A REGENERATION project that is promised to transform St Helens town centre is inching closer to the start of the process.

Aware of declining footfall figures and issues facing businesses in the town centre, St Helens Council is trying to address this with its "once in a lifetime" plans.

Aiming to attract more people and restore a sense of pride in St Helens, the council aims to build new office, retail and residential space, as well as a new market hall, a new and improved bus station and a hotel.

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Timeline of regeneration plans

St Helens Star: Much more residential space is planned to occupy the town centreMuch more residential space is planned to occupy the town centre (Image: St Helens Council)

With the regeneration project set to begin with the demolition of the Hardshaw Centre, successive businesses have been leaving the shopping centre since the turn of the year.

Some businesses, like Barnados and the Country Kitchen, have left the town for good, although many others have moved into units inside Church Square shopping centre, leaving more traders in closer proximity to one another.

As more information has been revealed about the regeneration plans, the start of the Hardshaw Centre's demolition has been given an expected start date of late 2023.

Following the shopping centre's destruction, construction and infrastructure work will then begin in Spring 2024.

If everything goes to plan, it is expected that the first phase of regeneration will be completed in 2025.

Further regeneration phases

St Helens Star: Further construction is planned following the completion of Phase OneFurther construction is planned following the completion of Phase One (Image: St Helens Council)

Following the expected completion of the first phase of regeneration plans, further works are anticipated in and around the town centre.

If all goes to plan, the second phase of regeneration will begin in 2025/26 with the demolition of St Mary's Arcade and associated car park, to be replaced by residential developments such as townhouses and apartments.

The planned demolitions are planned to create new development sites in and around the canal, which will also allow for the improvement of the environment around The World of Glass and former Chalon Way Car Park site. 

Improved amenity spaces and connectivity will also facilitate new pedestrian and bus movements through the town centre, it is planned.

What is the public response to the plans?

St Helens Star: Residents have questioned the viability of a new hotelResidents have questioned the viability of a new hotel (Image: St Helens Council)

While the majority of residents are in agreement that the town centre is in urgent need of regeneration, there has been a degree of public scepticism as the first phase plans, which represent an investment of £70m to £80m, have been revealed.

Some residents have questioned whether a new 150 bed hotel is necessary in a town centre which already has the Mercure on the Linkway, while others have criticised plans to demolish the Swan pub on Corporation Street, in order to make way for a new and improved bus station.

However, with hundreds of residents visiting the recent consultation events in the town centre, there has been praise for some of the bold designs, such as the 23-stall modern market hall.

READ > Hundreds turn out to see St Helens town centre transformation plans

What has the council said?

St Helens Star: Regeneration plans are nearing the start of constructionRegeneration plans are nearing the start of construction (Image: St Helens Council)

Cllr David Baines, leader of St Helens Council, said: “This is an extremely exciting time for our borough with major regeneration projects at various stages of development, from new schools already delivered and Glass Futures nearing completion, to the Parkside redevelopment and much, much more.

“Our town centres in St Helens and Earlestown are key to our borough and of huge importance to local people. Their rejuvenation is critical to our borough’s future, and I am delighted to see our once in a lifetime plans for St Helens reach the next stage of the process.

“We are totally focussed on providing the right conditions that will revitalise the town centre.

"With our focus on heritage, children and families, and our high ambitions for the future, we want to support the hundreds of local independent businesses already operating there and the growth of new ones, provide the right infrastructure, and deliver quality spaces and places that local people of all ages can enjoy.”