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Wirral Growth Company plans revealed

Wirral Council is set to lead the biggest public-sector led regeneration programme in the UK as part of wider regeneration plans across the borough.

The Council’s cabinet will be asked to approve a recommendation to appoint its joint venture partner to create Wirral Growth Company (WGC).

This comes after an exhaustive selection competition run by Wirral Council and if given formal approval to proceed by Wirral Council’s Cabinet, WGC will begin consultation and engagement with local residents and businesses on how to drive regeneration of various sites across the borough.

The sites include Bebington, Birkenhead, Bromborough, Moreton and Seacombe and will see new homes, commercial, retail and leisure developments, bringing thousands of new jobs to the borough as well as boosting property values and attracting further investment.

Council leaders also say they are keen to see regeneration take place in New Ferry following the gas explosion nearly 12 months ago. Wirral Council is still awaiting the Government’s response to the request for funding promised by Ministers during their visits after the incident.

Council Leader Phil Davies, who will recommend the creation of the joint venture, said WGC will play a key role in “boosting the local economy, providing new employment and delivering much-needed new housing”.

Under the proposals being put to Cabinet, all the profits from the developments will be split 50-50, with the Council’s share providing income to be reinvested in delivering front-line services.

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 – I am incredibly excited about this opportunity and the future for Wirral.”

Since launching the search for a joint venture partner at MIPIM (a global property conference) in March 2017, officers have been working to identify a suitable partner to meet the Council’s growth ambitions.

Last year more than 100 developers, investors, construction firms, architects and planners came to see the opportunities available in Wirral and participate in soft market testing of the Wirral Growth Company proposal.

“Potential partners were taken by the quality already on offer in Wirral and new opportunities offered by Woodside’s dramatic river views, the majesty of Hamilton Square, the beach towns and villages dotted across the borough” said Cllr Davies.

“As a public sector organisation we have strict procurement rules to follow to ensure the legal and financial elements of the deal are the best possible for the Council, but I also wanted to make sure Wirral got the best possible social outcomes from the deal.

“That is why we have included commitments to hire locally, buy supplies from and contract with local firms, train local workers, and meet the highest environmental, health and safety standards in the deal.”

Clr 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 to private speculators or developers, and beyond those initial land value receipts, take no benefit from any development that follows.

“Similarly, other than through the limited planning controls at its disposal, Councils relinquish any influence over the speed, purpose and quality of what does or doesn’t ultimately get built.

“With the deal being proposed, 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.”

During the 4 month-long negotiations, bidding parties were asked to explain how they would go about creating new grade ‘A’ office space in Birkenhead, provide new affordable housing in Seacombe and extra care housing in Moreton amongst other schemes. Four national and international investment consortia competed to be the joint venture partner for Wirral Growth Company, before MUSE was selected as the preferred bidder.

Cllr Davies said: “The standard of the final bids we received was very high. Those who say the Council should or could do this alone are mistaken. These are projects which simply cannot be developed by the Council in isolation: we don’t have the required resources, skills or capacity to achieve regeneration on this scale without a partner.

“If Cabinet accept my recommendation to create the joint venture, the next steps include starting the conversation with local residents about what, where, when and how regeneration begins across Wirral.

“Wirral’s development story began nearly 200 years ago when investors were encouraged to choose our Peninsula to build great shipyards, factories and plan new towns and villages that were the envy of the World.

“Today we face new challenges – how to fund our public services, improve job opportunities for residents, provide suitable housing, and attract new investment into our borough.

“Wirral Growth Company may well be seen as an important first step in shaping our 21st century economic fortunes.”

Residents who are interested in learning more about Wirral Growth Company can visit ww.wirralwellmade.com website for more details, or join the conversation on @wirralwellmade twitter account or wirralwellmade facebook page