Huyton welcomes new creative business space

The opening of a new creative space in Huyton is the final piece in Mayor Steve Rotheram’s £6m campaign to revitalise high streets and communities across the Liverpool City Region.

The transformation of a disused former Boots store into a space for artists and creative small businesses is the final project to be completed as part of the Town Centre Fund.

A bike and skate track, a sculpture trail, community hubs and shop makeovers are also among some of the eye-catching projects designed to inject new vibrancy to the high street.

The improvements came from the Mayor’s Town Centres Fund which set aside £6m – up to £1 million for each of the city region’s six local authorities – to support plans to revitalise town centres.

The fund has also enabled masterplan strategies, public realm improvements, physical and digital infrastructure, business support, town centre management and events and marketing activities.

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said, “Devolution has given the region the chance to chart our own course with local people choosing the priorities for our area. I launched my Mayoral Town Centre Fund when I was first elected to help rejuvenate our high streets, helping local councils to invest and to inject life back into the hearts of their communities.

“By working with our local authorities we have taken action to ensure they thrive over the next 20 years and now we are starting to see the results in our local communities.

“Empty shop premises are being transformed to create new spaces fit for the 21st century, high streets are being updated and important infrastructure has been put in place.”

“This is proper levelling up in action, giving local people the space and support they need to create, to learn and to build a brighter future for themselves.”

Knowsley Council bought a 7,000 sq ft former Boots store on Derby Road last year, as part of a ten-year development plan for Huyton Village Centre.

The building, which was previously the Mayfair cinema, has been renovated into a ‘maker space’, with workspaces for up to 40 people and is now open to the public.

A second empty unit across the road – formerly a pawnbroker – is being used as a pop-up gallery and community space to help makers get experience of selling their work.

Liam Kelly, CEO of Liverpool-based MAKE CIC, which is managing the site, said, “We have transformed what was an empty shop into a destination for creatives, makers and artists to work. It will also be a place to experiment with the innovation hub that we are going to launch here with access to equipment like 3-D printers, scanners and laser cutters.

“It is community access with a place for people to come and sit, work, get access to the internet, provided by LCR Connect, and hopefully will transform what is a dilapidated shop unit into something wonderful and transformative for Huyton.”

In Prescot, town centre funding was used to create a Shakespeare-themed sculpture trail made from some of the animals mentioned in the witches’ chant in Macbeth.

The heritage trail – made up of more than a dozen metal characters, perched on pillars and other locations, and created by Brian Fell and George Fell – celebrates the town’s connections to the Bard.

In addition, businesses used grants to get shop fronts modernised or returned to their original historic form while ducting and pop-up power supplies were installed to facilitate events.

Louise Gillespie, chair of the Prescot Business Club and owner of Jessie & Co, said, “Everybody knows about Shakespeare North and the new theatre has had a massive effect but there have also been lots of improvements. We have had lots of shop fronts improved, many through the Town Centre Fund, the Macbeth trail with lots of characters scattered through the town centre.

“I opened my shop nine years ago and have seen so many positive changes since then. For me it’s lovely to see how many improvements we have had in Prescot. This beautiful, historic town centre has had life put back into it again. It is lovely to see and I am proud to be part of it.”

Cllr Tony Brennan, Knowsley Borough Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development, said, “We have really ambitious plans for Huyton Village Centre and want to create a diverse offer. Derby Road has already benefited from significant investment through the Shopfront Improvement Scheme, which has brought in an array of new food and drink outlets, and there is so much more to look forward to as part of the ten-year development plan.

“In Prescot, the fund is contributing towards our transformation of the town centre.We’ve achieved so much already from major upgrades at Prescot railway station, physical improvements to buildings and areas in the town, new wayfinding signage and some striking pieces of public art.”

Empty shops in Runcorn’s Shopping City have been transformed to create a first-of-its kind NHS treatment hub and a Citizen’s Advice centre.

Southport market has been renovated to become a magnet for independent traders and Bootle canalside has had a makeover with locally-made planters paving the way for a new public entertainment space.

Business hubs and workspaces have been created in St Helens and Earlstown alongside grants to help traders recover from covid, including a high-tech scanner for a designer clothes retailer and a new two-storey gym and fitness centre.

The town’s night-time economy was given a boost with the award of the coveted Purple Flag – an accreditation which is proven to reduce crime and boost activity around pubs, clubs and restaurants

In Wirral, a new “pump” track for skaters and bikers has been created in Liscard’s Central Park with shopfronts renovated and improved across the town.

New Ferry – which was devastated by a gas explosion in 2017 – has seen the creation of a Community Land Trust which has turned a derelict pub into four affordable flats and commercial space.

A “greening” project to beautify the high street with planters and hanging baskets won a prestigious North West in Bloom award from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Liverpool’s Spellow Library has been transformed into a digitally-connected modern advice and learning hub alongside a new policing and community safety project in County Road which has disrupted criminal gangs, allayed fears over safety and launched a pioneering initiative to connect with vulnerable young people through boxing.

Councillor Mike Wharton, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Business, said, “This fund has clearly had a positive effect on our high streets and town centres and the sheer range of schemes is a testament to its success. From health and advice centres to community safety, creative spaces, cycle facilities and shopfront renovation, each of the six local authority areas has found ways to address issues which are important to their residents, adding vibrancy and making our communal spaces more attractive.”

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