THE regeneration of St Helens town centre is set to take a major step forward – with pre-construction work including the demolition of the Hardshaw Centre.

A report on the town centre regeneration programme, for the phase 1A "enabling works", will come before the council’s cabinet at its meeting next Wednesday.

In September, the cabinet approved the investment of £69.2 million of council funding to deliver phase 1A of the St Helens town centre regeneration initiative, together with a number of related delegations that have subsequently "progressed positively".

According to the report, in advance of signing the contract for the main phase 1A delivery works with the principal contractor, which is scheduled for autumn 2024, there is "now a need" to progress pre-construction "enabling works" – involving a financial commitment of £7.41 million from the agreed capital funding allocation.

This investment would be administered through a "development funding agreement" with the English Cities Fund.

The Hardshaw Centre will be demolished

The cabinet is recommended to delegate authority to the executive director of place – in consultation with the cabinet member for inclusive growth and regeneration and the Section 151 officer – to authorise up to £7.410 million expenditure from the approved St Helens town centre phase 1A investment to progress pre-construction "enabling works".

Members are also recommended to delegate authority to the executive director of place – in consultation with the cabinet member for transport and environment, and the Section 151 officer – to authorise £8.906 million of expenditure to progress design requirements for the St Helens multi-modal transport interchange in advance of the receipt of £7.886 million of funding from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority – as well as to delegate authority to the director of legal and governance, in consultation with the executive director of place, to "execute related development funding agreements with the English Cities Fund".

The report says that the "enabling works" encompass all activities that are reasonably required to enable commencement of construction for the new buildings and associated public realm improvements in the phase 1A development.

A CGI of the planned transformation (Image: St Helens Council)

These include site establishment works, "post vacant possession asbestos surveys", an "allowance for asbestos removal should asbestos be found", demolition of the Hardshaw Centre, and post-demolition site investigation works.

The report also states that the delivery of the multi-modal interchange project is "integral to the transformation’ of St Helens town centre and the phase 1A development, adding that it will deliver a "state-of-the-art" bus station to meet the long-term future public transport needs and essential facilities for passengers.

What the council is saying

The council says the release of funding for the "critical first steps to start the delivery of the exciting transformation of St Helens town centre is set to be discussed at a cabinet meeting next week".

It adds that a decision will be made on committing £16.3million of earmarked funds to facilitate enabling works that incorporate the building of a new temporary bus station, together with demolition activity and "preparations for the first phase of the once-in-a-generation programme".

The funding includes up to £7.4million for works to finally close and demolish the Hardshaw Centre, site investigations and ground clearance down to a depth of 2.5 metres to prepare for the construction phase and hoardings around the site.

In a statement, Lisa Harris, executive director for place services at St Helens Borough Council, said: “The exciting regeneration of St Helens town centre, making it a place fit for the 21st century that communities can once again be proud of, will move from vision into reality if these funding plans are approved.

"This first phase will see all the works to prepare the site, from when the Hardshaw Centre finally closes its doors to the public, the site being made safe for demolition, before removal and groundworks to prepare for the transformational new buildings.

“This will see a magnificent new market hall that plays homage to our borough’s proud glass heritage take centre stage, a new pedestrian street leading directly from the new multi-modal interchange to the heart of Church Square, new shopping opportunities, a new internationally branded hotel and homes. “

"The funding also draws on £8.9million to support the multi-model interchange development on part of the site, including the first stage activity that will see works start on building a temporary bus station at Chalon Way West to continue to serve bus passengers over the construction period of the first phase development.

"While the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority will ultimately provide a significant part of the funding for this project, the council will initially use its own town centre budget to facilitate and earlier start on site with subsequent reimbursement.

“To help the scheme move forward as one overall programme, the council is proposing to put forward the initial funding for the multi-modal interchange project as the temporary bus station initiative is a key part of moving phase one along into full delivery.

"We know residents are keen to see work start on the long-awaited regeneration programme and this funding will now help us make vital progress towards the transformational change of St Helens town centre."