ONE of Wirral’s most iconic and historic buildings could have a new and unexpected future – welcoming foreign investors.
Birkenhead town hall is set to become the new base for Peel’s marketing team in Wirral as the company presses on with their multi-million pound International Trade Centre (ITC).
Based in Birkenhead docks the ITC is intended to be a ‘shop window’ for hundreds of companies from emerging economies including China, India and Brazil, helping them get a foothold into the European market.
According to council sources the agreement with Peel to use the town hall, centrepiece to the grade II-listed Hamilton Square, will initially be on an ‘ad hoc’ basis but could eventually become formalised.
No charge will be made to Peel for the use of the building during ‘office hours’, as it is seen as a way to help promote the ITC and Wirral although outside this the council said its use would be subject to negotiation.
Peel, and their partners in the ITC, Sam Wa International, have already welcomed a number of delegations of business people from overseas, and an all-party group of councillors led by Cllr Mark Johnston has now put forward 19 recommendations which aim to ensure Wirral benefits from the project.
These include improving Hamilton Square to ensure the best impression is made to potential investors, setting up an ‘International Welcomer’ team of local volunteers, using the ITC to boost language teaching, and allowing Wirral businesses to apply for ‘preferred partner’ status for a range of services from taxis to hotels.
In their report, the councillors also suggest the creation of “a council-led ‘soft-landing’ support team” to help ITC workers relocating from overseas to Wirral.
Cllr Johnston said Birkenhead town hall was “a jewel in the crown” for Wirral and called for the council to take steps to “create a secure, safe and welcoming environment for the many overseas visitors”.
Wirral council’s cabinet member for regeneration, Cllr Pat Hackett, welcomed the report which he said is “a vital piece of work”.
In 2010 Wirral council abandoned plans to sell the town hall citing “market conditions”.
The first of the ITC’s four buildings, providing a base for up to 300 overseas businesses, is scheduled to open in 2014. When complete it is expected to become “the greatest concentration of foreign-owned businesses in the UK”, with more than 1,000 companies using it to exhibit, sell, assemble and distribute their goods into the European market.