Extra £4.4m funding approved for controversial West Kirby sea wall

The budget for the scheme has risen to nearly £15.9m
Controversial sea wall receives further funding. Image: Wirral CouncilControversial sea wall receives further funding. Image: Wirral Council
Controversial sea wall receives further funding. Image: Wirral Council

An extra £4.4m in funding for the controversial West Kirby sea wall has been unanimously approved by Wirral Council.

Despite some disagreement among councillors about the scheme which is in the final stages of construction, all voted to approve the funding which will come from the Environment Agency, a government organisation.

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Concerns over the budget for the scheme have been raised in recent weeks which has now risen to nearly £15.9m as well as a wider impact on businesses in West Kirby who have been affected by a drop in footfall linked to the construction.

The sea wall will stretch for 1.15km along the town’s seafront with the aim of protecting houses in the area from flooding as well as saving up to 20 lives in future years during serious storms.

According to a Wirral Council report, the price tag has gone up due to the costs of materials increasing by £1m, £2m because of issues with ground works, £1.1m to improve the design, and half a million to temporarily relocate the RNLI during the wall’s construction.

Council officers said the delays due to the RNLI were because some key information was not given to the council until March 2022 relating to a specialist vehicle used by the organisation and difficulties in getting it into the lifeboat station.

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However, the council said these issues were in the past and it had built a relationship with the RNLI and volunteers going forward. Officers also said if flood gates had to be closed in a rare flood event, the RNLI would be able to be launched from an alternative location to rescue anyone in the water.

Councillors also voted unanimously to ask the local authority’s Audit and Risk Management committee, which scrutinises council decisions, to look at the scheme.

West Kirby sea wall. Image: Wirral CouncilWest Kirby sea wall. Image: Wirral Council
West Kirby sea wall. Image: Wirral Council

Cllr Steve Foulkes said he considered the sea wall and its funding part of the levelling up agenda and argued public opinion would shift on the wall to be seen as a success in the long run.

He said: “The justification for the wall is apparent. We live in a climate that is raising sea levels and the risk of flooding has been described by the Environment Agency and that’s where we are.

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“I think there’s a little bit of egg on a number of people’s faces because they railed against the design, they railed against everything around this project and now it’s actually taking shape and people can see it. It’s actually going to become a future feature of the area.”

However, Conservative councillors criticised the scheme for the impact on businesses in the area and questioned the case for the wall. Cllr Tony Cox who previously said the sea wall was “making businesses face ruin” asked about the wider impact on the town.

He also repeated calls for committee chair Cllr Liz Grey to apologise accusing her of questioning the integrity of businesses after the LDRS reported on a business owner who claimed he’d lost £80,000 due to the construction,

Cllr Liz Grey said the claims were not true, adding “at no point have I questioned anybody’s integrity” and argued calls for an apology would be better directed at the government due to the cost of living crisis and rising inflation.

The wall is scheduled to be largely finished by the end of April with a grand opening event held in May.