Send us news by text, start your message Star News and your send photos and videos to 80360
Time to go green
A VISION to turn the town green in a bid to attract more shoppers, visitors, entrepreneurs and investment, has been unveiled.
St Helens Green Party, which is seeking to rival the three mainstream political parties in the borough, is proposing a raft of improvements within a one mile radius of the town centre.
Debate has raged about the direction of the town’s major shopping area, with the loss of key stores during the recession and an increase in budget stores giving critics ammunition.
The Greens, who are keen to generate debate among Star readers, suggest an ‘over-reliance on fast food joints, bars, pound stores and charity shops’ is evidence the ‘town centre is experiencing a worrying decline’.
Among the party’s suggestions are demolishing eyesores and improving what it describes as a ‘concrete jungle’ image. Other ideas include external enhancements, such as using ‘vertical gardens’ to conceal ugly facades.
A mini-parkland in Church Square, a greener Victoria Square and more farmers’ markets are included in the vision.
Dumping bland road names, such as Linkway, and replacing them by titles of local relevance, such as Sir Thomas Beecham Way, is another idea.
Others include allowing shopping units to be made available on a wider tenure for local start-up shops – and stiffer action to be taken against absentee landlords who block improvements.
Greens chairman, Andrew Donnelly, said: “We care about St Helens and lots of other people do too. If we can all get our heads together then maybe we can turn things around.
“St Helens Green Party wants a town centre that is attractive and vibrant, with a truly diverse mix of shops, bars and cafes – the opposite of what we have now.
“We have to encourage genuinely local businesses that are in St Helens for the long haul, rather than here today, gone tomorrow chain stores.
“Two thirds of the country’s half a million retail outlets are independent. Perhaps this is the way back for St Helens?”
However, Barrie Grunewald, deputy leader of St Helens Council, pointed to measures already in place designed at boosting the town centre. He pointed to more than £8 million of European funding that has helped the council expand its programme of town centre activities.
He added: “Much of the new infrastructure has paved the way for more events such as speciality markets and fun activities to help attract more shoppers.
“Many suggestions would not be viable as many buildings are privately owned and agreement would have to be sought before any building was ‘greened’.
“This would of course be costly to maintain as would turning any area into mini parkland which would limit the use of the square for events not to mention the parish church’s need for access for weddings and funerals.”
The Greens want to know what residents, business owners and community groups think too.
Send comments or ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Twitter and Facebook pages. Star readers can debate this story on our comments section on sthelensstar.co.uk or write a letter to Dear Star