on the basis of the information produced, then at best the Council will have just one week to consider those plans. Carpenters need to produce a lot more factual information on what they are proposing before they can expect anyone to approve it.
Members of the public objected loudly to the situation described. They insisted that they wanted to see proper plans and information on what is being proposed.
Councillor Elderton gave an assurance that he would not permit anyone to pass anything that does not have the detail associated with it – the pubic can be assured that that would not happen.
Q The issue of the consultation, which I consider has been totally inadequate for at least ten years. I knew nothing about your so-called master plan. It did not come to my attention until after it had happened. I knew nothing about the Sail project. I didn’t get any official notification. I got a letter from Carpenters three days after the consultation started, and when I went, there were no questionnaires available. When I eventually got one, I said, ‘This is rubbish’. As this is as a result of an incompetent exercise, a mendacious exercise, Council Officers should be fired and the Council should be ‘hung out to dry’. It should not be taking important decisions on such an inadequate basis. You should have proper consultation with proper officers before the Council makes any decisions whatsoever.
The Chair stated that Jim Wilkie, who is the second most senior Officer in the Authority, has taken all the issues on board. The Conservative group sends quarterly newsletters to all local residents and information on all the issues raised has been included in every edition.
Q [John Hutchinson] Referring to the Cabinet report. Jim Wilkie said that the questionnaire etc was carried out totally by Carpenters. That is true, but the report went to Cabinet as if it was a Council report.
A [Jim Wilkie] The Cabinet report was a Council report. There is no suggestion that the consultation was done by Council officers.
[John Hutchinson] It went through with the endorsement of Council officers as if the investors had written it. It didn’t mention any of the objections and the implication was that Council officers generated the report.
[John Percival] I am a sailor, and I know sailors will not pay £25 to stay at a hotel. They will sleep on the beach. People who come tend to be young people, many travel from overseas, and they stay with members of the sailing community in Wirral. I have a great concern over the hotel and redeveloping the sailing club. How will the Council make it pay if they run it? Will it be permissible to turn it into flats if it fails as a hotel? We need better sailing facilities, but I am concerned about the whole development.