The Port Sunlight River Park set to transform the Wirral waterfront

PUBLISHED: 21:31 22 May 2013 | UPDATED: 19:44 24 April 2016

Atlantic Gateway

Atlantic Gateway

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"The £2.3 million scheme will see the creation of the Port Sunlight River Park on the former Bromborough dock landfill site"

Tree planting at Port Sunlight River Park.Tree planting at Port Sunlight River Park.

History is in the making ...the transformation of Wirral’s Mersey shoreline after two centuries of industrialisation promised by massive redevelopment will be even more profound than the changes brought about on the other side of the peninsula by the silting up of the River Dee.

From ancient times, martime bustle was focued on the Dee. Chester was busy with ships from around the empire. When the silting began, quays were developed further down the estuary – at Burton, then Neston; by the beginning of the 18th Century it was the turn of Parkgate. Today these small towns are desirable residential communities; the view of the sea is a sea of grass with nary a ship to be seen.

View from Port Sunlight River ParkView from Port Sunlight River Park

The Dee ports’ demise saw the rise of those on the Mersey – Liverpool and, on the Wirral side of the estuary, Birkenhead. But now history has again moved on and the docks and quaysides and shipyards once alive with cargo vessels from round the globe, ferries and newly-built or repaired ships outshopped from the yards are set for dramatic transition.

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The biggest project – indeed one of the largest of its kind in Europe, is Wirral Waters - Peel Holdings’ £4.5bn, 30-year plan to transform Birkenhead docks; a massive scheme mirrored on the other side of Mersey in Liverpool, as part of the Atlantic Gateway vision aiming to create 250,000 new jobs by 2030.

Other exciting developments will come to fruition earlier, including the recently announced Port Sunlight River Park scheme on the former Bromborough dock landfill site. And Marine Point, the £60m leisure and retail development in the old Victorian resort of New Brighton, is now a reality.

Wirral Waters promises to transform the economic fortunes of Birkenhead and Wallasey, as well as Wirral and the broader Liverpool City Region and see iconic landmark buildings constructed along the waterfront opposite Liverpool, offering a stunning counterpoint to the city’s world-famous Three Graces.

Peel, which owns the Trafford Centre, Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Mersey Docks, plans to create a world class mixed-use waterfront development providing major benefits for the local economy with a massive increase in tourist business and a flood of inward investment to the area.

Birkenhead docks comprises more than 500 acres within which Wirral Waters represents a £4.5 billion investment, creating tens of thousands of jobs during construction - which will span some 30 years - and approximately 27,000 jobs when complete, plus homes for 30,000 residents.

Following massive levels of support from the Wirral community and surrounding local authorities, the Peel Group was granted planning permission in 2011 to build an International Trade Centre (ITC) within the Wirral Waters development at Birkenhead Docks.

It will comprise a series of multi-purpose buildings constructed in phases; a total investment of approximately £175 million to help raise the profile of the Northwest to an international level and will be the catalyst for the regeneration of Wirral by creating many local employment opportunities.

Commenting on the decision, Lindsey Ashworth, Development Director at Peel Holdings said, ‘This is a fantastic decision for the people in Wirral who have been 100% behind the idea since proposals were announced.

Frank Field Labour MP for Birkenhead said when planning permission was granted: ;The whole council has made I believe a correct decision in backing Peel to develop along the lines of Wirral Waters. The Peel ITC is the first step in achieving the dream that was outlined in Wirral Waters.’

The status of Enterprise Zone, awarded by the Government, is an added benefit to the Peel ITC as all overseas businesses will pay substantially reduced local taxes for the first five years of occupation.

Wirral West MP Esther McVey said: ‘I am delighted to give my wholehearted support to the International Trade Centre proposals, this development links the creation of jobs, many for local people to the bringing in of overseas businesses to Wirral particularly from China, a process that is supported by the Government.’

Wirral Council Leader, Cllr Steve Foulkes said: ‘The decision to grant planning consent to the Peel ITC is an important and exciting step towards a development which will bring new business, jobs and millions of pounds of investment to the Borough as well as providing a catalyst for investors in the wider Wirral Waters site.”

Just weeks ago, Peel revealed plans for a unique sustainable streetcar system using existing rail tracks to help people travel around Wirral Waters. It came as the first of 1,200 trees began to be planted in the areasthat will become one of the key gateway routes into the development – as part of the £1.4m “Setting the Scene for Growth” scheme to transform key streets connecting Wirral Waters to nearby communities.

Work that will transform a landfill site into a tourist attraction is now also underway.

The £2.3 million scheme will see the creation of the Port Sunlight River Park on the former Bromborough dock landfill site. To celebrate the start of works earlier this year, Alison McGovern MP for Wirral South joined the park’s delivery partners to begin the tree planting.

The Port Sunlight River Park is due to open in summer 2014 benefiting local communities and, combined with the heritage village of Port Sunlight, will stimulating economic development of the wider Wirral area and coastline. It will be managed by the Land Trust.

The 70 acre site will offer visitors views across the river Mersey to the Liverpool waterfront and plans include taking advantage of the site’s existing 37 metre high mound (half a metre higher than Liverpool Cathedral) to create a new green visitor attraction. The site is the flagship project of the Mersey Coastal Park Strategy, part of Wirral Council’s regeneration vision for East Wirral designed to re-connect communities with the River Mersey and harness the economic potential of the waterfront.

Salt marsh to the North of the site is an important location for large populations of water birds and is a site of special protection. Work will also improve the public realm along the waterfront, a perimeter walk, as well as a walk to the summit including new wildlife habitats and seating.

The MP remarked:’When I was growing up in Bromborough, we enjoyed Eastham Country Park, but further access to the riverside was somewhat restricted. Opening this up has been a priority of mine over the past two years – reuniting Wirral people with their coastline – and bringing in new tourism opportunities, especially given the walking routes between this park and Port Sunlight, and the Mersey coast of the Wirral.’

Marine Point, competed in 2011, is breathing new life into New Brighton. Neptune Developments’ £60m regeneration scheme for the Wirral resort began with the hugely successful new 800-seater Floral Pavilion Theatre and Conference Centre. The building incorporates a very popular conference and exhibition space with an expanded bar area.

Set in a spectacular position on New Brighton’s waterfront, now extensively remodelled, offering stunning panoramic views over the Mersey estuary and the Liverpool waterfront, it is Wirral’s largest and most flexible venue. It has been awarded a gold award in the Green Business Tourism Scheme 2013.

Neptune’s waterfront development in New Brighton, with new retail and hotel space, has been carefully designed to revitalise the resort in a way that creates the basis for sustained success, blending exciting new facilities with upgraded traditional features to provide local people and visitors with a vibrant and memorable seafront experience in a safe and attractive environment.

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