Councillors are set to meet next month to decide whether to give the go-ahead for a new flood wall along the promenade in West Kirby.
The £6 million scheme, which also includes an upgrade to the paving and highway on South Parade and the introduction of a cycle lane, would be the biggest change to the face of the town’s Victorian promenade since it was built.
The proposal was expected to be considered by the Planning Committee in spring, but it has now emerged it was delayed after Natural England asked for an up to date report detailing how noise from the construction work could be mitigated to protect birds on the Marine Lake.
Council officials have told West Kirby Today it will be considered at a meeting in October.
The design of the scheme has divided opinion, with the overwhelming majority of the 230 comments submitted to the planning consultation against the plan, while an online petition has gathered more than 800 signatures.
Critics are concerned the height of the wall will prevent visitors to West Kirby from being able to view North Wales from their cars, and that cutting the promenade’s width by a third will make it more congested for pedestrians.
They also argue it is in contravention of Local Plan policies to protect coastal views and prevent harm to the special character of the promenade.
But the council says that since December 2014 there have been more than 20 flood events, with four considered significant. With sea levels rising, they argue the issue is only going to get worse.
Councillor Liz Grey, Chair of the environment, climate change and transport committee, issued a strongly worded defence of the proposal earlier this year, claiming opponents are “a small, but vocal minority who are trying to politicise this” and accusing them of “wilfully jeopardising the safety of local people, businesses and properties”.
THE WEST KIRBY FLOOD WALL – SIX YEARS IN THE MAKING
How did the scheme come about?
The council first held a consultation in 2015 and then again in 2019 once it had secured funding from the Environment Agency.
It says that during the first round of discussions more than 90 per cent of the 400 responses received were in favour of improved flood defences, with more than 80 per cent preferring a wall adjacent to the road.
Changes made to the initial proposal include:
- The design is now a continuous curving seat – akin to a wave – rather than a straight structure
- The promenade would be finished in a sandy-buff colour, with those colours also extended across onto the footpath on the landward side of South Parade
- Public realm features such as gateways across the highway and onto the promenade at all of the pedestrian access points, highlighted with icons linking to the local environment
- A clearly marked cycle lane
- Timber-slat seating on the bench on the straight parts of the curve
- A circular trail around the promenade and lake, with distance markers counting up and down every 100m
- The Marine Lake railings would be refurbished and the original shelters renovated and relocated to keep the Victorian heritage.
There would also be an events space on the site of the former baths.
Where is the money coming from?
The £6 million cost is being covered by a £2.2m flood defence grant, a Local Levy contribution of £1m from the Environment Agency’s Regional Flood and Coastal Committee and Wirral Council’s capital programme for infrastructure projects.
How long will the work take?
Subject to planning approval, work is now anticipated to start in February 2022 and last until October.
During the work, temporary road closures would be put in place for short sections of South Parade, with access for residents only, and the footway would also be closed.