One of Merseyside’s leading historical monuments is to be turned into luxury flats. Bidston Observatory, a Grade ll listed edifice that dominates the Wirral skyline, is subject to a bidding war by developers. This has been made possible because Wirral Council relaxed its own planning regulations to grant listed building consent. Agents have imposed a November 30 deadline for ‘best and final offers’ for the distinctive domed building on Bidston Hill which enjoys panoramic views of Liverpool and Wales.But the move has angered conservation group the Friends of Bidston Hill which is calling for a halt to the deadline race. Spokesman Roy Caligari said: “We are most concerned about the potential consequences for Bidston Hill, and we disapprove of the manner in which the sale is being conducted.
“Prospective buyers have only until 30th November to make their “best and final offer”, and to demonstrate that they have funds in place. The first viewings are scheduled for today (NOV 22) which makes it impossible for new buyers or a community co-operative to obtain a surveyor’s report or arrange a mortgage-in-principle in time.
“Why such a rush now? The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has been trying, on and off, to dispose of its assets on Bidston Hill since 2004, when the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory relocated to a new building at the University of Liverpool. We can only surmise that NERC has already lined up a developer, and, not knowing the developer’s intentions, we fear the worst. It is ironic that NERC, which funds research into the environment, could well be jeopardising ours.”
The Observatory is being sold with listed buildings consent for conversion into four residential
Estate agents Bennan Ayre & O’Neill say there has been interest from a number of parties keen to acquire the 14,500 sq ft site.
Planning permission for four flats was granted after years of marketing the landmark failed to attract sufficient interest.
Planning consultants Wrigley says the relaxation of policy will enable developers to “bring back into use an important local building of significant interest. It is currently deteriorating and a target for vandalism.”
The development will also have a considerable impact on locals who like to ramble and take in the sights from Bidston Hill. The 147 year old Observatory is expected to be turned into a fortress with access restricted by railings, fences and gorse bushes.
Before scientists relocated, the Observatory was also used to control the raising and lowering of the Thames Barrier.
It is now owned by the National Environment Research Agency which has been desperate to sell since it became redundant.
Wirral Council said; “There are material considerations in favour of development which outweigh planning policy for new housing developments.”