What next for demolished Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory site (Joseph Proudman Building) on Bidston Hill?
First, a quick history of what’s been happening about this site. Last year in June, Wirral Council’s Cabinet received a report recommending demolition. People had asked the Cabinet about the effect of the Unitary Development Plan change in 2004 on a decision to demolish it, so as nobody seemed to know whether this was still in effect, a decision on it was deferred to the meeting on the 9th July 2012.
The Cabinet meeting on the 9th July 2012 was in postponed to the 10th July 2012 and was told that the bit of the Unitary Development Plan relating to Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory had been deleted in 2007. However between June and July an application had been made to English Heritage for listed status. A decision was then deferred again to Cabinet’s meeting of the 6th September (in the hope that English Heritage would’ve decided on listed status by then).
It wasn’t on the Cabinet agenda of the 6th September or the next meeting of the 27th September. By October a decision had been reached by English Heritage not to accept the application for listed building status and on the 8th October 2012 the Cabinet Member for Corporate Resources, Cllr Adrian Jones gave consent to demolition (effective from the 16th October) for the Joseph Proudman Building. Since then it has been demolished by Hunter Demolition.
Wirral Council owns the site of the former Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, but NERC (the Natural Environment Research Council) has a 99-year lease from 1973. Wirral Council receive £1,800 a year rent from NERC. However NERC have tried to sell their lease. Local residents are concerned that now the building has been demolished that there could a residential development on this site, especially as the Lighthouse Cottage and Bidston Observatory are now being used for this purpose.
In the evidence base (see page 112) for Wirral Council’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment 2012 it is listed as a site (it lists it as Bidston Observatory but the coordinates are for the Joseph Proudman Building) with a capacity for thirty-eight dwellings. This document gives it an achievability score of 3 (which means development of the site could be achieved in the next five years). It states in that document “Car park and other building require demolition/conversion” (which has already happened).
Any decision on new housing on the site of the Joseph Proudman Building would be first need planning permission and being a major development would be decided by Wirral Council’s Planning Committee. A future request for planning permission would attract opposition from local residents wanting to keep Bidston Hill as it is, its impact on the existing listed buildings (the Lighthouse and the Observatory) would also need to be considered. Until that happens the future of the site is up to NERC and Wirral Council.