Council funds Skelmersdale town centre works

West Lancashire Council has agreed to invest £2.2m into public realm improvements and infrastructure around St Modwen’s 100,000 sq ft retail and leisure scheme in Skelmersdale, despite an ongoing legal challenge from the developer of a rival project.

The works include the construction of new public spaces, including a high street between West Lancashire College and the existing town centre, together with lighting, CCTV security measures and a children’s play area.

West Lancashire Council and the Homes & Communities Agency appointed St Modwen to redevelop the town centre in 2007. St Modwen drew up plans for a £350m development totalling 500,000 sq ft in 2008 but these were abandoned in the downturn.

Planning permission was granted in March for 100,000 sq ft of retail and leisure space, including a Reel Cinema, shops, restaurants and bars. The planning consent is currently subject to a legal challenge by London & Cambridge Properties, which is also developing a cinema-led leisure scheme nearby as part of the £4m refurbishment of the Concourse Shopping Centre.

A statement from St Modwen, the council and the HCA said that “the development partners hope that this will be resolved relatively quickly”.

London & Cambridge Properties was unavailable to comment.

Funding for the works is derived from a long-standing agreement between the HCA and the council, which provides flexibility for West Lancashire to invest in town centre regeneration initiatives.

St Modwen will deliver the public realm and infrastructure works as part of its broader contract for delivering new town centre development.

Cllr Ian Moran, leader of West Lancashire Council, said: “There is a strong drive from all partners to see the St Modwen scheme delivered on the ground and to ensure that the people of Skelmersdale receive new leisure and retail facilities that the town deserves. I am very pleased that we as a council are able to contribute to the scheme by funding appropriate public realm works and infrastructure within the area.”

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Skelmersdale needs developments like this to help it mature from New Town to a place that can meet its residents needs and fulfil its potential. The town must come first and the developers second. Good luck Skelmersdale and I look forward to seeing it all finished.

By Paul Blackburn (Chester)