Question mark hangs over future of Wirral Council's landmark buildings




A question mark hangs over the future of town halls in Wallasey and Birkenhead as the local authority ponders ways of saving up to 1m a year on office accommodation.

A range of options will be under review - from retaining all existing buildings to a complete replacement of all local authority sites.

Deputy council leader Simon Holbrook, cabinet member for corporate resources, ruled out the most extreme options as "unlikely." But he left the possibility that the town halls could be replaced.

The council's ruling cabinet will study a special report on the isssue tomorrow night (Thursday) which outlines six options. Most suggest variations on the future use of the town halls as well as the Cheshire Lines Building in Birkenhead, premises in Acre Lane, Bebington, the solar campus in Wallasey and Westminster House near to Hamilton Square, Birkenhead.

The option recommended to councillors would see Wallasey town hall retained along with Cheshire Lines and Acre Lane. The report suggests better use be made of the solar campus and a refurbished Westminster House.

It further recommends that the rest of the office space needed for 1,150 staff should be new build. Several options would see the closure of the north and south annexes flanking Wallasey town hall.

Other possibilities could see Birkenhead town hall become the main civic centre for Wirral; or the creation of a newly-built "town hall" created for councillors.

The report also suggests a number of possible locaetions for any new council building, including Wirral Waters, Woodside, central Birkenhead and Bromborough.

Cllr Holbrook said: "We have to look at combinations of modest investment and making the best of the buildings we have got."

He said the views of councillors would have to be taken into account but refused to be drawn on his favoured alternative. He did comment however: "I think we are loojking to progress with one of the middle options.

Last December Wirral Council gave the Hamilton Partnership six months to prepare a business plan for Birkenhead town hall to create the John Peel Centre for community, innovation and creative arts.

Cllr Holbrook said the transfer process for the town hall was continuing but, given that it was still owned by the council, it was proper to include it in any options for future office accommodation.

THE GLOBE