'Imaginative' plans that could breathe new life into town.
MAJOR plans to regenerate one of Wirral's main shopping areas are being developed, the Daily Post can reveal.
The proposals - which are at an early stage - could involve an "imaginative" scheme to link Birkenhead town centre with Hamilton Square and Woodside, as well as a new use for the town hall.
Cllr Phil Davies, deputy leader of Wirral council and cabinet member for regeneration, said the authority is in contact with potential developers, seeking options for the area which can be brought into effect within the next five years.
He said "imaginative thinking" was required at what is a key time for the borough, ahead of Peel's proposed pounds 4.5bn Wirral Waters scheme to develop docklands between Birkenhead and Wallasey.
But he added: "We cannot just wait around for the Peel development to come off. The economy is still in a fragile position.
"We really want to try and help Birkenhead town centre. It is a key engine economically for Wirral.
"My view is there are issues about the precinct, the Pyramids and around there - it is looking pretty tired and shabby and I understand [owner] Warner is keen to sell it.
"We need to do something more imaginative with Birkenhead Market, which is a potential draw into Wirral for people, and linking that with Hamilton Square and Woodside.
"I am encouraging officers to talk to developers about that.
"If we get the right package, we could do something meaningful.
"The stakes were raised by Liverpool One. The danger is if we do not move the town centre up a few levels, Wirral people will spend their money elsewhere.
"I want to see something which will attract people from Wirral and beyond.
"What that package will look like I am not too sure yet. We want a clear vision for Birkenhead town centre.
"We also need to do something really imaginative with the town hall. We need something which will draw people." Go headlines Wirral at www.dailypost.
Cllr Davies said Birkenhead had been allowed to be overtaken by shopping centres elsewhere.
Recent years have seen plans for the Europa Boulevard area repeatedly fail to come to fruition, although a new Asda supermarket due to open later this year is expected to create 400 new jobs.
He said: "That is the first new development in Birkenhead in years and evidence suggests an operator like that can act as a magnet for other businesses.
"We need to raise our aspirations, rather than just building offices or apartments. We have trod water in Birkenhead for last five or six years.
"There are some really exciting opportunities giving us the chance to bring new life into Birkenhead.
"I am saying to officers 'this is something we must be doing now'. If we can make this happen within the next three to five years, then hopefully Wirral Waters will be coming on stream by then.
"Birkenhead needs some imaginative thinking to look at what we can do over the next few years to really start to lift that whole area of Wirral - not just with an unconnected development, but with a clear theme or link. "For me, that is the big prize between now and when the Peel development gets off the ground.
"There are developers out there who would like to have a go and make something happen, and I think there is a consensus across Wirral - it is not party political."
online "If we do nothing, we will see Birkenhead continue to decline.
the with our journalists liverpool co.uk/ "Regeneration is not just about buildings, it is about social issues.
"Regeneration has a knock-on effect on other issues the council deals with, such as housing, health, crime and anti-social behaviour.
"If we can address the fact we have a lot of economically inactive people, then other problems we are dealing with will be helped."
online Go behind the headlines with our Wirral journalists at www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/hamiltonsquared
The Pyramids shopping centre, in Birkenhead Birkenhead's Hamilton Square