THE Star recently reported after a reserved matters planning application was submitted setting out the granular details of the first phase of St Helens town centre’s regeneration plans.

Phase one covers 24 acres and will see a "tired" Hardshaw shopping centre replaced with a new town centre featuring new buildings and attractive public areas.

It will be created through a regeneration scheme being brought forward by St Helens Borough Council in partnership with the English Cities Fund (ECF).

Developers say the aim is to deliver "an ambitious vision to create a more vibrant, sustainable, and people-friendly town centre".

The £90m transformation plan is long-awaited with many Star readers expressing frustration at the paucity of change over the past decade.

This planning application covers a new market hall flanked by a mixed-use area set around a 120-bedroom "globally branded" hotel.

The plans also include 64 new homes, a 75,000 sq ft office space, 11,000 sq ft of modern retail space and extensive high-quality public spaces.

A separate planning application in the next few weeks will cover the other main element of phase one - the replacement of an existing and outdated bus station with a new modern multi-modal transport interchange.

The reserved matters application has now been validated and is listed on the council planning portal. Here is a look at some of the detail of what is proposed for phase one of the regeneration project.

The site for phase one comprises of the “northern portion of the masterplan minus the Gamble extension and bus station”. It also consists of the existing Hardshaw Shopping Centre.

Plots: 1. Extension to Gamble Institute 2. Bus Station 3. Commercial Office 4. Mixed use development, retail, hotel and residential 5. M&S Building Wrap 6. Market Hall 7. Retail and residential 8. Retail and residential 9. Retail and residential 10.

Plots: 1. Extension to Gamble Institute 2. Bus Station 3. Commercial Office 4. Mixed use development, retail, hotel and residential 5. M&S Building Wrap 6. Market Hall 7. Retail and residential 8. Retail and residential 9. Retail and residential 10.

Current town centre ‘shortcomings’

A design and access statement in the plans outline some of the shortcomings of the current town centre set-up which the regeneration seeks to address.

The plans state: “The focus of the town centre is Church Square dominated by St Helens Parish Church. Despite this the square feels hard and uninviting, a number of the large retail units are vacant having seen the likes of M&S move to out of town retail style parks”.

They add: “The square itself has the opportunity to be a positive dwell space on route through the town, a key focal point.”

Plans add having three large indoor shopping centres, Church Square, St Mary’s and Hardshaw, split over three sites “contribute to the poor way-finding and inactive frontages”. It is added: “There is a distinct lack of food and beverage outlets in the retail quarter. To the back of St Mary’s Shopping Centre is a purpose built market hall. This is under occupied and suffers from its location, its entrance on Chalon Way turning its back on the town centre”.

The current St Marys Market

The current St Mary's Market

Plans add: “Chalon Way, is overwhelmed by service entrances and feels dedicated to vehicular movements rather than an inviting place for pedestrians. The inactive frontage contribute to the poorly used public realm around The World of Glass, making it feel like its located on the outer fringes of the town”.

It is said: “To the west round the St Helens College are more traditional retail streets with historic frontages, which have character and intimacy. Given the adjacency of the College there is the potential for this to become a thriving area. The current offer of vertical drinking establishments doesn’t cater for the modern day shopper. The town hall, Victoria Square and the Transport Museum to the north of the centre are key assets. They are poorly linked which reinforces their location on the periphery of the town centre.

“By car, the likely arrival points are located at the surface or multi-storey car parks. Here the town centre presents inactive façades and backs of buildings. The town centre feels like it is turning its back on you rather then welcome you in”.

What do the plans propose?

