'Most exciting plans for 39 years' coming to Birkenhead town centre
New working parties have been set up in a bid to give a new lease of life to the town following House of Fraser becoming the latest casualty to announce its withdrawal.
The parties will be made up of local Wirral councillors together with Birkenhead MP Frank Field, who will meet quarterly and “take day-to-day charge of plans to redevelop the town centre."
Following the meeting that was called by Mr Field and was also attended by representatives of Wirral Growth Company, three initial ideas were discussed.
- Firstly, the meeting challenged Wirral Council’s chief officers to bring forward plans to re-establish Birkenhead Town Hall as a co-terminus with Wallasey Town Hall. The councillors agreed that plans should be put forward for a “sharing of functions” between the town halls which, while leaving the overwhelming majority of staff in Wallasey, would bring a “series of key posts” to Birkenhead.
- Mr Field said the group would write to university vice-chancellors asking them to “consider locating new student accommodation in Birkenhead”, given the town’s proximity to Liverpool city centre.
- And to take advantage of the upcoming Wilfred Owen Commemoration – which will include a number of events in Birkenhead, where the English poet was educated. It’s hoped the events, which will include a concert of remembrance later this year, will act as a launch pad for the town centre’s “cultural renaissance."
Speaking about the actions agreed at the meeting, Mr Field said: “This is the most exciting plan that has ever been drawn up for Birkenhead during my 39 years as the town’s MP.“We must drive this programme forward collectively, as a second stage, with all the Birkenhead councillors so that we are an unstoppable tide for change.
“Birkenhead will only believe in this plan if they see the council agreeing to this dramatic move.”
Mr Field said the working parties will come together quarterly to report back on their work, and to ensure that all the chief officers are “accountable for their work” to build this plan into a “glorious success” for Birkenhead.
These plans would then go to the whole council for debate and approval, he added.
According to Mr Field, the move is alongside the Wirral Growth Company and Wirral Waters plans, which between them will have “more than £1bn” of development opportunities for investors.
Earlier this month, Wirral council leader Phil Davies revealed consultation on the first phase of plans for a new town centre – including 330,000 sq ft of office space, a new market and hundreds of new homes – is being brought forward.
Cllr Davies, whose ward is Birkenhead and Tranmere, attended Saturday’s meeting.
He said: “It was a really positive meeting where Birkenhead Labour councillors had the opportunity to hear about the Wirral Growth Company’s plans and support the bold projects being brought forward.
“We all agreed on the need to redevelop Birkenhead town centre and the Growth Company’s proposals will hopefully be the step change needed to ensure Birkenhead is once again the jewel in Wirral’s crown.”Tom Houghton, Wirral Globe