HURDLE PASSED: Latest update on the West Kirby flood wall
How the West Kirby flood wall could look, Image: Wirral Council
A flood wall which could protect more than 70 properties and save more than 20 lives is set to be built after it passed another hurdle.
On November 2, Wirral Council’s Strategic Applications Sub-Committee voted by five to two in favour of the 1.15km wide, 1.2 metre tall flood defence on West Kirby’s promenade, with Labour, and the sole Liberal Democrat and Green councillors in favour and two Conservatives against.
The authority’s Environment and Transport Committee gave the green light for council officers to negotiate a contract for the work, which is set to get underway in the early part of next year.
Wirral Council is putting £2.4m into the scheme, with government agencies giving the authority more than £3m in grant funding.
The council’s £2.4m is coming from capital funds, which means it is not taking money away from day-to-day services such as leisure centres and libraries, which fall within the revenue budget.
The plan has been controversial locally, with some claiming it will “ruin” and “destroy” the character of the coastal town.
A petition against the flood wall gained more than 1,100 signatures, while there were also 251 comments registered on the council’s website with 223 against the plan and just 23 in favour.
However, the proposal was approved, with a majority believing it was needed to protect life and property in the area.
Speaking against the flood wall earlier this month, Anthony Clark, a local resident, said the promenade was built many years ago to provide a sea view and a sense of openness and that the proposal put this under threat.
He said the committee “must accept” that the plan would “ruin” the promenade and called on councillors to find an alternative solution.
Mr Clark spoke again tonight, asking the committee to reject the idea of having the contract delegated to officers and making sure that the final decision was taken democratically.
In the debate, Conservative councillor Mike Collins asked if the council is allowing room for increases in construction costs and if this will impact on the budget for the project?
Simon Fox, Wirral Council’s assistant director for highways and infrastructure, said contingency is built into the plans and that the authority may be able to get more support from outside bodies which have helped to fund the scheme if costs rise.
Fellow Conservative Simon Mountney, who represents West Kirby and Thurstaston, said the council must improve its consultations, and suggested that people in his ward such as Mr Clark did not feel that they were properly consulted.
He added that he was worried improvements to the public realm around the promenade, which have been promised as part of the flood wall project, would not happen due to the council’s current financial problems, which saw it heavily criticised in a recent independent report.
But Cllr Liz Grey, the Labour chair of the committee, said the flood wall was one of the things the council had consulted on most during her time as councillor.
She added that apart from knocking on every door, she was not sure what else the council could have done.
The Labour councillor also believed the flood wall could benefit the town by becoming a tourist attraction in the area.
Answering Cllr Mountney’s question, Mr Fox said there will be public realm improvements in West Kirby and that the local authority consulted heavily on the design and type of flood barrier.
Labour’s Steve Foulkes said he was happy that the council was getting outside funding for the project and added that the design was not unattractive in his opinion.
Cllr Allan Brame, a Liberal Democrat, agreed, saying that people will come to appreciate it in time and that it is essential given rising tides and global warming.
Words: George Morgan, Local Democracy Reporter
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