£4.5 billion Wirral Waters scheme promises big changes (with audio)
PUBLISHED: 16:15 06 March 2012 | UPDATED: 18:05 20 February 2013
The £4.5 billion Wirral Waters scheme will change the look of this corner of our county. Emma Mayoh meets the man behind it Images created by Rust Design
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When planning permission was granted for the 4.5 billion Wirral Waters scheme Lindsey Ashworth wanted to cry with joy.
If I could have taken a picture of everyone with their hands in the air, showing they were supporting the scheme, I would have stuck it on my bedroom wall, said Lindsey, the development director of Peel Holdings Limited.
The decision to approve it was unanimous, which was just incredible. It was an historic day for the future of Wirral and the entire region.
Such an emotional reaction from the man who will steer the project over the coming years probably isnt what many might expect. But Lindsey has already dedicated several years to the project and he could spend the rest of his working life making sure it happens.
The 4.5 billion Wirral Waters plan - the largest planning application in the UK - will take boundless energy, commitment and a lot of time. It will take decades rather than years to complete, but Lindsey is up for the challenge.
He said: It was such a milestone to get the support of everyone involved and for the planning application to go through. It has taken us a while to get to this point and there is still a long way to go.
Were not about small projects that can be done quickly, this will be something that will carry on over several decades and will pick up even more pace as it goes. One thing that has been excellent is that the local people are really supporting us and it is what they want. They want to improve their area.
The development, which is part of a large Peel Waters scheme which also includes transforming the dockland across the Mersey in Liverpool, will take over a vast amount of derelict, brownfield land at Birkenhead Docks. Landmark buildings will be constructed along the waterfront to offer a counterpoint to Liverpools world-famous Three Graces.
It is expected to create around 25,000 jobs once it is completed. But thousands more will be created during several construction stages. The scheme will also help create apprenticeships for young people.
It is a way of trying to rectify the imbalance there is in this area, said Lindsey. This western end of the north west isnt in balance with the other areas. We want to change that.
Although there are no specifics to the development yet, it is believed it will be divided into quarters, including education, culture, office space and residential homes. Talks have been held with several companies, including academic institutions about future possibilities. The development is being designed to bring people back to the region and also attract new visitors.
Lindsey said: A lot of people have left the Wirral and Liverpool over the past few years and its time we started to give them a reason to want to stay here. Wirral is place with great promise and great people in it and we want to make the most of that.
Peel Holdings have spent the past few months at the Expo 2010 in Shanghai building relationships and promoting the scheme on an international stage. The landmark development has generated a lot of interest, with several businesses already inquiring about the possibilities.
The next step now is for Wirral Council to refer the project to Government Office North West. At this stage the project will either be approved or will go to a public inquiry.
Peel Holdings, who are also responsible for the development of Salford Quays and MediaCity, believe an inquiry will be unnecessary given the massive amount of support and goodwill the project has built up. If the scheme is given the seal of approval, Peel will start to market the project in the hope of attracting big businesses.
Lindsey said: Everyone has really got behind the scheme and it would be a real disaster if the government office were to send it to public inquiry.
People are only interested once they know a scheme is going to go ahead so this decision is integral. A refusal could compromise the development and it would make us think very seriously about what our next step would be.
This is a fantastic development filled with opportunities. It would transform this area and correct that imbalance, making it the best place to live, work and enjoy your time. This is something that will outrun me and someone else will take over but, while Im here, Im determined to make sure this happens. Were waiting with bated breath to see what happens next. Watch this space.