The first part of a huge project to transform Birkenhead was passed by councillors on Monday night.
Wirral Council’s Economy, Regeneration and Development Committee approved plans to build two office blocks at the former Milton Pavements site in the town centre.
One of the buildings, featuring almost 90,000 square feet of office space, will be occupied by Wirral Council employees, while the second has around 58,000 square feet of office space and will be let on the open market.
Work is expected to start on site in October and this proposal is just one part of a grand project which is set to change the face of the town.
Later phases of the scheme being organised by the Wirral Growth Company (WGC), a 50/50 venture between Wirral Council and Muse Developments, include a new permanent site for Birkenhead Market, new food and drink offerings and retail outlets.
As well as this, flexible outdoor spaces for activities and events are set to be delivered, with improved pedestrian, cycling and public transport access to the town centre another part of the project.
Speaking at Monday's meeting, Sally Shah, Wirral Council’s acting chief regeneration officer, said today was a culmination of two years of work which had gone into the offices plan.
Ms Shah said this project has acted as a catalyst for further investment by the WGC and for Birkenhead winning bids to support the town’s regeneration.
This includes bids to the government’s Future High Streets Fund and Town Deal programme, both of which have yielded £25m of funding for projects in the town.
Conservative councillor David Burgess-Joyce asked how the council would deal with market uncertainty after the pandemic, something which could affect demand for office space in Birkenhead.
Ms Shah said: “We are constantly monitoring this situation, because clearly we need to make sure we have got demand.
“We’ve had work going on for some time now around the letting strategy and we have some strong interest in the second [office] building.
“We may be in a position to have got some very early pre-lets, I can’t say anything more than that but it is very encouraging.”
Green Party councillor Emily Gleaves, who represents Birkenhead and Tranmere, noted Wirral’s target for net zero carbon production by 2041 and questioned why this development was not set to be net zero.
She added: “Why is there no provision for renewable energy in the plans?”
Ms Shah said the office project may not incorporate solar panels but the power source being used is as clean as possible and the focus of the development is on energy efficiency.
The council officer said she will provide further information to Cllr Gleaves on why renewable energy is not part of the office plans.
The Birkenhead and Tranmere councillor put an amendment forward to stress the importance of, and the need for, renewable energy in the project, but she could not find a member of the committee to second her proposal.
Ultimately, councillors voted to approve the application and work is set to start in October of this year.