CAMPAIGNERS fear an important aspect of Wirral's heritage will be lost forever when the iconic Bidston Observatory is auctioned off next week.

The Grade-two listed building will go under the hammer in an online auction next Wednesday and Thursday, August 3 and 4.

The property is currently occupied by guardians and has been divided into bedsits.

It has a guide price of £550,000 and planning permission to build three-storey terraced houses, two semi-detached houses and a detached house on its former car park.

Valerie Doodson, from Bidston Observatory Preservation Trust (BOPT) told the Globe: "Bidston Observatory has been recognised internationally for its pioneering work in astronomy and oceanography since its inception in 1866.

Wirral Globe:

Architectural features of Bidston Observatory

"It is part of Wirral's heritage and we strongly believe it should be saved as a 'heritage centre and museum' for the benefit of all the residents of Wirral."

The Observatory was sold by the Natural Environment Research Council last year to a property developer Bidston Observatory Development Limited for £270,000. The company is now selling the building.

Ms Doodson continued: "The Bidston Observatory Preservation Trust [BOPT] have been trying to find the money needed to purchase the property but need more time.

"It was not offered to us at the lower price.

"Bidston Observatory Development Limited now intend to sell the building [our heritage] on and are asking a figure of the order of £550,000 - looking to make a handsome profit for doing nothing and leaving the building in a sorry state!"

Wirral Globe:

The rooftop of Bidston Observatory

The auction will be conducted by John Pye Property Auctions.

Its head of property Richard Reed described the building as an exciting and unique residential development opportunity.

He added: "This is a highly desirable location and it is rare to have such a unique property come to auction with the potential to be transformed into a dream project.

"The planning restrictions are in place to keep the character of the building and by giving buyers a chance to develop the building within the planning permissions, it prevents it from falling into disrepair."

It's not the first time the observatory has gone under the hammer.

In 2003, a plan to save the observatory complex and turn it into a museum and visitors' centre was drawn up in a bid to rescue the historical building when the National Environment Research Council which occupied the site - moved to Liverpool University campus.

Local people mounted a campaign to protect the future of the landmark, which they feared was at risk of being damaged by development.

Bidston Observatory Preservation Trust had tried to save the building and turn it into a historical museum for the people of Wirral.

But their efforts to prevent planning permission being granted to convert the complex into flats failed when the council rejected their scheme as "over-optimistic and unrealistic".

Peter Crawford, from the Preservation Trust, said at the time: "It should be retained as a public asset and not lost forever.

"To lose it would be an absolute disgrace.

"There's no wonder that Wirral is in such a mess when its history is being destroyed.

"We should be proud of what the building has contributed to our heritage.

"There are many reasons why it should be kept as an asset.

"Scientists have made many great discoveries in the observatory over the years."