The application states the objectives include to:

  • Create active frontages throughout the town. ·
  • Open up the desire lines improving natural way-finding. ‘Animated Experience’.
  • Improve and link public space, historic, cultural buildings, canal and existing positive streets. · Increasing the footfall throughout the town centre.
  • Create dwell spaces.
  • Intensify the retail experience ‘shrink and link’.
  • Creating a density appropriate to a town centre location. · The site is served by excellent transport connections.
  • Draw upon the heritage analysis of the site and street patterns.
  • The proposed development should learn from the existing negative environment. · Consolidate car parking supply to make car parks more efficient, reduce circulating vehicles in the town centre and promote sustainable travel.
  • Potential to soften the town centre through additional landscaping and creation of an area of open space.
A graphic in the plans of some of the main features of phase one

A graphic in the plans of some of the main features of phase one

Plans add: “A key move in our response is to restore the historic street grain.

“With a network of interconnecting shared surface streetscapes. The objective is to ensure pedestrians and cyclists can permeate through the town centre safely and with ease using the towns wayfinding points. Arrival points feed through the retail quarter increasing footfall providing places to dwell linking to all the four quarters and dispersing beyond.”

The statement says: “Positive active frontages are key to the success of any place. Streetscapes are activated through leisure, retail and residential use at ground level, providing an active 24/7 town centre.

“This is further animated through the introduction of more leisure use and artisan food offerings, reinvigorating the market hall giving the new and existing St Helens residents a range of amenity and breathing life into the town centre”.

It is stated that “arriving from the train station along Bickerstaffe Street the bus station and hotel welcome you into Bickerstaffe Square.

“The hotel frontage is entirely active with the front of house facilities, entrance, restaurant, bar and gym facing the bus station, they also provide natural surveillance. This active frontage on the ground floor of the hotel includes public art opportunities, to celebrate St Helens unique history”.

It is added: “The office and the hotel form the gateway to Street A on axis with the church tower at the heart of the town, each with their entrances off this key route. Retail at the ground floor of the buildings on Street A lead you down into the retail quarter with the new market hall elevated on a plinth overlooking Church Square”.

Meanwhile, “the market hall and point block (plot 4) form another gateway into phase 1 from the George Street quarter, the ground floor of the point block pulled back to form a colonnade. The scale and massing of the point block set up a relationship with the Masonic Hall to the east, the extra height of the two buildings creating a natural way-finding point.

“The scale of the existing and proposed terraces reduce as you move north up Hall Street towards the bus station. The market hall is a building in the round with entrances on all 4 corners allowing you to approach from any direction. Taking advantage of the fall in the site the building sits on a podium allowing people and seating to spill out of the hall away from the bustle of the street, a vantage point to watch the world go by”.

St Helens’ ‘unique’ architecture central to designs

Plans state that the “uniqueness” of the architecture of St Helens’ key buildings have inspired designs in the proposals.

The new hotel will include public art ‘celebrating St Helens’ great and good’

Plans state that Reflection Court, Pilkinton’s HQ from 1937 to 41, “has inspired the design of the Hotel, Plot 4A”.

Reflection Court

Reflection Court

The “beautiful curved form of the building, horizontal base and change in scale can clearly be seen in the proposal”.

Meanwhile, “the playful horizontal curved base of the hotel has been identified as a space for public art.

“The ground floor being clearly visible as you arrive off the bus or from the train station along Bickerstaffe Street is the ideal location. The proposal will be developed with an artist, the vision is that it will be a wall celebrating the great, good and famous of St Helens past and present, welcoming you to the town”.

The hotel will have a total of 120 bedrooms.

Market Hall – glass will ‘tell the story of St Helens’

The market hall is the central feature of phase one

The market hall is the central feature of phase one

Referencing St Helens’ old market hall as a “traditional Victorian market hall”, being “simple and elegant structure by its nature”, plans say the new market hall “follows this ethos to the letter”.

It says “the curtain walling allows a controlled indoor environment to be created, improving its year round use. This glazing has been identified as a public art opportunity to celebrate the uniqueness of St Helens.

“The design of stained glass windows will be developed with an artist, perhaps celebrating the commercial heritage of the town. As the sun moves round the building the glass will cast beautiful coloured shadows on the mark hall floor.

“At night a coloured light box beaming out exuding warmth and welcoming you in, the glass telling the story of St Helens.

