Knowsley Council and the developer have agreed a deal to transfer 87 shops and 12.4 acres of land into council ownership in what is claimed to be the local authority’s largest-ever property investment.
The council said the move was a “significant step forward after 20 years of failed attempts from the private sector to progress with development in Kirkby”.
The first scheme to come forward will be a 94,000 sq ft retail-led scheme, which includes a Morrison’s supermarket, a 20,000 sq ft Home Bargains, and a KFC.
St Modwen bought the site for this development from Tesco in 2015 for £36m, but there has been little sign of work starting on site, despite demolition completing and the developer lining up contractor GMI to deliver the scheme, as revealed by Place North West last year.
This led Knowsley Council to step in in May this year, with leader Graham Morgan arguing Knowsley had “waited too long” for work to begin. The deal to buy the site was brought forward with St Modwen in July, with the leader of the council criticising the developer for being “extremely cautious” to proceed.
This deal has now been formally agreed and a contract has been signed with GMI to allow work to begin on the retail-led project on 9 December.
Knowsley said it would pay for the deal by borrowing the initial sum and paying the debt back from the rental income generated from new and existing businesses in the town centre and also by eventually selling some of the land acquired.
The local authority added it was “in advanced discussions with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority with a view to potentially identifying further funding opportunities”.
Elsewhere in Kirkby, the council is also progressing with plans to purchase the Knowsley Community College site on Cherryfield Drive as part of the College’s ambitions to open a new facility in the town centre.
“Cllr Graham Morgan, leader of Knowsley Council, said: “We have delivered on the commitment we announced a couple of months ago. In taking control of Kirkby town centre, we are now in a position to be able to bring forward the retail development which our residents need, and which we promised.
We have always been committed to regenerate Kirkby town centre and we have shared the frustrations of many of our residents over the years. This is the single biggest property investment which the council has ever made and we hope that it sends a strong message to our communities that we are behind them and will do everything we can to deliver the positive changes they want.”