COUNCIL chiefs have shown a glimpse into its upcoming bid for £25 million to boost the regeneration of St Helens town centre, as the deadline fast approaches.

In September 2019, St Helens was one of 101 towns invited to develop proposals for a share of the government’s £3.6 billion Towns Fun.

These proposals are being led by the Town Deal Board, which is made up of businesses, councillors, MPs, and a range of other partners.

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On Monday, St Helens Borough Council’s place services scrutiny committee received a progress update on the bid, which is due to be submitted in January 2021.

Lisa Harris, executive director for place services, said the bid will need to prove to government that there is “strategic narrative” for the town centre, with clear themes and objectives.

At present, the three themes and objectives are around delivering an “animated experience”, “shrink and link” and “connected communities”.

An animated experience – which Ms Harris admitted some people may think it “doesn’t really mean anything to them” – is about increasing footfall and creating things for people to do in the town centre.

One thing the Town Deal Board think will increase footfall in the town centre, is the creation of quality accommodation.

Ms Harris said: “This thematic at the moment is very much at a high level, and we are thinking about the types of town centre living that we want to bring in.

“The thematic is looking at areas of the town centre that we can develop for residential development, but recognising that this residential development is not equivalent to a city.

“It’s about actually recognising the place that St Helens is, the town centre that we want it to be and the accommodation, the quality of the accommodation that we want to provide as well.

“So the accommodation that we will look at will focus on each of those elements.

“It’s thought that by bringing accommodation into a town centre, creates footfall beyond that office trading hours, which is possibly what we have at the moment.”

St Helens Star: The St Helens Town Deal Board think quality accommodation in St Helens town centre will increase footfallThe St Helens Town Deal Board think quality accommodation in St Helens town centre will increase footfall

Another central theme of the bid is around improving connectivity between the borough’s many communities to St Helens town centre.

“At the moment, our town centre has what we are calling a concrete collar around it,” Ms Harris said.

“That’s the road network at the moment, it very much restrains the town centre and can cause what the transport industry would call ‘severance’, it stops people from getting to the town centre in a sustainable manner.

“However, we do have lots of assets in relation to our railway station, our bus station, and also the green routes that we have and that we need to increase.

“So our investment into sustainable travel, our investment into the bus services, and also linking the railway station better to the rest of the town centre, are all areas that will receive investment in the plan.”

Ms Harris said developing St Helens’ digital high streets for the independent market will be included in the bid.

The bid will also look to build on the £54 million Glass Futures project, and  how it can be used as a catalyst to attract other businesses to the town.

Another scheme that has been announced is the demolition of Chalon Way Car Park, which is intended to kick-start the regeneration around Sankey Canal.

Ms Harris said the canal is a “key asset” that has been underused, and said the scheme will create a new site for redevelopment at the Chalon Way site.

She said discussions with a number of different businesses are ongoing about how the site will be used in the interim.

St Helens Star: Chalon Way Car Park is set to be demolishedChalon Way Car Park is set to be demolished

The demolition, which is pending on planning approval, will be funded by £1 million from the government’s town deal accelerated fund.

However, the money has to be spent by March 2021, a turnaround Ms Harris described as “exceedingly challenging to say the least”.

Ms Harris also revealed that the council’s appointments committee agreed at its meeting on Monday a shortlist for the new director of strategic growth.

She said they will be tasked with turning strategy and ideas into delivery on the ground, with a focus on St Helens and Earlesltown town centres.

Richard McCauley, cabinet member for regeneration and planning, told councillors the Covid pandemic has hampered the council’s regeneration plans this year, with its focus being largely on helping businesses.

He assured the committee there is a list of projects that are being drawn up ready for submission in January.

However, he said it is “not right” to bring any plans to the scrutiny committee before they have been to the Town Deal Board, as it is private sector led.

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Cllr McCauley said: “I’m conscious it might not seem much is happening, from where you are at the moment,

“But a hell of a lot has been going on in the background.

“And I’m real excited about our new strategic director hopefully being recruited very shortly, and we can start on delivering.”