Dead in the Waters? Council sinks major Birkenhead scheme
Plus: good news for Ken Dodd fans and a talk from BBC Radio Merseyside’s Spencer Leigh
Dear readers — it’s been a blustery 24 hours as Storm Isha swept through town. It left one unfortunate Ryanair plane hovering in the skies yesterday on an ill-fated journey between Manchester and Dublin. The plane was forced to land hours later in Liverpool after failing to divert to Belfast. But fear not, despite the torrid conditions today's edition of The Post has landed right on time.
Over the weekend, our readers were treated to a cracking piece from Melissa Blease, reminiscing about the 1984 Cutty Sark Tall Ships Race and the hunky sailors that came to stay. Here’s what some of you had to say in the comments:
“What a wonderful way to start a cold Saturday in January. Thank you Melissa for taking me back to my youth,” Carolyn Thornton
“The Tall Ships’ visit in ‘84 was transformative in so many ways and a really significant marker in the city’s regeneration but your story reminds me it was also funny, exciting and personal to so many of us,” Jack Stopforth
In case you missed it: last week Abi and Lisa teamed up to get to the bottom of what happened to a £24k donation to Woolton Picture House (and why the cinema’s owners don’t want to talk about it). It’s all a bit of a mystery, and well worth a read to see if you can crack the case.
🚨 We’re offering prizes for referrals! Want to recommend The Post to your friends and earn rewards? We’ve launched a brand new referral scheme for our subscribers that lets you do just that. Recommend three friends to get a month's membership for free, or reach for the stars and get ten friends on board to grab a lovely Post tote bag. Give it a whirl here — just share your unique link with friends or on social media. We only launched it a few days ago and we see a few of you have already made it onto the leaderboard…
Coming up this week, we have an investigation into the bizarre goings on at one of the city’s most famous music venues, and a much-anticipated editor’s edition from Jack.
To read those stories you’ll need to be a paying member. It costs just £7 a month to get the full Post experience, and you’ll get an extra eight extra editions of great reporting, political analysis and cultural writing each month. On top of that glorious extra content, our paying members also allow us to carry on publishing lots of free journalism for people who are less able to afford it, providing a key public service on Merseyside. So why not sign up today?
This week’s weather
Tuesday 🌬️ Strong winds and heavy rain with highs of 14°C
Wednesday 🌬️ Strong winds and sunny intervals with highs of 10°C
Thursday 🌧️ Drizzle and a moderate breeze with highs of 12°C
Friday ☀️ Sunny with a fresh breeze with highs of 9°C
Weekend 🌧️ Light rain and a moderate breeze with highs of 10°C
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from BBC Weather and it’s for Liverpool.
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The big story: A blow for Birkenhead
Top Line: A “pioneering” Wirral regeneration scheme that could have brought a long-derelict local landmark back into use has been shelved after the council said no viable business case has been put forward.
Context: Plans for a £25m maritime research facility centred around the Grade II listed Hydraulic tower at Birkenhead docks were put forward by Peel L&P in 2022. They were billed as a key part of the Wirral Waters scheme aimed at transforming Birkenhead’s dockland area — also known as Wirral’s ‘Left Bank’.
Zoom in: The hub was supposed to bring thousands of high quality jobs to the area and help to make Birkenhead a centre for research into climate change and the marine sector. It was given planning approval in 2023.
Plans for the hub include centres for maritime technology, offshore survival training, a simulation and training centre and a hydro lab alongside research and development facilities.
Zoom out: The wider Wirral Waters project involves up to 13,000 new homes and masses of office space to transform an area which has suffered from years of dereliction. The multi-billion development across vast swathes of Birkenhead docklands is supposed to bring in around 20,000 jobs to the area and has been called “the largest regeneration scheme in the UK” by Peel L&P.
But there have been setbacks: While some parts of the wider scheme continue apace, various aspects — a new mass transit plan announced by the council in 2021 and the maritime research hub — have been beset by delays and challenges. Last year, concerns were also raised by the council’s auditors that 500 flats being built at Millers Quay could leave the council with a huge liability (£100m) if they didn’t end up being fully occupied.
Financial challenges: Wirral Council initially committed to funding the Maritime Knowledge Centre from a £12m loan and nearly £9m grant secured from the combined authority. However, amid rising interest rates and price pressures, the project has failed to get off the ground.
Earlier this month, the council said it wasn’t convinced that the project could bring in the required business rates to make it viable, meaning the local authority would have to borrow more money to fund it.
A council report requested permission to remove the £12m earmarked for the scheme from its regeneration budget.
The latest: A local authority meeting held last week confirmed that the £9m it had received from the combined authority would also be returned after Peel failed to put forward a viable business case.
