17 Oct 2022

Time to deliver Birkenhead's regeneration

Wirral Council has been hugely successful in winning regeneration funds from a variety of schemes. Over £100 million is now available to to fundamentally change and improve Birkenhead. You can watch/read more at:

Birkenhead Regeneration Framework

It's now time to deliver. Recently I have become more and more concerned at delays to regeneration schemes especially at a time of rapid cost inflation. More delays mean more time spent on plans and consultations and less on getting things done.

Nowhere is this more acute than the long delayed Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) scheme to provide segregated cycling infrastructure from Birkenhead right through to New Brighton. This is already several years behind schedule and we are now told that work will not start for a further two years.

This is not acceptable. The council must do better to deliver such vital schemes in a more timely manner. 

I raised this at last week's full council meeting along with concerns about other regeneration schemes for central Birkenhead. The answer I have received is below followed by the question itself. In my view it does not go far enough in providing reassurance that the council will up its game on delivery. This is something myself and other Green councillors will be pressing hard on in the months and years ahead.

Dear Councillor Cleary,

Please see below the response to your question at Council from the Deputy Leader of the Council.

“Thanks for your question and I appreciate your frustrations in this.

There is a keenness  to progress the delivery of active travel schemes and see the benefit of these in our communities as quickly as possible, but I am also conscious of the challenges that we have faced in the last few years regarding the delivery of these schemes in terms of budgets, with increasing costs of materials, and  with some objections and negative feedback when trying to move these projects forward,  we have to follow processes and respond to objections and concerns, which all takes time and resource. 

Officer resource is extremely limited, and we rely on external funding for the delivery of these schemes, working closely with the CA, the DfT and Active Travel England.  Over the past 2 years we have had new guidance come in the form of LTN1/20, which has been incredibly helpful in setting higher standards and ambitions for active travel infrastructure, but this has meant that as a result some schemes have had to be revisited and in places been redesigned, again with implications for budget and timescales.  Ultimately, however this will mean the end result will be a much better scheme will be delivered which would be welcome.

On Thursday, the AT working group met and worked cross party to support officers working on these challenging projects to ensure no unnecessary delays. Where delays are inevitable, they voted to ensure that they have Active Travel England full approval and that delay can be used, wherever possible, to revisit plans that may have been rushed previously due to funding and time constraints and to ensure that all plans are the best they can be and fully approved by ATE. 

I am aware that many authorities around the county are facing similar challenges with increasing scheme costs and opposition to schemes.   I agree, Tower Road is an excellent scheme, but that did face similar challenges which had to be worked through and of course was developed in a different funding and technical standards landscape.

To answer your question, I think that we need to really harness that cross-party support and work as collaboratively as possible.  Officers need our support to progress these schemes and we need to support active travel as a clear and demonstrable way to all standby our commitments to improving the health of Wirral residents and addressing the climate emergency.  Active travel infrastructure will enable people travel safely and cheaply around the borough so we need to visibly support these schemes during consultations – as elected members we can help our residents see the benefits these schemes will bring.  We do need to acknowledge there on occasions there may be impacts on car drivers, but these minor disbenefits are significantly outweighed by the positives. 

I know that Liz is working with officers to ensure increased community and stakeholder engagement via a ramped up Active Travel Forum that will see co-design ahead of schemes to support the future programme of active travel schemes    This will take time, budget and resource but will pay dividends at the delivery stages of a project. 

We do not have enough officer capacity in this area and we are looking to seek further resource through grant funding,  but I would like to put on record however that the determination to try and get things right and deliver high quality schemes in these challenging circumstances is a credit to officers involved and this was recognised unanimously by all parties at the working group meeting. 

We all need to work together to achieve the delivery of these schemes.  Comms will be essential, including understanding that we still have residents and even members unfamiliar with the environmental, public health and legal context for all this good work.

Your support in all of this is very much appreciated, as ever.”


My question concerns the now established pattern of delays in implementing Active Travel schemes and the impact this is having on our capital budgets and this council’s reputation for  delivering on its regeneration ambitions.

This is a Wirral-wide issue but to quote a few examples from my own ward:

It is almost two years since our successful Future High Streets funding award of £25m. However, several of the related schemes have witnessed significant delays. These include the plan to reshape the area around Charing Cross to create a pedestrian friendly environment. This scheme is now scheduled for completion in Q1 2024. Any further delays would see completion extend beyond the deadline required by government.

The same applies to the Conway Street plans to calm traffic and improve pedestrian access from the train station to the town centre.

Even more concerning are the prolonged delays in delivering the segregated cycle route from Birkenhead to New Brighton. This is already several years behind schedule and we are now told that, under current plans, work on phase one will not start for a further two years.

The strong partnership work between the council and the private sector which delivered the successful reshaping of Tower Road has now been replaced with endless rounds of consultation and redesign.

My question is: Does the Deputy Leader share my concern around these delays and what does she think councillors from all parties can do to unblock the log jam and get these and other Active Travel projects moving?