Residents and businesses have their say on Hoylake’s future priorities
OPTIONS for a town square, better connectivity and more recreational facilities on the promenade are among the key suggestions to emerge from a wide-ranging consultation with Hoylake residents and businesses.READ THE FULL REPORT HERE
The engagement project which took place from July to October last year also found support for maximising the opportunities that could arise from more natural beach management in the future and a regular farmer’s market to encourage a sustainable economy and eco-tourism. Environmental concerns informed many of the responses, a significant development from a previous Hoylake Vision consultation held in 2013.
The consultation, by independent social enterprise, PLACED working with local group Hoylake Vision, was commissioned to discover opinions and thoughts on how the town’s key public assets should feel and function, the types of activities, services and spaces on offer and how they should adapt in the future.
It is the latest stage in the renewal of Hoylake’s Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP).
The current NDP which was produced in consultation with local people and is managed by Hoylake Vision came into force as a statutory part of the Council’s Local Plan in December 2016, following a public referendum which garnered 86 percent support. A new updated plan, when completed, will be effective until 2025 when the NDP will be made again.
The feedback from the PLACED consultation will now inform the NDP by helping to determine how the town centre can develop and how the prom can link better to Hoylake’s high street. It will also be used to explore ways in which the Carr Lane industrial and residential areas on the other side of the railway line can be enhanced through activities, better connectivity and community-led development.
In order to navigate Covid-19 restrictions as well as safety fears, PLACED developed an interactive platform for discussion, sharing views and leaving of ideas, as well as delivering an online Zoom workshop.
The project found that the majority of respondents expressed their support for the idea of a town square, which was first raised in the Wirral Council-commissioned BDP Masterplan of 2004. They considered it to be an opportunity to create a focal point for the town, which could be used for a range of activities such as events, performances and a farmer’s market.
On the high street, respondents thought it was paramount to have a vibrant, distinctive and diverse offer, including independent shops, hospitality offers and services.
It also revealed that the majority of respondents felt positive about the prospect of more natural beach management in future which, following Natural England’s advice to Wirral Council in 2020, could bring forward new opportunities for leisure and eco-tourism, while benefitting nature and biodiversity.
However, 22 per cent of the 214 survey respondents voiced strong disagreement with naturalisation of the beach, supporting ongoing suppression of any emerging saltmarsh and dunes by raking in order to retain a “golden sands” beach.
Nevertheless, both supporters and opponents regularly mentioned the need for cleaning and maintenance along the prom with blocked surface water drains and potential wastewater drainage leading to contamination of the beach.
There was also a broad consensus on developing activities along the prom as well as facilities such as toilets and a café. Connectivity was considered a key issue with suggestions of a cycle lane along the prom and better signage.
Popular ideas included bringing back the pirate ship next to the lifeboat station and an open-air swimming pool.
Ideas from those people who responded about the Carr Lane estate included businesses and sports facilities which they believe would improve the connection of the estate with the rest of the town.
Respondents also mentioned improving the appearance of the area and its green spaces, including the potential for a wildfowl and wetland centre.
Concerns though were raised about the sustainability of the focus on automotive businesses in the area given the inevitable shift towards electric vehicles over the coming years. Unsurprisingly, one of the main issues identified was the rail crossing with suggestions of a bridge or building a new entry route on the other side of the estate.
Another issue discussed through the engagement was parking and traffic in the town centre.
Jo Harrop, PLACED director, said: “At a time when the future of thriving high streets and local economies are facing substantial challenges, this has proved both a timely and very informative piece of engagement which should help Hoylake to bounce back confidently from the impact of the pandemic.
“We developed the online tool in response to Covid-19 and have been using it throughout 2020 on a number of projects to ensure local people can be engaged when Covid-19 concerns, and restrictions would otherwise make engagement impossible. The tool is designed to be transparent and interactive and support a locally led conversation about the future of place.
“We are very pleased with the quality of the responses and it’s fair to say compared with other independent consultations we have facilitated this one has generated a great deal of discussion, good ideas and rich information, which will serve Hoylake’s evolution well.”
Mark Howard, chair of volunteer group, Hoylake Vision said: “What comes across clearly in the engagement process carried out by PLACED is that both Hoylake’s built and natural environments are tremendous assets that need to be actively promoted and enjoyed by residents, organisations, businesses and visitors, and we can do that by building on the successes of the past.
“By raising confidence in Hoylake as a great place to live, work, and visit, we will attract more investment. For example, there is strong support for attracting more niche, independent destination businesses to come to Hoylake.
“This will likely include innovations that take advantage of new post-Covid social realities; with many more people now actively encouraged to work from home, there are real opportunities for town centre businesses to take advantage of this potential for extra daytime footfall during the week that could not be enjoyed previously.
“Diversification will be key; flexible use of spaces for meeting, working and playing will appear, some of which may be completely new concepts. There have been some wonderful ideas and suggestions brought forward all of which will be considered and in time will inform the new NDP.
“This work has not yet finished of course, and we intend for there to be more engagement over the coming months especially with those who live and work in and around Carr Lane and also with younger people.
“We want lots more residents and businesses to be in touch; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts and suggestions.