Posted by: John Brace | 13th March 2018

Will Wirral Council spend £8.4 million on buying the Europa Buildings in Birkenhead?

Will Wirral Council spend £8.4 million on buying the Europa Buildings in Birkenhead?

                               

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Cabinet (Wirral Council) 27th November 2017 4 – Strategic Asset Acquisitions – Europa Building

Cllr Phil Davies 27th November 2017 Cabinet Strategic Acquisition Programme Europa Buildings

Cllr Phil Davies 27th November 2017 Cabinet Strategic Acquisition Programme Europa Buildings

On the 27th November 2017, Wirral Council’s Cabinet which you can view above decided to buy the Europa Building in Birkenhead Town Centre. The large building is surrounded by Hemingford Street, Europa Square, Claughton Road and Conway Street but its address is down as Claughton Road.

The building has four tenants, Wilko Retail Limited, Poundstretcher Limited, Courtesy Shoes Ltd trading as Wynsors and Mecca Bingo Ltd. Wetherspoons (who had occupied the fifth unit had moved out by the time of the Cabinet meeting).

Cabinet decisions can’t be implemented at Wirral Council until the Cabinet minutes have both been published and any call-in period expired, which meant the earliest date it could be implemented was the 12th December 2017.

A provisional purchase price was agreed by the Cabinet and negotiations were requested to be carried out by their property consultant Lambert Smith Hampton.

The land and buildings were last bought by K/S Liverpool (which is a Danish company) for £10 million in 2003.

Quite why now, over three months later (as I checked with Land Registry on the 13th March 2018) negotiations haven’t resulted in the sale of the Europa Building and land to Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council is a bit of a mystery to me.

Wirral Council however did decide to borrow the millions of pounds it would cost to purchase it. However once purchased, it may be one of the assets transferred to the newly formed Wirral Growth Company Ltd (which is a joint venture between Wirral Council and Muse Developments).

There are however two references to Wirral Council in the title register for MS345603 (the Europa Building), in relation to a Deed dated 7th September 1995 between Wirral Council and Manweb plc (which contains restrictive covenants) and something from the 2nd October 1996 involving Wirral Council and Hinton Properties (Tamworth) Limited.

Hinton Properties (Tamworth) Limited was later renamed to Maple Vale Properties (Henley) Limited and then was dissolved on the 2nd December 2016. So any interest Hinton Properties (Tamworth) Limited had would now be classed as “bona vacantia” and be owned by the Crown or the Duchy of Lancaster or to the Duke of Cornwall.

However back to the point about the planned purchase of the Europa Building. At the public meeting of Wirral Council councillors to decide on the 2018-19 Budget last week, Conservative Councillor Chris Blakeley mentioned in his speech a figure of £8.4 million for the Europa Building.

At the moment, there is concern amongst the Birkenhead Market stallholders, that if the Europa Building is purchased for £8.4 million by Wirral Council that it is possible that Birkenhead Market could be moved there.

Wirral Council had previously consulted on moving Birkenhead Market to the car park that Wirral Council owns by Conway Park Train Station (but that plan didn’t go anywhere).

The Europa Buildings are located in Birkenhead and Tranmere ward, which is being contested between the Labour Party and the Green Party in the May 2018 local elections of a councillor.

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Responses

  1. John can you please explain why wirral council have borrowed £8.4million and then “Gift* it to the growth company or am i missing something, it sounds like the gifting of other Wirral assets to the Wirral Chamber or am i missing something??????????.

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for your comment.

      The plan is yes for Wirral Council to buy the building by borrowing £8.4 million.

      I’m not sure if this site is included in the land covered by the Wirral Growth Company joint venture with Muse Developments (although it appears to be connected). Only a list of some of the existing land and buildings owned by Wirral Council was included in the papers when that Wirral Growth Company joint venture was decided.

      If the owner agrees to sell the Europa Buildings to Wirral Council, the ownership would pass to Wirral Council.

  2. All these names changes no wonder the tax man never gets the money its owed,
    When in a time of cut backs, council tax increases, no money to run service’s or make repairs, why do they need to buy this land/building? Is it so they can increase the rents, They are already high enough, thats the reason the pub closed do to high rent!
    Or moving the market are they plan on knocking it down to build something else?

    • Wirral Council have been trying to redevelop Birkenhead Town Centre for some time. As they already own Birkenhead Bus Station, Birkenhead Market, the car park, the Birkenhead One Stop Shop, various plots in Europa Boulevard and various other land and buildings in the area, it does appear to be a bit like a game of Monopoly where they appear to be buying all the land and properties of a certain colour!

      Of course, if landowners don’t want to sell, Wirral Council could use their compulsory purchase powers to force a sale!

      It’s possible it is also connected to their joint venture with Muse Developments and the Wirral Growth Company Limited.

      The official reason given though, is that they want to buy the Europa Buildings so they can make money from the commercial rents. This is something that as you point out one of the five units there which was previously occupied by a pub is vacant does seems a bit odd (unless of course Wirral Council have other plans such as moving Birkenhead Market to the Europa Buildings which I’m sure would be opposed by some of the current Birkenhead Market stallholders as there would be less footfall there).


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