“The use of timber both in the structure and elements of the cladding has a warmth similar to the sandstone of the Quaker Meeting House. The kiosks have their own character single storey blocks, like those in the original market hall, they allow you to enjoy the cathedral like space with light streaming in from the roof lights above.”

Plans add: “The market hall is located at the centre of the masterplan, putting it back at the heart of the town where it used to be in times gone by. Forming the part of the northern boundary of Church Square it will bring a focus back to the town centre”.

A graphic of the town centre regeneration plans

A graphic of the town centre regeneration plans

The 28 market stalls offer a variety of opportunities for retail, such as hot food, fresh food and traditional market stalls.

To the south the building opens allowing the space to spill out onto a plinth overlooking Church Square. Its on this southern edge a stage can be located to facilitate different kinds of performance.

Public art

Plans say: “Phase 1 of the masterplan has identified some areas for the inclusion of public art. They are located at key points to maximise interaction, promote what is unique about St Helens and celebrate its past and future”.

It is added: “An opportunity to create artwork which celebrates St Helens industrial heritage, located next to the hotel entrance on the gateway to Street A .

“A place to meet off the bus and a wayfinding point within the town centre. The idea is for a mural/ relief depicting St Helens industrial heritage using the diverse colour palette of the historic bricks produced in St Helens. They could be celebrating the Daglish Foundry or Greenalls Brewery both formerly on the site of the Hardshaw Shopping Centre or the future of Glass.”

Glass history, Glass futures, Brewing, Technology, the many items the Daglish Foundry manufactured could be depicted in the stained glass windows within the market hall. The perfect location for this celebration at the centre of St Helens within Church Square, the beating heart of the town.”

A graphic of the town centre plans

A graphic of the town centre plans

Sculptural busts to celebrate town figures

It is added there is “an opportunity to celebrate the personalities of St Helens from historic figures, sport stars and local community heroes.

“This can be represented through a series of sculptural busts of notable people, set within the playful base of the hotel ground floor. Located here they are immediately visible as you arrive from the train station along Bickerstaffe Street, and they greet you from the bus station.”

Quiet space

There will be “A Place to Reflect”. Plans state: “Town centres are busy places to live, work and play, and time and areas to prioritise well-being are important. Set off the main streets, Street B, we have identified a quiet space between the two residential blocks of plot 4.”

Pocket park will feature ‘outdoor KES’

It is added: “The area to the east of the market hall along Hall Street has been identified as a pocket park. Kes the child eating snake winds its way through the landscape and there are pockets of play with landscape creating a safe buffer to the road. Play varies from ramps, rain gardens to possible table tennis tables with places to sit end enjoy the space, catch up with friends or meet new ones.”

The famous KES will be reminagined

The famous KES will be reminagined

Plans state “reinventing” the popular former Hardshaw Centre play feature “alongside the Market Hall” will “re-enforces the link to St Helens’ recent history”.

It adds: “By utilising the serpent shape as seating and in ground play elements forms a delightful route with functional seating and exciting play features.”


Plans state: “The landscape masterplan provides a series of exemplary streets and spaces that are sensitive to the past, progressive and are designed to create a vibrant future for St Helens Town Centre.

“The approach to the public realm design within Phase 1 of this town centre regeneration scheme is to create a network of streets and spaces that knits together the old with the new and to create life between the buildings and places where people can connect with each other, their environment and the heritage of the town.”

Plans add the public realm will include “a new town centre quarter where you can sit and watch the world go by, bounce on a trampoline, run through a water jet or admire a piece of public art. To be able to sit at an outdoor dining table with friends drinking a fresh coffee or having your lunch that you bought from the new market.”

Among the main themes of the public space will be “St Helens’ness”, with “the desire for the town centre to radiate local character”.

Plans state there will be “Inclusive Design Principles” including accessible routes and cycle routes.

There will be “seating options” with “a variety of seating types of varying heights, back and arm rests etc. with the ability for wheelchair users to sit next to friends”.

