Prescot Town Centre: Time to Get Radical

By on Thursday, March 20, 2014

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Big changes to Prescot call not for hand-wringing attempts to cling to the status quo, but for a radical rethink of the historic town centre, writes the editor.

Home Bargains and the Post Office – two of Prescot’s biggest high street draws – are set to make their departure from the town centre.

Both will relocate elsewhere in Prescot, with Home Bargains planning a major development near Cables Retail Park.

Undoubtedly the loss will be a blow to a town centre that is already visibly declining. But mere protests at the change will not reverse the trend of major retailers moving to edge-of-town developments.

The long-term answer, I believe, is not to convince major stores to move to or remain in the town centre – it can never compete with the vast retail space and commercial opportunities available down the road.

The long-term answer is to completely rethink the town centre. If it can’t compete, it must provide something different.

What will that difference look like? For one, the conservation area of Eccleston Street and its surrounding streets has a unique character and heritage that has been waiting a long time to be exploited for the benefit of the town.

Investment has begun through the Townscape Heritage Initiative, and this is a big step in the right direction.

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The future will likely lie with small businesses – boutique shops, independent retailers offering products and experiences you can’t get at a big-name superstore.

It will lie with arts, culture and entertainment. After a positive response from local surveys, Knowsley Council is still seriously pursuing a small cinema for the town centre, and the Shakespeare North Trust still wants to open a theatre and academic institute.

It will lie with community projects that bring residents together face-to-face in a way that can’t be replicated in the generic, anonymous environment of a retail park.

With a coherent plan for a thriving town centre, we have a chance of bringing back custom to some of Prescot’s long-established traditional small shops, too, such as the bakers, butchers and greengrocers.

But it does need an overall plan. It can’t be piecemeal. We need a clear vision of Prescot town centre and a map to get us there.

What does your vision for Prescot’s future look like? And how will we get there?

Dave

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