Developer withdraws

Yesterday afternoon a meeting took place between campaigners and a representative of Magenta Living, NERC‘s preferred bidder for the leasehold of the site. Following the meeting, Magenta Living have released this statement:

“Magenta Living met with local residents and listened to their concerns over a potential affordable housing development on the site of the former Proudman Research Centre. Following this we decided to withdraw our interest in the site and wish the community all the best with their plans for the area.”

For our part, we thank Magenta Living for listening to us and we wish them success in finding locations better suited to their vision, which is to provide homes and build communities where all can thrive.

We’d also like to thank the 4,335 people who have signed our on-line petition so far. Without your support, it would have been much harder to convince Magenta Living that a housing development on the Proudman land is unacceptable.

But our campaign will not be over until the land is indeed used for the amenity of visitors to Bidston Hill, Bidston Lighthouse and Bidston Observatory.

We will post further updates as the campaign unfolds.

Developers target Bidston Hill

Bidston Hill is under threat.

Earlier this year, the site of the former Joseph Proudman Building was put to market as a “development opportunity”.

Site of Joseph Proudman Building advertised as a development opportunity
Site of Joseph Proudman Building advertised as a development opportunity

Last week, the Natural Environment Research Council (who own the leasehold) announced that Magenta Living is their preferred bidder. Magenta Living have started negotiations with Wirral Council (who own the freehold) about possible developments on the site.

We will post updates as more information comes to light.

More about the land

The land was once the kitchen gardens of Bidston Lighthouse. Its official postal address is 4 Lighthouse Cottages, CH43 7RA. An oceanographic research facility, latterly called the Joseph Proudman Building, stood on the site from the 1970s until its demolition in 2013.

Since the Joseph Proudman Building was demolished, the land has been used from time to time by picknickers, dog-walkers and mountain bike enthusiasts, as an exercise ground by local schools and fitness fanatics, not to mention fly-tippers. Hedgehogs, bats, foxes, owls, kestrels, woodpeckers and other wildlife have been seen on the site.

The Proudman land is enclosed on two sides by a sandstone wall. The wall is a grade-II listed building in its own right, and the land is within its curtilage. The same wall encloses Bidston Lighthouse and Bidston Observatory, which are also grade-II listed. All three buildings were designed by George Fosbery Lyster F.R.S., Engineer-in-Chief to the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. Every stone on the site was locally quarried, and every stone is exactly as Lyster left it nearly a century-and-a-half ago. There is no conceivable development that would not diminish the group value of the site.

The land was originally part of the title of Bidston Lighthouse when the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board sold the Lighthouse to the Birkenhead Corporation in 1935. At the time,  the Corporation said: “By this purchase the land would be available for all future generations for recreational purposes”. This intention was reflected both in the price – a bargain £1000 – and in a restrictive covenant prohibiting new buildings. This covenant still attaches to the freehold title of the land.

The single-track access road, Wilding Way, is owned by Wirral Council, but it is not adopted. It is not a public highway. It doubles as a public footpath for most of its length. It is crossed by ramblers, dog-walkers, horse-riders and wildlife.

The site is surrounded on all sides by Bidston Hill, 100 acres of heathland and woodland that contain mysterious rock carvings and historic buildings, and provide a haven for wildlife amidst the urban sprawl.