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.

prescot_producers_market

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

13 Comments

  1. Vivienne Frodsham

    Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Couldn’t agree more. Well said.

  2. andy shons

    Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 9:39 am

    The cobbles were laid so people could walk around the shops due to no other competition, remove the cobbles, get vehicles back up and down the street, get thousands of people up the street not just the oddpedestrian, sometimes the way to move forward is to move backwards a bit. Andy shone . NZ

  3. Philip Battle

    Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 10:53 am

    ….Sometimes you have to look back to look forward; In 1592, Prescot was full of little artisan pottery kilns and at the centre of a fledgling pottery industry based on the natural clay bed it was built on. Places like “Pottery Fields” and “Clay Lane” still exist today. It’s just one idea, but Prescot needs a USP to bring people back…in the 1500’s it was pottery, in the 1800’s watch-making, in the 1900’s copper wire manufacturing…..today it has nothing. It needs a new bold vision!

  4. Stephen Nulty

    Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 11:27 am

    I am in broad agreement with the Editor’s comments. Prescot is not the only High Street that is struggling, it is a national phenomenon. We live in times where change is a part of everyday life; compare TV’s with 20 years ago, think what you did before PC’s and Mobile Technology, 200+ TV chanels, etc. These are all changes which we have successfully embraced into everyday life and the High Street also needs to embrace change and not just look back to its halcyon days.

    The role, purpose and need of the High Street has changed in the modern world with online retail and edge of town shopping.

    In my view, there will always be a place for small and specialised retailers in the High Street, but the key question will always be how do we attract customers. Public transport has a role to play, and a small bus service running a loop through Eccleton Street to the Retail Park would help, especially if fares could be subsidised.

    But also look to change part of the role away from shopping and into leisure. Prescot has always been well endowed with pubs, but what about eateries? It is a well know fact that retailers are attracted to their competitors locations, so McDonalds will often pop up close to a Burger King, etc.

    KMBC should embark on a programme of attracting leisure outlets, with business rates reflecting the aim of revitalisation and not just revenue earning. Imagine strolling along Eccleston Street and having a choice of Frankie & Bennies, Nandos or Pizza Hut, etc. And of course the second part of this approach is that it brings life to the area in the evenings and would coimplement a small cinema and other entertainment attractions.

    So yes, let’s be radical, let’s be innovative but let’s also be realistic that we need to define and develop a High Street fit for the long term future, otherwise we’ll be asking the same questions in a very short time.

  5. Malcolm Ellis

    Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 11:46 am

    Well said Stephen Nulty, what Eccleston Street needs is bars and restaurants, Lark Lane springs to mind. Unfortunately I think this plan would be met with opposition from Merseyside Police as they have much more important parts of Merseyside to through their recourses at.

  6. Alan Higham

    Friday, March 21, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    I could have written this myself – 100% spot on…. attracting ‘leisure shoppers’ is the key…

  7. Mrs Mc

    Friday, March 21, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    It might help if the council hadn’t decided to charge for all their car parking facilities in Prescot. It’s laughable to see all the cars battling for space in the small Rays car park, while the council one they’ve had to drive through is empty. Of course, you could use the Prescot Centre – if it wasn’t FULL of post office workers cars (you’d think they’d al least park on the bottom car park, and leave the top one for actual shoppers trying to spend money!) It’s chaos of a weekend particularly, yet the centre is empty.

    • Sandra

      Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      I used to travel in from St Helens at least once or twice a week, but once they started to charge for parking I stopped.

  8. Karl Duvall

    Friday, March 21, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    I feel Prescot could break the mould if the KMBC had the vision to go with it.

    Set up an independent cinema, it doesn’t need to be a rip off multiplex, offer heavily reduced rental agreements to bring in more cafes and restaurants, Rainhill can and do, do this very successfully so why can’t Prescot?

    Why is the unit that used to be Somerfield still empty? has this not been offered to Aldi or Lidl as reduced cost? or is the rumour that Tesco took out a lease on the unit to keep it empty true? its a prime location for a store like the ones mentioned.

    The town needs more restaurants Pizza Hut / Frankie and Benny / Nando take your pick is KBMC promoting the town to these retailers?

    I can’t really see Prescot town centre surviving the next decade if radical change is not brought in..

  9. Mark Ahearne

    Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 8:14 am

    I was born and raised in Prescot, my parents still live there. I totally agree with the previous comments, KMBC really messed up, they have taken our leisure centre, swimming baths, and civic hall.
    They charge for parking spaces when the rival competition do not.
    Let’s face it KMBC have got it wrong for Prescot in a big way. But has this changed the amount of council tax you all pay?
    Also I would suggest that letting Tesco dictate terms to a council over which other superstores can come to Prescot has to be questionable are they still paying the rent to Prescot shopping centre for that large empty supermarket space in the town centre?
    Maybe we should, as mentioned, look to the past for some answers of how to revitalise this ancient market town. Anyone remember the camping store that used to be in the town centre, or the cinema, etc…
    There are plenty of good walks around Prescot, yet does it have an outdoors pursuits retail outlet?

    Thoughts from a once proud Prescotion

  10. Mike Kay

    Sunday, March 23, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    We need a few more eatery type places. I have heard that M & S food is to open on the retail park in September – pleased but wish it was in the town centre

  11. Dave J

    Monday, March 24, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Prescot Town Council and the people who live here / are from Prescot should be driving this.
    Lots of very positive ideas and comments for the town centre, I’d add in places like Lark Lane near sefton park, Grassington in Yorkshire have made excellent uses of their properties with bistros, cafes, boutique shops etc.
    Why can’t some of the shops be converted to residences? I’d rather have apartments in Ecclestone street than pound shops, arcades or empty units!

    The retail park is there to stay so we need people with vision who care about Prescot. Im afraid that rules out KMBC who care not one jot.

  12. S Campbell

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    I agree with the previous suggestion related to the Lark Lane feel for an improved Prescot. Let’s face it, Eccleston Street is not a draw for retail shopping anymore, especially not the National retail shops. Why not go down the independent boutique type feel with bars and restaurants. If they’re here, they will come! I also agree with the comments re parking, why should Prescot be punished by charging for parking? If the council put the work in to change the ‘purpose’ of Prescot it would reap the benefits in rents rather than parking fees.

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