Liverpool and Birkenhead are the two core urban centres on opposite banks of the river Mersey. Today these two areas both form the economic centre of the wider Liverpool City Region.
The purpose of this post is to discuss whether or not Liverpool and Birkenhead are effectively working together as one central area for the benefit of the region both economically and culturally.
Some argue the Wirral is economically and socially disconnected from Liverpool and that despite two road tunnels and a long established railway tunnel and ferry service some suggest Birkenhead and Liverpool are not one central urban area with reports by 'think tank' organisations such as Centre for Cities formally suggesting the two areas are completely independent from each other.
What if both central Birkenhead and central Liverpool effectively became one area? working directly as one central district with strong cultural as well as visual connections to draw the two district's closer together?. This could be through political and administrative boundary changes as well as infrastructure adjustments or simply the creation of artistic installations to? light bridges and so on, or maybe both?
This is not to suggest that we should erase the identity of Birkenhead in favour of a wider Liverpool city centre at all, to the contrary it is about strengthening Birkenhead as a district and including it more effectively in Liverpool's arguably stronger offering allowing those who disembark at Lime St and are visiting the region, working or indeed living in the city to be greeted by signage and general literature that guides them to not only our underground rail network but to the many districts Liverpool Central also has to offer beyond the established attractions, such as Birkenhead. This is one way in which London works so effectively with each area within the capital from Lewisham to Lambeth as a fully integrated city.
One suggestion could be the creation of a Zone 1 travel card for central Liverpool that includes Birkenhead and Hamilton Square? These are immediate and straight forward steps we can take for changing the relationship positively between both sides of the river Mersey to mutual benefit.
As part of this post I have also brought together work previously showcased to explore the creation of a new landmark foot bridge across the Mersey linking Woodside to the Albert Dock as a more long term and much more visible link across the Mersey.
As a conceptual idea the bridge design attempts to create a clear visual connection across the river and encourage the flow of people and activity in a much more obvious way. Of course, this is a long term aspiration and at this point completely conceptual but the symbolism of such a design is very clear.
Across the world there are many examples of landmark city bridges from New York through to Istanbul that create a visual connection across a wider city area and create that visual link. More recently there has also been a series of temporary installation art works that attempt to create new bridges and connections between areas separated by bodies of water, for example;
In the short term a political joining of heads across the Mersey would be an immediate first step in drawing the two sides of the Mersey together with perhaps extending the reach of organisations such as Liverpool Vision to encompass Birkenhead Central as another approach.
There is a need to think much more ambitiously with capital ideas on how to strengthen the economy and appeal of districts such as Birkenhead and quite literally consider "how would London do it?" to ensure real investment and integration leads growth in tandem with Liverpool as a strong central urban area.
Further ideas as mentioned earlier could include temporary cross river installations and events - all with a clear objective in creating a new attitude and effort to bring together and strengthen the central Liverpool City Region conurbation.