Council in talks with developer to kick-start stalled regeneration plans

The proposed Morrisons store

Knowsley Council is in talks with developer St Modwen to buy its interest in Kirkby town centre.

The move is aimed at getting long-awaited regeneration plans for the site under way after residents lost patience with delays to work starting.

Originally, supermarket giant Tesco had planned to regenerate the town centre as part of Everton FC’s proposals to build a new ground in Kirkby.

But the Government blocked those moves in 2009 and the land was sold to St Modwen in 2015.

Despite receiving planning permission to redevelop the town centre and signing leases with retailers including Home Bargains, Morrisons and KFC, construction work has still not started.

St Modwen cleared the site for redevelopment last year, but has refused to name a start date for construction.

Council leader Graham Morgan told the Liverpool Echo that after months of trying to provide the developer with the guarantees it needed to start work the council decided to step in and prepare a bid for the land.

He said: “We have worked tirelessly to encourage and support the private sector to deliver on their plans for Kirkby.

“However, despite our best efforts, the redevelopment of the town centre still hasn’t happened and it’s quite clear that we need to find a different model. The people of Kirkby deserve more than this.

“We have worked closely to encourage St Modwen to push on with their plans but, despite major names already being signed up, they remain extremely cautious and have still not confirmed a start date.

“We have waited too long and it’s time to move on.”

He said the council would look to complete the developments which have already been given planning permission instead of changing the plans.

The council is awaiting valuation of the land by independent experts before making a formal offer.

However, St Modwen has confirmed that talks with the authority are under way.

A spokesperson for the developer said discussions have been “positive and productive”.

They said: “Knowsley Council has been actively looking to support the scheme and is pleased with the discussions to date and what it means for the prospects for Kirkby.

“Morrisons is aware of the discussions and is supportive of the development, having previously signed an agreement for lease.

“Knowsley Council and St Modwen will continue to work proactively and look to make further, near-term announcements as progress is made.”

It is hoped construction could start withing three months of a sale.