A huge sum of money is set to overhaul one part of Birkenhead’s waterfront.
Yesterday, it was confirmed that Wirral Council had been successful in its bid for £19.6m from the government’s Levelling Up Fund for Woodside in Birkenhead.
The money will go towards upgrading the U-Boat Story attraction, replacing the ageing ferry landing stage and much else besides.
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The news coincides with the announcement that the U-Boat Story is being taken over by Big Heritage, the team behind Liverpool’s Western Approaches heritage attraction.
The move will create an International Battle of the Atlantic Centre spread across both sides of the River Mersey, which was the focal point of much of the planning, ship building and supply routes throughout the Second World War.
The Levelling Up Fund will also be used to make major infrastructure improvements, with the removal of the Woodside Gyratory and the relocation of the bus interchange outside the ferry terminal to open up the area and allow for a better link from Hamilton Square for pedestrians, cyclists and those with mobility issues.
Paula Basnett, chief executive of Wirral Chamber of Commerce, explained how important the money will be for the area.
Ms Basnett said: “We have always believed in Woodside as the beating heart of Wirral’s left bank.
“There is no greater destination for views of Liverpool’s waterfront and this investment, on top of the existing grassroots development being led by Woodside Area CIC will transform Woodside into one of the most impressive waterfront destinations in the North West.
“The government's commitment to Birkenhead is testament to the significant leadership and determination of Wirral Council and the wider Wirral Partnership in creating a town that befits a thriving, modern destination for our residents and businesses to grow.
“As a chamber, we couldn’t be prouder to be playing a role in Birkenhead’s future. The future is Birkenhead and the best is yet to come.”
This latest funding announcement follows the award of £25m for Birkenhead through the government’s Town Deal scheme, as well as £24.6m from the Future High Streets fund at the end of last year, which is being targeted at improving the town centre.
That is not the only source of money going into Birkenhead, as £8.3m has been granted by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority to support the removal of the flyovers into the town and a further £1m to support projects in the Argyle Street area.
The ECHO went to Woodside today to see what people thought about the £19.6m set to be pumped into the area.
Lewis Harvey, 22, said it was “amazing” news, adding that it will add to the new market stalls recently set up at Woodside.
Similarly, Liam James, 20, liked the sound of the investment.
He pointed towards the Liverpool skyline and said “what a view”, highlighting the potential the area has to be a very attractive place to visit.
Mr James said he would think about visiting the U-Boat Story if it was revamped.
Adam Brit, 55, said: “It can only be a good thing.”
But asked if he would visit Woodside more once the area has been developed he said he would have to see what it was like first.
However, Jules Warner, 41, disagreed.
He said he only walked past Woodside for the view across the waterfront and that he would not use it for anything else unless his daughter wanted to come to the area more often.
Mr Warner said he has two jobs and does not have the time to visit places such as Woodside.
Many people in Birkenhead believe their area has been left behind for decades and some are cynical about the optimism surrounding current plans for the town.
The local council and the town’s MP were adamant that the funding could make a real difference to the area.
Alan Evans, Wirral Council’s director of regeneration, said: “This funding announcement is yet another endorsement of Wirral Council’s ambitious regeneration plans for Birkenhead and the surrounding area.
"The Waterfront, with the views over to Liverpool, is an attraction in its own right, but has been disconnected from the rest of Birkenhead for too long.
“[This] funding decision will allow us to make significant changes that will unlock the potential of this area, bringing new visitors to Woodside and Wirral, and creating a more enjoyable place for our residents to spend time.”
Birkenhead MP Mick Whitley said: “Since getting elected I have worked in partnership with the council regeneration team.
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“I have been really impressed at how they have pushed for government money, developed plans, and are now beginning to implement a series of projects that will turn my campaign slogan of Building a Better Birkenhead into action.
“As well as opening up Woodside I am excited by the plan to make this river gateway part and parcel of a joined-up revamp of the docks, the town centre and the area around the tunnel entrance and Central Station.
“Homes will be built, business premises will become available and community wealth building can begin to happen. This is what partnership working can achieve and I am delighted to be part of it along with the council and its officers.”