New Ferry blast: Residents 'losing faith' on rebuilding town

Wirral blast
Image caption Several buildings collapsed after the 2017 blast

Residents of a town badly damaged following a huge gas explosion are "losing faith" that it will ever be regenerated, according to its MP.

New Ferry in Merseyside was "crying out for investment" even before the blast in 2017, Alison McGovern, MP for Wirral South, told Parliament on Thursday.

She said "the response has been too little and too slow".

Jake Berry, minister for local growth, said there "may be lessons... to learn" for the government and Wirral Council.

More than 60 properties in New Ferry were destroyed or damaged almost two years ago when an explosion at a furniture shop ripped through the town.

Shop owner, Pascal Blasio, denied causing the explosion and a jury at Liverpool Crown Court was discharged in February after failing to reach verdicts.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Government body Homes England have spent £100,000 on a rebuild plan

A spokeswoman for Ms McGovern said the regeneration cost was "likely to be some millions, though we don't know exactly until the consultation on the rebuild is finished".

After years of discussion, the Wirral South MP told Parliament that local people "do not want any more plans and consultations - they want action".

Mr Berry said she was "absolutely correct to say that the regeneration of the site has been slower than any of us would have hoped for".

But he added that, in a 2017 meeting, local residents blamed Wirral Council saying they felt that "the initial response... had simply not been good enough".

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire told Ms McGovern last November that Wirral Council had failed "submit a business case" for financial support.

As a result, the government was unable to contribute to the rebuilding of the area, he said.

'Must do their bit'

Speaking to BBC Radio Merseyside, David Ball, from Wirral Council, said he "would respectfully disagree" and believed "the government could have done more".

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Media captionCCTV footage of the blast was shown to the jury at Liverpool Crown Court

The council has spent about £400,000 on "recovery efforts" and is investing £1.3m to buy land - currently in private ownership - for development.

Government body Homes England has spent £100,000 on a plan for the rebuild, Mr Berry told Parliament.

"There may be lessons for the government to learn... but there are also lessons for the local authority to learn, " he added.

He also said that he hoped funds from Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram would "also deliver for the people of New Ferry".

Mr Rotheram said: "In the wake of the explosion in New Ferry, the combined authority provided £20,000 for the disaster relief fund and has since allocated a further £500,000 for the town through my Town Centre Fund.

He said the authority would "continue to support the regeneration of New Ferry, but it is not right that the government is using the existence of a devolved authority to abdicate its responsibility to provide disaster relief funding".

"We are doing our bit, but the government must now do their bit."

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