Lifelines thrown to some apparently doomed Wirral leisure facilities, including Hoylake and Brackenwood golf courses

By George Morgan

19th Jun 2022 | Local News

The Open trophy - the Claret Jug in Hoylake
The Open trophy - the Claret Jug in Hoylake

Golf courses, libraries and a leisure centre in Wirral have been given a stay of execution from permanent closure.

The local authority's tourism, communities, culture and leisure committee last night moved ahead with proposals to progress a number of sites toward the next stage of Community Asset Transfers in a bid to keep them open.

Among the locations spared from permanent shut down were Brackenwood and Hoylake golf courses, with golf's leading body, The R&A, stepping in to call for Hoylake to be saved.

The Open practice range on Hoylake municipal in 2014

It was said by The R&A that the Hoylake course "is a key part of The Open Golf Championship infrastructure and without it they cannot stage this global event. In investment terms the Open is worth approximately £100m to the Wirral and Liverpool City Region economy."

Bebington Green Party member Judith Grier said retaining Brackenwood gave the council a "real opportunity, not just for the golf course, but to make it a really great place for everyone." 

March 31st - what looked like the last day of play at Brackenwood

The council's tennis provision will remain after the sport's governing body, the Lawn Tennis Association, agreed to underwrite funding for the service and work with Wirral Council to appoint an operator to exclusively manage the six indoor courts and three outdoor courts.

Oxton Liberal Democrat Cllr Alan Brame said he was "delighted" the courts would remain open as there had been "clear demand" for the provision to be retained. 

A new system for libraries across the borough has also been adopted, with four retained at Birkenhead Central, West Kirby, Wallasey Central, and Bebington Central, with a further four smaller locations in Eastham, Moreton, Upton, and Heswall. Libraries earmarked for closure in Hoylake, Irby, Pensby, Prenton, Wallasey Village, Higher Bebington and Woodchurch will also move to the next stage of a community asset transfer. 

Prenton Green Party Cllr Naomi Graham said: "We have heard how important libraries are to people across Wirral. We wouldn't want to close any but we are mindful of the budget."

She added that libraries selected to remain open must be based on "demonstrated need".

The Woodchurch Leisure Centre in Birkenhead, which was also slated for shut down, was also given a life at the 11th hour as it too will move towards the next stage of transfer into community ownership. 

It wasn't all positive for leisure facilities across the borough, as it was confirmed that the leisure pool at Europa Pools would be closed. Kings Parade and Wallasey Beach pitch n putt golf courses will also be shut for good. Committee chair Cllr Helen Cameron said the decision was "unfortunate". 

The move to close sites is part of Wirral Council's savings programme of £20m to plug its financial gaps. New Ferry library will close from October this year as no expressions of interest were made in relation to it, but Bromborough library may yet be able to be kept going through an asset transfer.

A new fitness provision will however be provided in the space previously occupied by the leisure pool at Europa. Reports will be drawn up on the progress of the next stage of the asset transfer process to report back to the committee in October.

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