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Posted by: John Brace | 11th March 2011

Asda Development Birkenhead – When do the public have a say?

I read with interest Frank Field’s piece in the local paper about the new Asda store in Birkenhead.

I agree with Frank and many other local residents that it has caused massive problems with parking (including a reduction in Blue Badge spaces). What he fails to mention was that a few days before the local elections it was a Labour-led Cabinet (with a built-in majority) of Cllr Foulkes, Cllr Davies (Phil), Cllr Davies (George), Cllr Stapleton and Cllr McLaughlin that met behind closed doors without the press and public present to agree to the price Wirral Council got for the car parks.

Generally in the month leading to an election or election period, apart from decisions that have to be made within a certain time limit (eg Planning, licensing etc), no decisions of a political nature are made. This is called purdah and it means they refrain from taking decisions or making policy announcements which are significant and may be politically contentious.

So what was the decision that was made? Well Asda (Walmart) wanted to only pay £500,000 for the car parks rather than £2 million. Asda have changed the original plans a number of times. You can search here using the postcode CH41 6EB in the address box to see things like the current planning application for signage for the store and carpark. You can leave comments online if you wish.

To finish, I welcome new jobs in Birkenhead, however there are concerns the existing businesses and stall holders at Birkenhead market have that once the new Asda store opens it’ll affect the viability of their businesses. A number of shops have already closed down. The new Tory/Lib Dem run Wirral Council believes in consulting with the public before making major decisions. The previous Labour led council had a “decide, announce, defend” strategy that led to the fiasco and public inquiry over the library closures and a very divisive, macho-style of politics that managed to cheese off large sections of the voting Wirral public.

I have seen many Walmarts in America and heard from local people about the effect it has had on local shops. I hope Birkenhead keeps its character and doesn’t turn into another Walmart clone town after the Asda store is opened in November. I hope the Asda doesn’t just end up employing people who currently work at the existing shops but also takes on people from Birkenhead who are long-term unemployed. Wirral Council is committed to supporting jobs and helping people keep their jobs or find new ones.


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