One of our most read, commented upon and shared features was our piece on Birkenhead, a few years ago: Birkenhead Must Die, Seven Reasons Why. We weren’t saying it should die, not really – we were saying it needed to be reborn. As a south bank, liveable town, with views to die for. A place with a real market at its heart, a re-energised Hamilton Quarter and a waterfront to really be proud of. Stuff that, actually, it had all along and somehow forgot about.

This new vision, launched yesterday by ION Developments in conjunction with Wirral Council, is a massive vote of confidence, and a clear statement of intent: let’s start with the stuff it needs right now – an inviting nighttime economy, wrapped around Europa Boulevard – then built out from there in a series of confident nips, tucks and realignments.

Let’s get the market great again (honestly, it’s not far off – and a world away from the sorry state of Garaud’s). Let’s get great housing, a can-do culture that does away with red-tape and allows things to bubble up and infect the town’s great swathes of empty space. Artisan markets, yes, but festivals and interventions too. Let’s give the town a spring in its step again. It used to, you know: Birkenhead used to be brilliant. If we change the narrative, we can change the scenery too.

We helped with this new website – interviewing good Wirral folk from Bido Lito’s Craig to Wards Fish and the Principal of the Met college.

We also interviewed amazing Rotterdam place makers, MVRDV. They’re the ones responsible for giving Rotterdam its groove back (their market-hall, village square and apartment building pic r), by collaborating with the people who live there. It’s now, for our money, one of the most thrilling examples of how, with a little lateral thinking, post-industrial urban zones can enjoy a sustainable second act. And it’s something Liverpool Council should listen very carefully to.

“Building a huge supermarket will attract shoppers, but will it attract people who want to live next door? To make a place where people feel proud to live in, and that will stop people in their tracks when they get off the ferry or the train: that’s got to be the best way forward for everyone,” MVRDV’s Jan Knikker says.

“It’s all about the individual, about building a sustainable community. One that works,” Jan told us. “It’s about collaboration. Cities are the heart of our societies. We approach urban challenges by asking how can we offer a high quality of life for their residents and users, and create added value for their cities.”

Jan, unlike previous generations who’ve held the keys, and built ugly light industrial estates on prime waterside plots with views any local would love to wake up to, really believes this town has a future.

“It just oozes potential. You could do so many great things here. The good thing about having a lot of space is that you don’t have to find use for everything right now – just start with a few good initiatives.”

They all believe. They, like us, don’t look at the town and think ‘game over’ – we see a place with an incredible bone structure. A town that’s battered and bruised, yes, but a town that’s really beautiful too. With handsome streets, a glorious square, resilient and resourceful people and a creative soul. All the best music came from the Wirral, anyway…

“There is currently not a venue dedicated to new music in the borough. For a place that gave the world artists such as Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Elvis Costello, The Coral and Forest Swords this is a saddening truth and a missed opportunity,” Bido Lito’s Craig Pennington told us.

“Music venues are the maternity ward of music cultures. They provide a context for talent to develop, infrastructure to grow, local start-ups to blossom and they stimulate local economies. They can be used as beacon developments to encourage investment, a project base for new ideas and provide a focal point to stimulate related industries.”

Birkenhead was built to work. Move Ahead Birkenhead is its best route back to work. Take a look, have your say. Get involved. A better Birkenhead is better for all of us, and completes the circle, along the riverfront. Makes us whole again.

3 Responses to “Birkenhead: Your Future Starts Here”

  1. I really hope this can happen. I live in Wallasey, but I very rarely go to Birkenhead. I need a really good reason to do so! It’s encouraging that this new initiative has been launched with the involvement of Wirral Council, but I can’t be anything but sceptical that anything can improve under this council.

    It’s not a political thing (I don’t think), but in my 37 years I have never seen Wirral Council ever get anything right in terms of planning, regeneration or preservation. I’ve watched lovely old buildings with huge potential being demolished wantonly, without even a plan for the land afterwards. I’ve seen ugly, generic, low-quality buildings and tacky industrial/retail estates spring up all over the peninsula. They seem to think that regeneration means ordering some new, identikit street furniture from a catalogue.

    One of the few success stories I’m aware of is Marine Point in New Brighton, but even that is pretty terrible from an architectural point of view, it just got built in a place that was so desperate for something and so full of potential that it was a runaway success despite the flaws. It seems to have just been a fluke, not something that the Council can take credit for. Having said all that, they do deserve credit for the excellent Floral Pavilion.

    Anyway, here’s hoping! Birkenhead could be amazing, but it’s going to take concerted, determined, sustained effort. And money.

  2. Nicola Boden

    Birkenhead can’t even get the basics right. We opened a Museum, no one went. We have history going back to at least the Romans in Wirral and no one had a clue the museum was there or what was in it. Next door has 2.5 million people go through its galleries, why wasn’t there cross promotion? You never hear about The Williamson anywhere, and its location is really out the way.

    The plans for Conway street are dire, the kind of awfulness you see just off a Motorway. Its an L of shops with a carpark in the middle. Its unnecessary. How about doing away with that pay and display car park behind Conway Park Station? Honestly, knocking down the baths. You would think we had no room. Birkenhead is practically empty of anything decent.

  3. Karl Delamar

    The problem arose when the Council agreed to the development of the Croft Retail Park and it’s subsequent expansion, why would anyone want to shop in Birkenhead, when you can go to the Croft Retail Park and park for free! Someone in the Council needs to take a hard look at themselves, it’s not rocket science.

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