On this page we will be posting the latest plans for the rebuilding of New Ferry.
Even before the explosion in March 2017, New Ferry's district centre had been in terminal decline for over 30 years. The growth of modern retail parks such as The Croft at Bromborough and Cheshire Oaks in Ellesmere Port had stripped most of the nation's traditional district centres of their visitors with the offer of brand new spacious branded stores and ample free car parking.
New Ferry's importance as a medium sized local district centre had plummeted over the years, its demise hastened by both the changes in shopping habits brought about by the internet, and the decade long recession which finished off many traditional high street brands such as Woolworths and Ethel Austin, both of whom had stores in New Ferry until the early 2010s. New Ferry's last bank departed in 2016, hot on the heels of the Co-op foodstore.
Back in 2012, the Council had been in discussions with the Co-op about the possibility of revamping their store, or a possible rebuild scheme with the consent of its owner which could include some residential redevelopment on the Council owned Woodhead Street car park. Unfortunately these plans came to nothing when the Co-op parent company revealed significant losses and put a halt on any such investment.
The gas explosion in 2017 demolished several businesses at the southern end of the precinct (Bebington Road) and damaged several other buildings, some of which have still not been repaired by their absentee owners. Responding to requests for help to rebuild, the government gave the Council a paltry £150,000 via Homes England to produce a report and plan to redevelop as many new homes on the explosion cleared sites and on Woodhead Street car park (also taking out the mostly long term derelict properties down one side of New Chester Road) as they could. The Council's consultants produced three options for consultation in January 2019. All three options included no new or replacement retail, instead opting for a blanket approach of replacing everything with residential development.
Despite the community rejecting those three options and a fourth option being adopted as part of the outline planning application, in September 2022, the Council and Regenda shared the latest plans which once again built over the entire Woodhead Street car park with new homes.
Shops and homes destroyed by the New Ferry explosion on 25th March 2017.
The task of rebuilding New Ferry has not been an easy one. The government has not stepped forward with promises of cash investment as it has done in the case of Salisbury (£3.7 million for "regeneration" after the Russian poisonings there in 2018), and £28 million (to include support for regeneration) for the area around Grenfell Tower. Wirral Borough Council has therefore had to tackle this issue by itself.
In December 2018 the Council announced it had identified a pot of £1.3 million to fund the acquisition of privately owned properties and land on three zones: the two explosion sites and the properties at 104-124 New Chester Road. Purchasing these interests is the only way to bring the sites into one ownership to allow a developer (or developers) to build on them. There is no way the individual sites could be left for their original owners to carry out piecemeal rebuilds over the next 20 years or so if they could even be bothered to invest the money. The only way forward would be for comprehensive clearance and mass rebuilding of a critical mass of new buildings by a single developer to make a redevelopment scheme viable.
By February 2020, the Council had used some of the the acquisition money to purchase the main explosion site where the furniture warehouse stood; and most of the site on the other side of Bebington Road where Lan's House and other shops once traded. If the owners of the last few properties here will not sell, the properties can only purchased through Compulsory Purchase Orders which is a legal process that could take between 18 and 24 months to conclude. Clearly this would delay any reconstruction work, and the Council is actively trying to negotiate with those owners to reach an agreed settlement to avoid this delay.
The 2020 masterplan allowed for the building of a mix of ground floor shops on the two sites either side of Bebington Road, and for residential only on the New Chester Road/Woodhead Street Car Park site. Some 70 car parking spaces on Woodhead Street were proposed to be retained in the scheme, whilst some new parking will be created off Grove Street, closer to the precinct than the existing car parking spaces are.
In March 2022, the Council announced that registered social landlord Regenda Homes will be their preferred developer. Regenda has promised the new homes will be a mix of socially rented homes and properties available for sale with incentives to help first-time buyers. The new plans were shared with the community in September and unfortunately showed plans for ground floor commercial had been dropped in favour of all residential, and the whole of Woodhead Street car park will be built over. Many people within the community expressed dismay that the proposal for replacement shops had been dropped and that the new buildings will be purely residential only.
In addition to the Council's proposals, a group of local residents and businesses have joined together to form the New Ferry Community Land Trust which will target long term empty shops in the district centre NOT covered by the masterplan.
In December 2022, Regenda submitted detailed plans for Sites B and C to the Planning Department. You can view the plans here. The plans were subsequently approved.
The cost of the new buildings across all three of the sites could total somewhere between £20 to £25 million.
The new buildings for Sites B (left) and Site C (right).
In December 2018, the government announced the Future Highways Fund which was designed to support and fund local areas’ plans to make their high streets and town centres fit for the future. The first 14 high streets to receive a share of the £1 billion nationwide scheme were announced in December 2019.
In December 2020 it was announced that New Ferry had been awarded £3.2 million which will be used to support the redevelopment scheme including addressing traffic issues around the centre and a redesign of the precinct pavings and layout. The plans were presented to the community in September 2022 and work is expected to take place in late 2025 once most of the new buildings have been completed.
CGI of the new precinct layout in New Ferry
A project to turn Bebington Youth Club (actually located off Cornwell Close, New Ferry - at the side of the bypass) into a state-of-the-art community clubhouse was approved after Wirral Council’s Cabinet agreed to capital funding of £650,000 for the development in early 2020.
The idea of redeveloping Bebington Youth Club into a new Community Clubhouse dates back to 2016 when elected representatives and members of the community met to discuss the future of the centre and identify a new approach to how the site was used, in a way that better benefited the whole local community.
At that time, the youth club only opened for nine hours per week, three hours on three evenings per week and only for young people aged 13-19.
The new clubhouse will be managed by New Ferry Rangers Football Club, which recently registered as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).
It will still deliver the existing youth services, however it will be open seven days a week until 9pm and deliver a whole host of other services and projects on the doorstep of one of the most deprived communities in the country.
The site will have a new £120,000 Sport England-funded caged 3G football pitch installed on the grassland beside it, which will help with the longer-term financial sustainability of the clubhouse facility as a whole. A community café will also open up on site along with a state-of-the-art community gym.
As a CIO, New Ferry Rangers FC will reinvest any profits back into the local community by directly delivering and commissioning much needed initiatives, such as ‘Holiday Hunger’ schemes or projects that help improve employment prospects or address social isolation in the area.
The National Lottery ‘Power To Change’ Bright Ideas fund contributed more than £20,000 development funding, bringing in architects to work with the CIO and supporting the formation of the charity.
The scheme completed in summer 2023.
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