Earlier this week, West Kirby Today revealed Wirral Council is set to devise a new master plan for West Kirby town centre.
Here, we look at what happened to the schemes included in the last plan to regenerate Hoylake and West Kirby, a decade and a half ago.
The year was 2003 and, following the announcement that Royal Liverpool Golf Club had secured the 2006 Open Championship, Wirral Council commissioned consultants BDP to develop an ambitious vision for West Kirby and Hoylake, focused around promoting the area as ‘England’s Golf Coast’.
Ideas were developed, consultation events were held and, in 2004, a number of costed schemes were brought forward in the ‘Regeneration Plan for Hoylake and West Kirby’.
The two key proposals in the 145-page document were:
• The development of Hoylake Golf Resort
• A “distinctive and prestigious landmark building” and new sailing school on the front in West Kirby
The document declared:
“Hoylake and West Kirby will be positioned as an integrated resort with exceptional recreational facilities, including, at its centre, one of the finest golf courses in the world and a golf resort/spa of outstanding quality – “the Belfry of the North West”.
“The combination of the “classic resort” and “regional recreational resort” will result in a great enhancement to the quality of life of people who live in the towns while, at the same time, delivering economic development objectives that public sector agencies will require in return for their investment”.
It also identified the area around the West Kirby Concourse site “as a major opportunity for positive change and the creation of significant investment”, with:
• A new town square
• Re-cladding the Concourse building
• A new fire station and health centre
The ‘Greater Concourse’ scheme, as it was known, was intended to bring “a new, high-quality, bespoke offer to the town centre, providing major economic benefits to West Kirby and contributing to the cohesion and attractiveness of the town as a whole”.
There were 15 other short, medium and long-term priorities in the document, including:
• The development of a circular off-road cycling route connecting West Kirby and Hoylake
• A Beach Activity Zone and improved promenade in Hoylake
• Improved retail in Hoylake and West Kirby, with The Crescent pedestrianised and improvements to Banks Road
• Improvements to Ashton Park, Coronation Gardens and a new visitor centre on the Wirral Way at Thurstaston
All told, it envisaged “10 years of regeneration” – but much of it was never delivered or was sunk by a combination of the economic downturn, austerity funding cuts and opposition from some local residents who felt they were not being properly consulted and kept informed.
We look at what happened to the big ideas.
Hoylake Golf Resort
Feasibility work first started back in 2004, but it was not until 2015 that the Jack Nicklaus Joint Venture Group was announced as the partner for the scheme.
It proposes two new championship golf courses – including the only Jack Nicklaus designed municipal course in the country, along with a luxury hotel, conference centre and new houses.
The £200 million project would comprise a health club and spa, two 18-hole golf courses, a PGA golf academy and residential development, located on the site of the current municipal golf course.
The developer says it would create around 100 jobs immediately, rising to 300 later and also include apprenticeships.
Although the council claimed the majority of people who took part in an initial consultation were supportive, vocal opposition to the scheme quickly mounted due to concerns over loss of green space, increased traffic and concerns over the risk of flooding.
Stop Hoylake Golf Resort gathered 16,500 names on a petition and local MP Margaret Greenwood came out against the proposal, while campaigners concerned about how much green space will be designated for housing in the Local Plan also seized on the proposal for 160 executive homes.
It was dealt a blow last year when the council withdrew plans to loan the joint venture firm £26 million to part-fund the development in return for a £2.5 million interest payment windfall.
The developer has previously said it hopes a planning application will be submitted in April or May 2020, after the completion of an environmental impact assessment – and insists it is still committed to the scheme.
Jim Anderson, Chair of the Jack Nicklaus Joint Venture Group, told West Kirby Today in July last year: “This decision is of course highly disappointing, because it’s a project the JV partners have all been working hard on for the last five years and indeed to which we have invested a great deal of money.
“However we maintain our appetite to deliver the project within the specifications set forth in the Development Agreement and look forward to considering alternative funding options and to working with Wirral Council to bring this exciting project forward.”
A landmark building and new sailing school
This development was eventually presented as The Sail, a hotel by developer Carpenter Investments, the firm behind the Hope Street Hotel in Liverpool, together with a new home for the sailing school (pictured at the very top of this article).
The design of the hotel was criticised and it was scaled down from 80 to 40 bedrooms in an attempt to mitigate the objections.
The entire scheme was eventually scrapped in 2011 due to concerns over the loss of public car parking spaces and traffic congestion.
Work is currently under way on an extension to the Sailing School including a new café, which it is set to open later this year.
The ‘Greater Concourse’
Budget cuts led Mersey Fire and Rescue Service to close the fire station behind the Concourse in 2016 in favour of building a joint station serving West Kirby and Upton in Saughall Massie, and put it up for sale.
We recently revealed that a planning application has been submitted by a computer software company to move in to the building and create a retail unit on the ground floor.
Plans for a new Health Centre next to the Bridge Court social housing development to be used by Marine Lake Medical Centre were approved in 2013 – but work is yet to start. Marine Lake Medical Centre has since also taken over the nearby TG Medical Practice and their former patients now also use its building.
Last week, we revealed that the project is still alive, with Wirral Community Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust taking the lead in making the new build project happen, in partnership with Marine Lake Medical Practice and Wirral CCG. However, no timescale has been given in relation to work starting.
In 2015, the council spent £1.1 million improving the Concourse fitness suite and installing a new café.
Pedestrianisation of The Crescent and improvements to Banks Road in West Kirby
A proposed pilot scheme to stop traffic using The Crescent was abandoned after opposition from a small number of businesses, who were concerned about access for people with limited mobility.
The refurbishment of the rusted and dilapidated Edwardian canopies on Banks Road came unstuck after receiving a lukewarm response from traders and owners, who were asked to contribute 40 per cent of the cost.
What has been delivered?
One of the most visible changes was the work on Market Street in Hoylake in the run up to the Open in 2006, including new paving, street lamps and public art.
Improvements were also made to Hoylake Railway Station, including an additional car park.
Meanwhile, the community interest company Hoylake Village Life has ploughed its own furrow by securing government funding to turn the former Town Hall into a cinema and arts village, which is set to open later this year.
Work was also carried out on some of the other projects, such as widening the so-called cinder path that runs along the railway line between Hoylake and West Kirby to create a cycle/pedestrian route, while the Wirral Way to Thurstaston was improved as part of the Wirral Circular Trail project.
The end of the road
In 2013, Wirral Council announced that the master plan had been shelved and admitted that feasibility work had been largely halted in 2009.
It argued it was never a blueprint, and that the economic downturn and austerity cuts meant it had been forced to review the plan.
Whether any of it is dusted down when the new master plan for West Kirby is drawn up remains to be seen. But if the comments on our recent Facebook page story about a new regeneration plan are anything to go by, it is certain that local people will have strong views – for and against – any proposals that are brought forward.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to support our work, you can buy us a digital coffee here: https://ko-fi.com/westkirbytoday