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 properties, instead opting for a blanket approach of replacing everything with residential development.
The community rejected the proposals and produced its own plan, the so-called "Option 4" which has now been adopted by the Council as the preferred masterplan. There now exists a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to undertake a comprehensive redevelopment of a significant chunk of New Ferry's district centre to create a new mixed use retail and residential community which will link New Ferry with its famous neighbour, Port Sunlight Village.
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.
As it currently stands, the masterplan allows 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. What is encouraging and supports this approach is that several new businesses opened in New Ferry (mostly along New Chester Road) during 2019, proving that demand for retail/commercial premises still exists in district centres like New Ferry, and as new businesses emerge in the post-internet world, that demand could grow.
Some 70 car parking spaces on Woodhead Street will be retained in the scheme, whilst some new parking will be created off Grove Street.
Some Registered Social Landlords have already expressed interest in building the new developments with the requested mix of shops and homes, and it is hoped that at some stage during 2020 a preferred developer will be announced and planning applications submitted for the replacement buildings. When this happens, the plans will be shown on this page for everyone to see and comment on. The cost of the new buildings could total somewhere between £10 to £15 million
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 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 July 2019 it was announced that New Ferry (and Birkenhead) had been shortlisted for the second round of funding. In New Ferry's case, the Council has submitted a bid for £5.5 million which - if successfully won - will fund additional acquisitions in the district centre for additional redevelopment; will address traffic issues around the centre; and include for reopening and repaving of the Bebington Road precinct to one way traffic with additional parking laybys outside the shops; create additional parking; and potentially see some support for improving the appearance of existing buildings in the high street. The government is expected to make its decision on who gets the funding this summer, after which there will be full consultation with the community on the proposals which will be presented here in more detail when and if New Ferry's bid is successful.
Generic image of a suggested redevelopment scheme (not New Ferry)
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