AN AMBITIOUS project to redevelop New Brighton is to go ahead after the Government ruled out holding a public inquiry into the £70m scheme.
It means Wirral Council can now press ahead with the second phase of the seafront regeneration plan, which includes a new supermarket, cinema, hotel, a refurbished Marine Lake.
There were fears that if the Secretary of State had decided to hold a public inquiry, the delay would have put more than £8m of public funding from The Mersey Waterfront Initiative and the Objective 1 Programme under threat.
The first phase of the project, involving the rebuilding of the Floral Pavilion Theatre and creating a new conference centre and exhibition space, is already well under way.
But the go-ahead for the second phase will dismay campaigners who wanted to halt the scheme on environmental grounds.
Developers say the second phase could bring £20m a year to the resort.
The council’s cabinet member for regeneration, Cllr Pat Hackett, said last night: “This is great news for New Brighton, after so many years of decline. We can now fully achieve our goal to revitalise and transform the resort for the 21st century.”
The second phase features a large Morrisons supermarket, a 1,100-seater cinema, an open-air swimming pool or Lido, and health club. There will also be restaurants, cafes and bars, which the council stress will be “family-oriented”.
But plans for a block of 143 seafront apartments have been scrapped, to be replaced by a Premier Inns-style budget hotel with 60 beds.
Cllr Hackett added: “It is doubt-ful if the scheme would have gone ahead, if there had been a public inquiry. This is going to bring a confidence to the area in the face of the changed economic land-scape, and the investment and development it will bring.”
The council was told of the decision by the Government Office for the North West yesterday.
Outline planning permission has already been granted for the second phase. Neptune Develop-ments, the Liverpool-based developer, will now need to submit detailed proposals for individual elements of the scheme.
Kevin Adderley, Wirral council’s head of strategic development, said: “We believe the regeneration of New Brighton is long overdue, and we are really pleased that the Secretary of State has said there is no reason for the Government to become involved.
“It means we, as a planning authority, can make decisions on the proposals submitted by Neptune, and we look forward to that being as speedy as possible.”
Among those objecting to the redevelopment was Wirral’s Green Party, which said the prospect of global warming and declining oil supplies meant planning departments should be looking to reduce dependence on oil for food transportation – and so should be discouraging large supermarket developments.
Much of the opposition had focused on the proposal to fill in the marine lake, with a super-market providing a key compo-nent of the scheme’s finance.
In the new version approved by Wirral planners, the supermarket remains, but the focus moves to the site of the former outdoor swimming baths, with a revamped and refurbished Marine Lake.
The new development proposal is for 14 hectares of land, from the listed Fort Perch Rock to the roundabout with Kings Parade.
Neptune plans to dredge the Marine Lake to make it more viable for sailing, and create space for restaurants, cafes and bars. Next to the supermarket will also be a building for indoor leisure uses and an indoor and outdoor pool and leisure club on the site of the current model boating lake.
Neptune decided to submit a phased development after the Secretary of State’s rejection of its previous £70m plans for the waterfront. These included the building of a supermarket on the resort’s famous Marine Lake.