Options for a town square, better connectivity and more recreational facilities on the promenade are among the key suggestions to emerge from a wide-ranging consultation with Hoylake residents and businesses.
The engagement project, which took place from July to October last year, also found support for maximising the opportunities that could arise from more natural beach management in the future and a regular farmer’s market.
Environmental concerns informed many of the responses, a significant development from a previous Hoylake Vision consultation held in 2013.
The consultation, by independent social enterprise PLACED working with local group Hoylake Vision, was commissioned to discover opinions and thoughts on how the town’s key public assets should feel and function, the types of activities, services and spaces on offer and how they should adapt in the future.
It is the latest stage in the renewal of Hoylake’s Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP).
The key themes to emerge were:
A town square
The project found that the majority of respondents expressed their support for the idea of a town square, which was first raised in the Wirral Council-commissioned BDP Masterplan of 2004. They considered it to be an opportunity to create a focal point for the town, which could be used for a range of activities such as events, performances and a farmer’s market.
The High Street
Respondents thought it was paramount to have a vibrant, distinctive and diverse offer, including independent shops, hospitality offers and services.
The majority of respondents felt positive about the prospect of more natural beach management in future which, following Natural England’s advice to Wirral Council in 2020, could bring forward new opportunities for leisure and eco-tourism, while benefitting nature and biodiversity.
However, 22 per cent of the 214 survey respondents voiced strong disagreement with naturalisation of the beach, supporting ongoing suppression of any emerging saltmarsh and dunes by raking in order to retain a “golden sands” beach.
Both supporters and opponents regularly mentioned the need for cleaning and maintenance along the prom with blocked surface water drains and potential wastewater drainage leading to contamination of the beach.
There was also a broad consensus on developing activities along the prom as well as facilities such as toilets and a café. Connectivity was considered a key issue with suggestions of a cycle lane and better signage.
Popular ideas included bringing back the pirate ship next to the lifeboat station and an open-air swimming pool.
Carr Lane estate
Ideas included businesses and sports facilities which they believe would improve the connection of the estate with the rest of the town.
Respondents also mentioned improving the appearance of the area and its green spaces, including the potential for a wildfowl and wetland centre.
Concerns though were raised about the sustainability of the focus on automotive businesses in the area given the inevitable shift towards electric vehicles over the coming years. One of the main issues identified was the rail crossing, with suggestions of a bridge or building a new entry route on the other side of the estate.
Another issue discussed through the engagement was parking and traffic in the town centre.
Jo Harrop, PLACED director, said: “At a time when the future of thriving high streets and local economies are facing substantial challenges, this has proved both a timely and very informative piece of engagement which should help Hoylake to bounce back confidently from the impact of the pandemic.
“We are very pleased with the quality of the responses and it’s fair to say compared with other independent consultations we have facilitated this one has generated a great deal of discussion, good ideas and rich information, which will serve Hoylake’s evolution well.”
The feedback from the consultation will now inform the NDP by helping to determine how the town centre can develop and how the prom can link better to Hoylake’s high street.
It will also be used to explore ways in which the Carr Lane industrial and residential areas on the other side of the railway line can be enhanced through activities, better connectivity and community-led development.
Mark Howard, chair of volunteer group, Hoylake Vision said: “What comes across clearly in the engagement process carried out by PLACED is that both Hoylake’s built and natural environments are tremendous assets that need to be actively promoted and enjoyed by residents, organisations, businesses and visitors, and we can do that by building on the successes of the past.
“By raising confidence in Hoylake as a great place to live, work, and visit, we will attract more investment. For example, there is strong support for attracting more niche, independent destination businesses to come to Hoylake.
“This will likely include innovations that take advantage of new post-Covid social realities; with many more people now actively encouraged to work from home, there are real opportunities for town centre businesses to take advantage of this potential for extra daytime footfall during the week that could not be enjoyed previously.
“Diversification will be key; flexible use of spaces for meeting, working and playing will appear, some of which may be completely new concepts. There have been some wonderful ideas and suggestions brought forward all of which will be considered and in time will inform the new NDP.
“This work has not yet finished of course, and we intend for there to be more engagement over the coming months especially with those who live and work in and around Carr Lane and also with younger people.”
People wanting to give thoughts and make suggestions can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.