St Helens town centre regeneration plans move to next stage

Market Street proposals

A town centre regeneration vision for St Helens has been submitted for reserved matters planning consent.

Phase one covers 24 acres and will see a tired shopping centre replaced with a new town centre featuring stunning new buildings and attractive public areas through a regeneration scheme being brought forward by St Helens Borough Council in partnership with the English Cities Fund (ECF).

The planning application covers a new Market Hall flanked by a mixed-use area set around a 120-bedroom globally branded hotel, 64 new homes, a 75,000 sq ft office and 11,000 sq ft of modern retail space, along with extensive high quality public spaces.

A separate planning application in the next few weeks will cover the other main element of phase one – the replacement of an existing and outdated bus station with a new modern multi-modal transport interchange. It will be part-funded by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority as part of a major upgrade of sustainable travel facilities.

By re-imagining the space where the enclosed Hardshaw Centre currently stands, the project will create new public spaces, better walking routes, and invite nature to flourish in high quality landscaped areas. Enhanced by trees, plants and wildlife, the overall project masterplan will deliver a Biodiversity Net Gain for St Helens of more than 1000%, changing the look and feel of the town centre.

To underline the project’s impressive sustainability credentials, all the new homes in the scheme have been designed to reduce energy bills and will meet the energy use intensity performance of a Passivhaus building – a standard used to reduce energy consumption through use of highly efficient insulation, airtight building envelopes, and other measures.

Cllr David Baines, leader of St Helens Borough Council and Liverpool City Region portfolio holder for net zero and air quality, said: “We are ambitious for what can be achieved through this once in a lifetime regeneration scheme, and we should all be excited about what the future holds.

“A huge amount of work has already gone into bringing our vision for a re-vitalised St Helens town centre to the stage of a reserved matters planning application, including the relocation of many shops out of the Hardshaw centre and into Church Square Shopping Centre, and months of extensive consultation with the public, businesses and other stakeholders.

“We are determined to preserve and celebrate our local heritage in the detail and delivery of the project, but we are also looking to the future, with an attractive, thriving and sustainable town centre for families to enjoy.”

Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said: “St Helens town centre is on an extraordinary journey of growth and, with such ambitious plans on the horizon, I’ve no doubt that we’ll be expecting to see much higher numbers of visitors over the next few years. That’s why it’s vital that we invest in quality, sustainable travel infrastructure to make sure the town can keep up with the increased demand.

“Once complete, this new interchange will be the first of its kind to be delivered under our franchised bus network – a move which is going to be nothing short of transformational for our area.”

Stuart Rogers, director of project management at the English Cities Fund, said: “Sustainability has driven every decision taken on this once-in-a-generation project and the design of new buildings reflects a belief we share that the future has to be shaped by reducing our impact on the environment.”

The redevelopment will deliver significant social value in direct support of the council’s recently adopted Inclusive Growth Strategy. Phase one is expected to have a strong impact in terms of employment and Gross Value Added (GVA) – some 485 jobs will be created across the development once it is fully occupied, generating £23.2m GVA each year.

The project is backed by St Helens Borough Council in the form of a £69.2m funding package confirmed for phase one. Support has also been made available in in the form of £21.49m in grants from the Government and equity investment by ECF. Specifically, there are two related government Town Deal grants totalling £10.49m. The phase one proposals have also been awarded £812,000 from the One Public Estate Brownfield Land Release Fund to help deliver the residential element.

Subject to planning approval, the scheme will start on site in 2024. The anticipated timeline will begin with the demolition of the Hardshaw Centre through to completion of all the elements within phase one in late 2026.