Partners step up their proposals to revive Earlestown’s town hall as community hub

Earlestown town hall

The award of £20m from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund means plans to return Earlestown’s historic town hall to working life as a community hub have been brought forward into the first phase of the town center regeneration project.

The Grade II-listed building’s interior restoration will now be delivered alongside improvements to the town’s historic market square, which will include the creation of a permanent market canopy over part of the square that has been inspired by the iconic nine arches of the Sankey Viaduct.

Improvements are also to be made to Earlestown rail station, together with extensive public realm upgrades across the town centre.

Closed since 2008, the town hall will be restored to provide a range of new commercial and community spaces and facilities. These include flexible workspaces and meeting rooms, a refurbished main hall and stage, and potentially a new café with community courtyard garden, capable of hosting small outdoor events and providing a quiet sanctuary for peaceful relaxation.

The announcement comes as external work on the building comes to an end following 12 months of painstaking restoration. Every aspect of the town hall’s exterior has been touched by the works, including cleaning and restoring the mechanisms and clockface of the town hall’s original Potts of Leeds clock.

Throughout the Levelling Up Fund bid process, St Helens Borough Council and its development partner, The English Cities Fund (ECF), have evolved proposals for enhancing the town’s market square, home to one of the oldest working markets in the country.

In the latest proposals, the new market canopy has been relocated to the Haydock Street side of the square, to allow for more flexible use of the market square and create unobstructed views of the historic obelisk and restored town hall.

ECF will now work closely with market traders, local businesses and the wider community to finalise its designs to create a welcoming high quality, distinctive and multi-purpose market square, which will be complemented by extensive public realm improvements along Bridge Street, Market Street, Oxford Street and Queen Street.

This placemaking approach to regenerating Earlestown will provide a better environment and facilities for traders and shoppers alike, while encouraging more people to spend time in Earlestown throughout the week.

The plans are being driven by an ambition to return Earlestown to its status as a thriving market town. They are among the first phases of a 20-year, borough-wide, strategic partnership between St Helens Borough Council and ECF.

The ECF partnership will submit its detailed designs for planning permission before the end of 2023, with work expected to start on the ground in summer 2024. The work to support transport improvements at Earlestown Rail Station, which has the world’s oldest rail junction and station building still in passenger service, is being progressed by St Helens Borough Council with rail industry partners.

Cllr David Baines, leader of St Helens Borough Council, said: “I am thrilled that securing an unprecedented £20m of government investment in Earlestown has enabled us to bring our plans for the internal restoration of the town hall forward into the first phase of work. This will mean the much loved town hall can return to playing its rightful role in the life of the town much more quickly.”

Max Bentham, development director at The English Cities Fund, said: “Our work in Earlestown will strengthen the town and market’s offering to help it thrive, by creating spaces that residents and local businesses can use and be proud of.

“Earlestown’s community of market traders and businesses are a key stakeholder in the project and as we move from ‘concept’ to ‘detailed design’, it is essential that we incorporate their views. We’re looking forward to a productive collaboration to finalise our designs for the market square and wider public realm improvements to ensure they deliver our ambition of providing quality infrastructure and spaces for shoppers, residents and traders alike.”

St Helens Borough Council and The English Cities Fund entered into a 20-year partnership focused on the transformation of St Helens Borough with the first key focus being the transformation of Earlestown and St Helens town centres.

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