What next: Peel say they remain hopeful of a solution, describing the centre’s shelving as a “pause” and adding that the company is in discussions with the council and the combined authority to find a way forward. They’re pressing ahead with a number of other projects as part of Wirral Waters, including Millers Quay, the largest residential bit, the first phase of which is due to be completed this year.
Home of the week
This very homely four bed house on Liverpool Road is on the market for £450,000. Just a short walk away from Ainsdale village, the main achievement here is making a garden shed look so inviting. Curl up in that wicker chair on a Saturday morning and read your latest long read from The Post.
News in brief
A Liverpool college student accused of writing a guide on how to make weapons modelled himself on the Unabomber — an infamous terrorist in America who killed three people — a jury has heard. 19-year-old Jacob Graham, who went to Hugh Baird College in Bootle, has pleaded not guilty to dissemination of a terrorist publication after writing a guide titled "Freedom Encyclopaedia", explaining how to make explosives, nail and car bombs. The court heard he wrote the 48-page guide while filming a video diary at his mother's house. His defence lawyer has said he was indulging in "escapism and fantasy", with Graham blaming his "unsatisfactory life" for the creation of the guide. The trial continues.
Liverpool City Council has promised to crack down on pavement parkers — appealing to the government for more power to enforce rules. The council’s safe and thriving neighbourhoods committee said that over 100,000 people were fined for poor parking between April and December 2023, with cars regularly photographed parked across pathways and pedestrian areas. The council said it will hire more enforcement officers to patrol the city — there are talks to open a secure area where rule-breaking vehicles can be seized and towed to — but it needs more help from Whitehall.
An exhibition celebrating the life of Ken Dodd is to stay open an extra four months due to popular demand. The Happiness! exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool, involving some of the Knotty Ash entertainer’s famous props (including his tickling sticks and Hurry Furry Moggy Coat) has been so popular it will remain open until July, despite originally being due to close in March. On the topic of Ken Dodd tributes, perhaps less deserving of praise is the 100ft tickling stick proposed as a sculpture for the city. It’s already been compared to a gigantic loo brush and a kebab rotisserie — perhaps we’ll leave that one, eh?
And a new hub for homeless people has opened in Liverpool city centre, marking the city’s first night shelter since 2020. Homelessness has become a major talking point in the city in the past few months — dominating local political arguments. Back in November, a huge row erupted when Lib Dems leader Carl Cashman criticised the council’s response to homelessness, with Labour councillors accusing him of creating a "manufactured political row” on social media. Since then, the council has announced a new strategy to house the homeless, working with private landlords to provide more housing.
📖 Join former BBC Radio Merseyside host and music expert Spencer Leigh in a talk about Liverpool’s music scene at MerseyMade on Thursday — buy a ticket here.
🎨 Head to Make North Docks on Friday for a relaxing (therapeutic, even) evening of clay casting. Attendees will use plants and flowers to create botanical tiles to take home at the end of the session — all materials included. Find out more here.
🎧 The UK's biggest Reggaeton party returns to Liverpool this Friday at the newly refurbished Arts Club. Enjoy hits from Bad Bunny, Rosalia and Don Omar, all spun by some of the country’s top Reggaeton DJs. Buy a ticket here.
💿 Head to 24 Kitchen Street on Saturday for an orchestra rendition of Lauryn Hill’s timeless masterpiece: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Buy a ticket here.
“I was in Iran. I had to move away because the regime may have killed me because I changed my religion to Christianity”. This piece in The Echo details how Kris, a lecturer from Wallasey, welcomed refugee Jamal into his home after he fled Iran to avoid religious persecution. That’s the same Kris who agreed to do the photography for our Eldonian Village longread in January 2023. What a man.
A throwback to 2015 with this piece from the BBC on Militant, the left wing political group that seized the heart of Liverpool back in the 80s. Starting out as a vehement opposition to Margaret Thatcher, the group took control of the city council in 1983, but just three short years later the faction had begun to dissolve. "They were a party within a party,” says Peter Kilfoyle, a noted opponent of Militant at the time. “Their sole intention was to eat away at the Labour Party from the inside.”
Letters from readers
Lovely story and I remember the Tall Ships and the Garden Festival all so exciting at the time. Also the colours, the ships were magnificent and the Japanese or was it Chinese garden was beautiful! In 1984, schooners and swooners flooded Liverpool, Elvena Bricknell
The Plaza really does sound like a model that could be followed doesn’t it? There are lots of the local community who donated cash, and the place is obviously loved. In 2020, a fundraiser aimed to save a historic Woolton cinema. So why is it no closer to reopening?, Mike