‘Once in a lifetime’ plans to regenerate St Helens and Earlestown town centres
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Draft proposals which are set to see ‘game-changing’ transformation of St Helens and Earlestown town centres have been published by St Helens Borough Council ahead of a cabinet meeting on October 20.
If approved, the proposed plans will look to facilitate transformational change that will build upon each of the town centres’ existing assets, heritage, strengths and aspirations, through the delivery of high quality, sustainable regeneration – repurposing these key centres into exciting, vibrant and connected places for residents, businesses and visitors to enjoy.
Both town centres are the subject of separate draft Masterplan Development Frameworks, which set out the multimillion-pound vision and principles for each. The frameworks have been prepared by St Helens Council in partnership with regeneration experts, The English Cities Fund (ECF).
The draft Masterplan Development Frameworks illustrate the first thoughts and ideas around the significant commercial and leisure investment that will completely transform both areas over the coming years. The documents will include a series of design principles, initial ambitions for key areas, along with a development guide to support future planning applications.
The ambitions for St Helens town centre are expected to span the next 20 years, with an initial phase one planning application anticipated to be submitted early next year. The proposals divide the area into four distinct zones, which will play a role in the transformation of the town. These zones are: Retail; civic and heritage; discovery; entertainment and education.
Proposed plans include bold ambitions to repurpose the town centre by reducing the overall retail footprint and replacing it with a striking new mixed-use development including a new market, commercial Grade A office space, a redesigned bus station extensive new public realm around the rail station, new town centre homes and an hotel. A new, large green space in the centre of the town called ‘Discovery Park’ is also proposed as part of future phases.
In Earlestown, the draft Masterplan Framework seeks to return the town to its former glory as a thriving market town by creating a vibrant high street and marketplace. It is hoped this can be achieved through a variety of measures, including reopening the town hall and re-defining Market Square as a place for people with a multi-use offer.
In addition, proposals include the relocation of the bus station to create a new transport hub that is adjacent to the rail station. It is hoped this will promote multi-modal journeys, which is key to boosting the economic vitality of the area and will enable commuters to travel and interchange conveniently. An initial phase one application for Earlestown town centre is also anticipated to be submitted in early 2022.
The major transformational ambitions complement similar projects being pursued by the town centre regeneration experts, ECF, across the country. ECF is a national strategic partnership between urban regenerator, Muse Developments, Legal and General and Homes England, which was initially formed in 2001.
Cllr David Baines, leader at St Helens Borough Council, said: “I am delighted to finally unveil these transformational masterplans for both St Helens and Earlestown town centres. The proposals will deliver once in a lifetime redevelopment at the heart of our towns.
“We want our town centres to be child and family-friendly, safe and sustainable thriving places for local businesses, shoppers, visitors, and residents, and that’s what these plans will help to deliver.
“The plans will now go to a special meeting of cabinet on the 20th October, and then a period of public consultation and a series of events across the borough will begin from 1st November for six weeks. We want as many residents, businesses and community groups as possible to have their say and to help shape the plans before planning applications are submitted early in the new year.”
Leon Guyett, development director at Muse, said: “We’re delighted to be working with St Helens Council on such an incredibly exciting and transformational set of proposals. The English Cities Fund has a track record of delivering repurposed and revitalised town centres across the country, from Salford to Newham, and we look forward to bringing our expertise and knowledge to St Helens and Earlestown over the next 20 years.”
Public consultations on the draft Development Masterplan Frameworks will be launched on Monday, November 1. This will be an opportunity for residents, communities and local businesses to have their say on the plans and will include a series of physical engagement events across the borough during the six-week consultation period, as well as a number of ways to engage online.