Fury at focus on Wirral Waters over “local shops”

A REPORT which recommends focusing efforts to improve shopping in Wirral on a scheme which has not yet received planning permission has come under fire.

The “health check” for each of Wirral’s eight key town centres and the 14 “suburban centres” will be presented to the borough’s ruling cabinet this week.

However, the preferred option put forward to improve retail business in the borough is to focus on Peel’s proposed £4.5 billion Wirral Waters plan for Birkenhead docks – for which the outline planning application was only recently submitted, and which is expected to be decades in development.

The report rules out trying to disperse growth across all five town centres – Birkenhead, Liscard, Heswall, West Kirby and Moreton – saying they are unlikely to be able to deliver the necessary floorspace.

Federation of Small Businesses Wirral Branch Chairman, Paul Molyneux, called for “more thought” to be given to allow these areas to compete “with the dominance of supermarkets and out of town developments”.

He said: “To focus on Wirral Waters as perhaps the only viable way forward overlooks the significant contribution small retailers make, a contribution that with the right support and investment can only grow.”

The report says the “healthiest centres” are Heswall and West Kirby, closely followed by Moreton, Upton Village and Tranmere.

However, Birkenhead and Liscard Town Centres, along with Bromborough Village, Prenton, Wallasey Village, Claughton, Lower Bebington, Dacre Hill and Irby Village “are exhibiting some signs of weakness”.

Birkenhead is said to have seen its market share drop from 29.1% to 26% as a result of the Liverpool One development.

Liscard trader Terry Hunter, of Bargain Hunters, expressed frustration at the report.

He said: “You struggle through the last few years and then they throw something like this at you. They should be concentrating on the little towns because they’re the heart of the communities.”

Leah Fraser, prospective Conservative MP for Wallasey, said she was concerned at the report’s contents.

She said: “At no stage when we have considered Wirral Waters has anyone, until now, said that the development will be at the expense of existing shopping centres.”