Major regeneration plans for New Ferry and Birkenhead have taken a significant step forward after the Government announced they had been shortlisted for funding to help revitalise their high streets.
Council proposals for the two Wirral shopping areas are among those being taken to the next step in their bids to the £675 million Future High Streets Funds.
Now the Council will be working with local people to press ahead with the bids for major new Government funding for the two centres.
The announcement by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government comes at a key turning point for the borough as a series of major developments move forward, including hugely popular new children’s museum, Eureka, at Seacombe, and at Wirral Waters with plans for the Tower Road business incubator and innovative new housing by Urban Splash.
Leader of Wirral Council, Cllr Pat Hackett, said: “We have been working closely with both the communities in these centres to develop plans to ensure their survival and regeneration and make them better prepared to meet the challenges of changing expectations.
“This is a welcome sign from the Government that they are listening to us and, most importantly, to the residents and businesses in these towns and I hope we can now be successful in our bids to help fund the regeneration of both New Ferry and Birkenhead.”
Both Birkenhead and New Ferry high streets have faced serious challenges in recent years. New Ferry, which was devastated by the explosion on March 25, 2017 which injured 81 people and forced many out of their homes and businesses, has also faced competition from the nearby Croft retail and leisure park.
The Council has been consulting with the community in New Ferry on plans to regenerate its town centre as well as providing £200,000 of funding for those most affected by the explosion, as well as successfully bidding to the Liverpool City Region for funding to help the town centre. This is in addition to the investment of nearly £1.3m by the Council to buy key sites in the town centre as part of the development of a masterplan for its regeneration, and in addition to the £400,000 the local authority has already spent on recovery efforts.
And while Birkenhead has been seeing increasing investment from the University of Chester, new student accommodation, as well as the new food hall at Woodside, it has seen its retail and leisure offer to residents and visitors decline sharply. The once famous and hugely popular historic Market now has 92 vacant stalls while the main shopping area lacks diversity both in range of shops and in leisure opportunities.
The Future High Streets Fund was set up to support and fund local areas’ plans to make their high streets and town centres fit for the future.
It followed a review commissioned by the Government in which Sir John Timpson identified that high streets are having to evolve and adapt, and that those with a wide choice alongside well designed and planned residential and office space are more resilient to changes such as the increase in online shopping and are adapting more successfully.