A controversial new mile-long flood wall proposed for West Kirby promenade has been approved.
Following a two hour meeting of the Wirral Council Strategic Applications Sub Committee, the green light was given to the £6 million scheme. Members voted 5:2 in favour of the project.
Work is anticipated to start in February 2022 and last until October on the scheme, which also includes an upgrade to the paving and highway on South Parade and the introduction of a cycle lane.
The design has divided opinion, with 198 of the 221 comments submitted to the planning consultation against it, while an online petition has gathered more than 1000 signatures.
During the meeting, objectors raised concerns that the wall could ruin West Kirby and discourage visitors to the popular Victorian seaside town.
Residents living at The Sail had described it as ‘an outrage’ and the Wirral Society also objected.
Critics had also raised concerns about the height of the wall which 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 would make it more congested for pedestrians.
They also argued it was in contravention of Local Plan policies to protect coastal views and prevent harm to the special character of the promenade.
But despite the objections councillors concluded that the wall would help to protect lives and property, provide new public realm for residents and visitors to enjoy and enhance cycling provision.
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.
The report says the scheme ‘will protect 70 properties at risk of flooding now from extreme tidal events’ and give over 500 properties improved protection over the next century as sea levels rise.
In response to criticism over the design, officials said it reflected feedback during a public consultation in March 2019, including that it should have more interesting features, incorporate public realm, retain Victorian features and make space for cyclists.
The report says there will be sufficient space for pedestrians, wheelchair users and car users to get on to the prom because the ‘wave’ nature of the design means the space on both sides varies and there are 15 access points along the route.
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?
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.