Bidston Observatory is for sale.
We are most concerned about the potential consequences for Bidston Hill, and we disapprove of the manner in which the sale is being conducted.
An advertisement appeared in Wirral News last week. The land on offer includes the Observatory and car park, as well as the site of the former Braehead Cottage. The car park and Braehead Cottage site are being marketed as potential development sites. 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 Friday, 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 apartments. We, the Friends of Bidston Hill, supported the application for listed buildings consent. We did so because the plans were sympathetic to the environment of Bidston Hill and the heritage of the building, because they provided a common area for heritage displays, and most importantly, because a residential use would be a better outcome than the status quo – unwanted, slowly deteriorating, office space.
We would support a community use even more whole-heartedly. We would oppose a return to offices due to potential issues of security at night. We would oppose residential developments in the car park of the Observatory, on the site of the former Braehead Cottage, and indeed on the site where the Joseph Proudman Building stood until earlier this year. If we can’t stop new residences, we’ll campaign to limit them to a few cottages in keeping with the tradition of Bidston Hill.
120 years ago, the Bidston Hill Committee campaigned to secure the land on Bidston Hill for the public. After many years and many setbacks they succeeded. They prevented the building of 400 dwellings along Vyner Road, and raised the money to buy some 46 acres of land on Bidston Hill. The parkland on Bidston Hill that we all enjoy today is thanks to their untiring efforts.
We need the Bidston Hill Committee to be re-born today. Their work is not quite finished. But we need time.
We appeal to NERC and to Wirral Borough Council to delay the sale. There are still a number of options for community use to explore.
We appeal to you to help spread the word, and lobby NERC, Wirral Borough Council, government — and anyone else you can think of.
Chair, Friends of Bidston HillShare this: