A BID to create a Shakespearean playhouse in Prescot was debated in Parliament today (December 8).

The ambitious plans for a 'cockpit' theatre and education centre in the town are expected to be submitted imminently to Knowsley Council by The Shakespeare North Trust.

At the centre of the Prescot Playhouse development, which would be located on Mill Street car park near St Mary's Church, would be a theatre built to original 1629 plans.

At the Westminster debate, MP for St Helens South and Whiston Marie Rimmer and Knowsley MP George Howarth set out the potential benefits of the development to the local area.

George Howarth said the development represents an exciting opportunity, not only for Knowsley but for the whole Liverpool City Region.

He said the aim was to create a "leading public theatre with a student programme at its core" that would "contribute to the economic regeneration of an area which has deep connections with one of the nation's greatest cultural icons".

Mr Howarth listed the famous patrons who are backing the project, including Vanessa Redgrave, Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Paul McCartney, Phil Redmond, Willy Russell, Alison Steadman and Sue Johnston.

He said the playhouse would create a Shakespearean triangle with Prescot, Stratford and The Globe in London, and highlight Knowsley as a place where "people aspire to live, work and do business".

During the 1590s, Prescot was the site of the only freestanding purpose-built Elizabethan-era playhouse outside of London. It was built by Richard Harrington, who was closely connected to William Stanley, the Earl of Derby, whose family home was at Knowsley Hall.

The Shakespeare North Trust has been working on the plans for some years now with support from Knowsley Council. The project, which would cost around £19 million, would include a university college for literary scholars, a range of educational, leisure and community facilities, and a cultural piazza for performance and events.

Leader of Knowsley Council, councillor Andy Moorhead, said: "A development like this would have a huge positive impact on our borough.

"Not only would it create jobs and provide a huge stimulus to the local economy, but it would make Knowsley a must-visit destination for visitors from across the country and around the world.

"Prescot and Knowsley have a fascinating history and a rich heritage. The Elizabethan theatre and William Shakespeare have been an important part of that. This new playhouse could be the beginning of another exciting chapter in our local history."

If planning permission is granted, work could begin on the playhouse in early 2017.