TALKS are continuing between council chiefs and store bosses over relocation plans for stores in the Hardshaw Centre ahead of the venue’s demolition.

As the Star reported this week, TJ Hughes has become the latest store to confirm it will relocate to Church Square Shopping Centre.

The shop will move into the unit currently occupied by Poundland.

Relocation plans

Relocation plans are being put in place due to the first phase of the transformation of St Helens town centre, which includes the flattening of the St Helens bus station, properties on Bickerstaffe Street and the Hardshaw Centre.

The aim is to consolidate more retail into the Church Square area to boost footfall. The moves that have already taken place are said to have had a positive effect.

So far, the likes of Shoe Zone, Bonmarche and Infinity Occasions have made the move, with chicken barbecue shop Womble Inn set to follow, along with TJs.

Waterfields bakers, meanwhile, plans to relocate to St Helens Retail Park.

But there remain question marks over the likes of Heron Foods, One Below and Aplha News.

Bus station plans

The Star understands talks are continuing with the affected stores to try and find them new homes, however, while the bus station remains in place on Bickerstaffe Street the shops want to remain because the location provides them with strong footfall.

But it is hoped they will make a move to Church Square – where there are vacant units – when the Hardshaw closes, which, it is understood, is likely to be early next year.

Where they locate could be dependent on where a temporary bus station is installed in the town centre.

Chalon Way, near to Church Square is believed to be one of the options under consideration following talks between St Helens Council and Merseytravel.

First phase of regeneration

The first phase £80m transformation of St Helens town centre is expected to include a new market hall flanked by a mixed-use area set around a 120-bedroom hotel, 64 new homes and 10,915 sq ft modern retail space.

The existing bus station will also be extended and renewed with a new modern interchange to encourage public transport and active travel usage.

St Helens Borough Council is working on a 20-year regeneration plan for the borough with the English Cities Fund, a strategic joint venture between Muse, Legal & General, and Homes England.

Earlier this week, the Star reported how a planning inspector has ruled in favour of St Helens Council's Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) which will see the Swan pub demolished as part of the regeneration scheme.

The proposals to regenerate St Helens town centre moved a further step forward when the planning inspector acting on behalf of the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities confirmed a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) in favour of St Helens Borough Council and its strategic delivery partner, the English Cities Fund.

Planning Inspector's decision

The Inspector’s decision, following the public inquiry held in St Helens town hall on Tuesday August 8, confirmed the council can use its compulsory purchase powers where private agreements cannot be reached. At the public inquiry, the council explained why it believed the acquisition of the Swan pub on Corporation Street is a necessary part of the regeneration plans.

This had proved to be a controversial decision with a petition to 'Save the Swan' reaching almost 2,000 signatures, but landlady Angela Hindley withdrew her objection after an agreement was reached with the council.

Councillor David Baines, leader of St Helens Borough Council, said: “Everyone in the borough wants to see our town centres regenerated so that they are places we can all be proud of, and the Council is committed to delivering this change with an ambitious once-in-a-lifetime plan. We have the right partners on board and the determination to carry it through.

“With the independent Planning Inspector’s confirmation that we may use compulsory purchase powers where agreements can’t be reached – which will always be our first priority – we can now move forward with confidence.”

A spokesperson for English Cities Fund said: “We are very pleased that we can now move our focus to the next stage of delivery this landmark scheme.

"We have outline planning permission and will now make a more detailed Reserved Matters application in September. The CPO hearing featured a strong representation from our regeneration partnership, and we are satisfied that the outcome allows us to progress.”