Business and community leaders across Wirral have welcomed Council proposals to create thousands of new jobs as part of wide-ranging regeneration across the borough.
A special meeting of the Council’s cabinet held at Wirral Met College’s Wirral Waters Campus today (Wed Feb 28) approved the creation of Wirral Growth Company – a joint venture between the authority and a preferred development partner.
After a 12 month procurement competition and negotiations, Council Leader Phil Davies formally recommended the urban regeneration specialist Muse Developments.to work with the Council on driving economic growth, and this was unanimously endorsed by the cabinet.
Cllr Phil Davies said: “This is the largest public sector-led regeneration scheme in the country – it will deliver thousands of jobs, build new homes and deliver hundreds of millions in new investment. “
Now the Wirral Growth Company will begin consultation and engagement with local residents and businesses this spring on how to develop and drive regeneration at various sites across the borough.
Initial first phase sites are expected to include Bebington, Birkenhead, Bromborough, Moreton and Seacombe, with first ‘spades in the ground’ later in 2018.
The Council is also keen to see regeneration take place in New Ferry following the gas explosion nearly 12 months ago.
Cllr Davies said: “Sadly, nearly a year later, Wirral Council is still awaiting the Government’s response to our request for the funding promised by Ministers during their visits after the incident. While the Council doesn’t own the land affected by the explosion, I want to see Wirral Growth Company contribute to the planning and regeneration efforts required for that community too.
“The terrible way the Government has turned its back on New Ferry is just another indication that if we want to see real change occur in our communities, we will have to take action ourselves. Wirral Growth Company is just such an intervention. It will give us the ability to move quickly and deliver real improvements to Wirral by generating jobs, new training opportunities and investing in our communities in a way this Government never will” promised Cllr Davies.
The joint venture partnership is also being heralded as a new way for local authorities to drive economic growth.
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said: “Wirral is an important part of the City Region and I welcome an initiative that will help to help realise the potential of its assets to deliver important regeneration priorities, creating jobs and opportunities for local people.”
“This is a step change in how Wirral is approaching regeneration, economic development, and creating jobs for local residents,” said deputy leader Cllr Bernie Mooney. “Rather than selling land or buildings to speculators and developers, we are keeping ownership and control of our assets and, with the skills and investment of our development partner, using them to regenerate neighbourhoods and communities across Wirral.’
“This administration is committed to building new homes and bringing thousands of new jobs to the borough” she added, “Working with residents, local businesses and our development partner we are now ready to deliver.”
The proposals have been enthusiastically welcomed by leading business and community leaders.
Dean Ward, Chief Technical Officer of Bromborough-based Evoke Creative whose clients include Google, Tesco and McDonalds, described Wirral Growth Company as “fantastic news for the region – and for the UK as a whole”.
He added: “At Evoke Creative we are passionate about great design and the images of Birkenhead Market and the new town centre are really exciting. We’re looking forward to seeing the project develop.”
Paula Basnett, CEO, Wirral Chamber of Commerce, described the launch as “a significant step forward for the economic future of Wirral”.
She said: “In working together this partnership can drive initiatives benefitting Wirral’s businesses, traders and residents.”
Councillor Davies said: “Three years ago, this administration set our 2020 Pledges and I am delighted to recommend Wirral Growth Company to play a key role in delivering these goals.
“We said we would create thousands of new jobs, attract 100s of millions in new investment, and provide good quality housing and protect and improve Wirral’s attractive local environment. Through Wirral Growth Company we will deliver as promised on our pledges”
A key element of the proposed deal is “Hire Local, Buy Local” - a commitment to hire Wirral workers, buy supplies from and contract with local firms, train local workers, and meet the highest environmental, health and safety standards.
Sue Higginson, Principal of Wirral Met College said: “Wirral Met College plays a huge role in preparing Wirral’s young people for their chosen careers, providing education and training to help them succeed. It is good to see Wirral Council’s commitment to boosting the local economy, emphasising the importance of employing local workers.”
Cllr Davies stressed the importance of ensuring Wirral Growth Company also makes sound commercial sense for the Council.
“Too often,’ he warned, “local authorities sell land or assets and beyond the initial capital receipts take no benefit from any development that follows, simply standing by watching the profits leave the borough.
“With the deal we are proposing, we will have full involvement in every development decision, we will benefit from the economic growth any regeneration creates and, as a 50-50 joint venture, we will benefit from the profits the development delivers – money the Council can reinvest in front line services our residents rely on.”