The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform St Helens and Earlestown town centres has moved a step closer.
St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet has today approved draft Masterplan Development Frameworks that set out its vision to transform St Helens and Earlestown town centres.
Councillors welcomed the plans which will help drive change, complementing existing assets to deliver high quality, sustainable regeneration that makes St Helens and Earlestown town centres vibrant places that families and people of all ages can enjoy.
Cabinet also approved an extensive consultation period to give as many people, young and old, residents and business owners, partners and people from outside of the borough the chance to have their say on the plans which will see once in a generation remodelling of these two town centres.
Both town centres are the subject of separate draft Masterplan Development Frameworks, which set out multi-million-pound vision and principles for each. The Masterplans have been prepared by St Helens borough Council in partnership with regeneration experts, the English Cities Fund (ECF).
Delivery of the ambitions for St Helens town centre are expected to span the next 20 years, with an initial Phase 1 planning application anticipated to be submitted early next year that will see a new mixed-use development including a new market, a hotel, cutting edge flexible commercial Grade A office space, a redesigned bus station and improved connectivity delivered in the first five years of the programme. It also includes space for new high quality homes for families to live and grow.
The longer-term proposals for St Helens town centre divide the town centre into four zones, each of which will each play a role in the wider transformation of the town centre. These zones are; the Central Retail Zone; the Civic and Heritage Zone; the Discovery Zone; and the Education and Entertainment Zone.
In Earlestown the vision is to bring the town centre back to its former glory as a historic market town by creating a thriving and vibrant high street and marketplace. To do this the proposals include the reopening of the Town Hall and re-defining the Market Square as a place for people, with a multi-use offer. In addition, the ambitious plans include accessibility improvements at Earlestown rail station and consideration of a new transport hub adjacent – it is hoped this will promote multi-modal journeys which is key to boosting the economic vitality in the area and enabling commuters to travel and interchange more conveniently. An initial Phase 1 planning application for Earlestown town centre is also anticipated in early 2022.
Both of the Masterplan Development Frameworks also propose extensive new green spaces and public realm that will provide more sustainable town centres, helping them adapt to the impact of climate change. The new developments will support the borough’s declared climate emergency, aiming to minimise and mitigate carbon at all stages in the process.
Speaking at today’s Cabinet meeting, Councillor David Baines, Labour Leader of St Helens Borough Council, said: “This is a hugely important meeting and the items before us are among the most significant any of us will ever take while serving on this council. I want to thank Cllr McCauley, council officers, and our partners at English Cities Fund and all those who have worked so hard – throughout a pandemic – to draw up these plans and get us to this point.
We want both St Helens and Earlestown town centres to be a source of pride. Child and family-friendly places, home to thriving local businesses, quality homes, leisure and outdoor spaces, with great transport links, digital connectivity and future-proof to address the climate emergency.
That’s what our partnership with ECF and these plans will deliver.
The draft plans are ambitious but deliverable, and I’m looking forward to seeing the comments and suggestions of as many residents, businesses and public sector partners as possible in the weeks ahead.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and one we intend to seize.”
Labour Councillor Richard McCauley, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Planning, said: “I am delighted to bring forward this positive and momentous report that outlines the Draft Masterplan Development Framework for St Helens and Earlestown town centres. The consultation will be widespread covering all media channels, events, focus groups and activities, and will be in accordance with our recently adopted Community Engagement Strategy.
The level of interest from the public in these proposals is clearly demonstrated from the websites crashing due to unprecedented demand last week on the day the Cabinet Papers were published. We truly want and need to hear the views of the residents and businesses of the Borough as our plans are a once in a lifetime opportunity, so it is vital we get them right. We will ensure that when I bring back the final documents they will have been informed by the views, opinions and feedback from the public, visitors, partners, and businesses.
The extensive public consultation will commence from 1st November and will cover a six-week period ensuring we get maximum coverage and engage with as many people, partners, businesses, and groups as possible. Activities include:
• Physical events including a week long exhibition in a vacant shop unit from W/C 8th November as well as a series of smaller pop-up events to engage a wider audience
• Social media advertising – including Facebook, Instagram, Linked In
• Press releases and paid for advertising
• Posters – in a range of venues, on buses all utilising QR codes making it easy for people to give us their views and ideas whilst on the move.
• Digital advertising on the Council’s variable message signs
• Written letters, emails, face to face and virtual meetings held with those stakeholder groups including existing market traders, businesses, bus, and taxi operators affected by the proposed transport proposals, etc.
• Project websites will act as the hub for each consultation
I am confident that this council can and will deliver for our residents utilising innovative partnerships with the private sector and securing the funding to turn the plans into reality.”
Leon Guyett, development director at The English Cities Fund, said: “We’re proud to receive confirmation from the cabinet on our draft masterplans. This signals the shift in focus to the delivery stage of our borough-wide partnership, starting with the regeneration of both St Helens and Earlestown town centre.
“We’ll look forward to speaking to the community very soon, as we work together to bring these exciting proposals to life. We’re committed to bringing truly transformative regeneration to the borough, driving investment into the heart of the area, bringing jobs, new homes, along with a revitalised retail offer and public spaces.”
The consultation into the draft masterplan frameworks includes pop-up shops in each town centre, stalls at various community locations and you can find a full schedule of events by following St Helens Borough Council’s @sthelenscouncil on Twitter and Facebook.