There will also be provision for the blind and partially-sighted and also aims to “encourage girls and women to feel safe in the public realm,” with features such as openness and good lighting.

A graphic of the town centre plans

A graphic of the town centre plans

Street scenes

The four development plots within Phase 1 “create two new streets running north to south, Street A on axis with the Church tower connects the bus station with Church Square, the heart of the town.

“Running east to west Claughton Street is extended weaving through and linking the George Street Quarter. These key moves will improve the north south and east west permeability of the town centre and improving natural way-finding.”

Street A

A graphic of Street A in the plans

A graphic of Street A in the plans

Plans state that “Street A” is envisaged as “a high quality pedestrianised street that provides a direct link between the bus interchange and Church Square. Framing views southwards of St Helens Parish Church tower, it is animated by shops, cafés and businesses that spill out and activate the space”.

Bickerstaffe Street

Meanwhile, Bickerstaffe Street is “a new green space situated between the proposed hotel and existing/new bus station.

“This verdant green space will be a key first impression for commuters arriving from the bus and train station. The playful use of planting, colour and local interpretation will set the scene for a reinvigorated town centre”.

Library Street

Plans state that a “Library Street” will act as “an improved pedestrian priority link between The Gamble, Town Hall and bus station to the north and the main retail core of the town centre. It is a multifunctional street, allowing service access, drop off and parking”.

Linking streets

Meanwhile, the “linking streets make up the east-west axis through the Phase 1 plan, pedestrianised streets that utilise the southern facing façades to create pockets of green space with seating, cycle storage and a raised contemplative garden space to animate the public realm.”

Plans state that a courtyard boundary fence will feature “a pattern inspired by previous Greenall Brewery theme”.

Also among the plans is a contemplative garden with the opportunity to acknowledge St Helens heroes or key local events

Also among the plans is a contemplative garden with the opportunity to acknowledge St Helens heroes or key local events

Communal Courtyard

Meanwhile, the “Communal Courtyard” encompasses a “functional and social space with provision for residents vehicle needs as well and a verdant green space filled with playful elements and planting”.

Hall Street

Plans state “the vision for Hall Street is to create a simple, traditional high quality urban residential street with well defined and articulated frontages encouraging casual surveillance and a comfortable street scene for pedestrians.”

Plans add “The Market Plinth is part of the key destination. Drawing people to the core of the town centre both in the day and night. With opportunities for outdoor dining, dwell spaces, exciting play features and tying into the forward looking town centre vision.”


Plans state “Plot 3, the office, occupies the north west corner of the Phase 1 development. Setting up a clear relationship with the Gamble Building and The Theatre Royal these buildings form the northern, western and southern boundaries of the new Bickerstaffe Street and new public space.”

Former M&S

Plans add: “Plot 5, located to the south west of the site is a slender facade wrapping the eastern facade of the former M&S block, left exposed from the demolition of the Hardshaw Shopping Centre.

“It masks the exposed demolition of the facade forming the western edge of Street A. The new facade allows the large anchor store unit to be subdivided into smaller retail units appropriate to the town centre.”


The design and access statement concludes: “The principals in this document set the vision for Phase 1 of the St Helens Masterplan which will deliver a sustainable, mixed-use community, providing new homes and employment space along with associated leisure and amenity to serve this emerging destination and create a sustainable thriving town centre.

“The demolition of the Hardshaw Shopping Centre and the realisation of Phase 1 delivers one of the key masterplan moves.”

It adds: “All the buildings within Phase 1 are inspired by the rich history of St Helens. They respect and embed themselves in this history, to acknowledge the past but strive for the future in their design approach. Inspiration has been drawn upon in the choice of materials, building design and details that ground the building in its locality. The intention is to create a bespoke response that celebrates St Helens.

“This rich history is woven into the designs of each building creating new stories which people can be proud of and identify with.”

Public consultation

The reserved matters application for phase one is on standard consultation to the public until Wednesday, January 3, 2024, with a determination deadline set for March 5, 2024.