Birkenhead town centre regeneration plan unveiled
Mar 18 2008
A £25M development which could see the regeneration of Wirral’s largest town centre is expected to be approved by council planners this month.
The ambitious scheme would create 1,000 jobs and see a casino, 120 bed hotel and a restaurant and office blocks built close to Conway Park Station in central Birkenhead.
It is being backed by the owner of Birkenhead Market, Larry Embra, who hopes the scheme will also give the market a boost by attracting new customersinto the town.
He bought into the company behind the project, Europa Plaza Developments, after a similar scheme was approved by the council four years ago but never got off the ground.
Mr Embra who was said there had “been a lot of false dawns” in Birkenhead and he had bought into the company “to make sure this goes through”.
In 2004 a similar scheme was put to the council, which itself had followed another unfulfilled proposal for the site in 2002 for a 100-room hotel which did not go ahead.
Its failure was blamed on a decline in tourism due to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Mr Embra admitted the scheme was a “leap of faith” by him in the town’s success, but said the 120,000 square foot of office space included in the proposal would bring much- needed new business to the town.
Along with the hotel, which Mr Embra says “this town desperately needs”, and a casino, the plans would represent one of the biggest developments of its type in the borough.
It has been submitted on three separate but linked planning applications which have all been recommended for approval.
Preliminary work on the scheme has started already and part of the office development will be used by a local company which plans to expand, according to Mr Embra.
He said: “There are also four operators looking into the hotel, which would be three or four star and include a large conference centre.”
Mr Embra, formerly the manager of Birkenhead Market, took it on through a management buy-out in 2003.
He beat bids from more than 50 rivals to win a 125-year lease from the council for the market, the second largest in the UK with more than 4.2m shoppers a year.
He is also preparing to build a multi-storey car park next to the market – on the site of the former bingo hall next door – which will replace much of the car parking lost after his development on Europa Boulevard goes ahead.
He said it would mean a new phase of development for the town centre which has not seen any major investment on this scale since the development of the Pyramids shopping centre.