Wirral landmarks saved – apparently

So two of Wirral’s prominent landmarks have been ‘saved’ by developers eager to plough resources into these two little goldmines. Bidston Observatory and Andrew Gibson House have been snapped up by two companies called Bidston Observatory Developments and Prospect Capital. The directors of both concerns are Craig Blackwell and Jason Woltman.

Funny thing is, these buildings have been unloved for donkeys’ years. If they were such an attraction you would imagine developers would have been queuing up to buy them. Not a bit of it.

The Observatory was first put on the market in 2004 by its owners the National Environment Research Council. They even resorted to obtaining planning permission for conversion to flats – still no takers. Then mysteriously, after planning permission lapsed, up popped Bidston Observatory Developments. The building still has no planning consent, and as many developers have noted, its listed status means the cost of conversion would be astronomical.

Then we have the former retired seafarers’ home on the prom in Egremont, Andrew Gibson House. This rambling, derelict edifice was due to be pulled down as it has become a gigantic eyesore. After a public outcry,  Wirral Council announced someone has been daft, I mean brave, enough to acquire it. I can’t imagine it would have cost too much although the Council have generously thrown in some extra land (Wonder what that might be worth in future?) The Monster House will be turned into flats as wellas accommodation for the seamen’s union Nautilus.

SAM_0299I look forward to the submission of plans for these two iconic buildings. As for them actually happening, call me cynical but……watch this space.


4 thoughts on “Wirral landmarks saved – apparently”

  1. I’ll start by stating that I have an interest as I live in Boundary Road opposite Bidston Hill and just down from where I live is the road that leads to the Observatory.

    NERC management were dodging questions from me about the site before they’d moved to their new building in Liverpool.

    When the big building nearby to Bidston Observatory was demolished (after being vacant and getting vandalised) people felt it was a blot on the landscape that had been removed. Others connected to the Bidston Village Conservation Area Committee felt the building should’ve attracted listed status and an application for listed status delayed its demolition.

    Eventually there’s the worry that both the listed buildings and the vacant plot created by the demolished building will attract some sort of residential development. This of course is partly fuelled by the previous planning application to convert Bidston Observatory to flats.

    Especially since Wirral Council’s plans for housing were dependant on thousands of new properties in the Wirral Waters project, which since the gushing tap of public taxpayer’s money has dried up going into it has somewhat stalled.

    Developers will make appeals to planning applications on the basis that Wirral Waters accounted for a lot of Wirral’s planning new housing supply but is progressing slower than planned. Such appeals may succeed.

    I’ve thought for a long time that Bidston Hill needs some sort of parish council (in part to try and protect it from development), but have never taken the action getting up a large enough petition to force a referendum on the topic.

  2. I think I’m right in saying that the vacant plot you refer to is allocated for housing in the local plan. However the council seems to be banging its head against a brick wall in selling it for development potential. The Hill has been badly handled for years. The Observatory should have been handed over to a local group instead of this demand to exploit it – which looks like it will never happen.

    1. I’ll declare an interest again as a nearby local resident.

      Yes the vacant plot (at least the one owned by Wirral Council) is allocated for housing in the local plan. Locals hope however it won’t come to fruition. The land it’s on is owned by Wirral Council.

      This was previously leased to NERC before they moved out.

      Ultimately I doubt Wirral Council would be able to sell for a residential development without first obtaining planning permission (which as far as I know hasn’t been applied for) as housing would be a change of use compared to its former use as office accommodation for NERC (before it was demolished).

      As to your comment about it being handed over to a local group to run, a person connected to the Bidston Village Conservation Area wanted to do that, but couldn’t raise the funds to do it. I think his plan at the time was to turn the Observatory into a museum.

  3. I know several developers who have had a look at Bidston Hill. There is no great enthusiasm for a number of reasons so the most sensible thing would be to hand it over for community use.But as the council had an opportunity to facilitate this for many years and haven’t, don’t hold your breath.

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