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Leisure at Bootle Canalside remains a priority. Credit: via Sefton Council

Sefton rethinks after LUF setbacks

Neil Tague

The local authority is continuing with plans for Bootle Canalside, but is reconsidering options for Crosby town centre as it lines up fresh bids for further funding rounds.

Boris Johnson’s government announced the first round of winners in its £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund stream at the end of October, with North West bids securing £232m of support within the £1.7bn announced.

However, Sefton’s pair of bids were not among the 105 successful bids from a total field of around 300, leading to a redesign of the bid for Crosby town centre.

A report prepared for the meeting of Sefton’s cabinet on 6 January provides an update on feedback received from government and activity as to the projects, and advises support for up to three LUF bids in future funding rounds.

The report also confirmed that a bid for £3.5m in Arts Council support for the £75m Southport Marine Lake Event Centre, which is half-bankrolled by the Towns Fund, has been unsuccessful.

Sefton had bid for £14.5m in Levelling Up Fund support to kickstart the Bootle Canalside project, a mixed event, entertainment and food & drink destination to include a “Flying Theatre” in its second phase.

The council also wanted £19.2m for “Reimagining Crosby,” a town centre regeneration project centred around a library, health & wellbeing centre and 30 apartments, along with improved pedestrian and cycle facilities.

In the report, it is explained that of the three headings councils were advised to bid under – town centre regeneration, culture and transport – the majority were, like Sefton’s pair, regeneration-based.

However, all of those attaining a certain score to when bidding to support cultural or transport projects were approved, with a much lower success rate for regeneration schemes, suggesting a greater weight given to benefits in those areas may help future bids, should the same criteria be used.

Although little specific feedback was offered by government, both Sefton’s bids scored well on “strategic fit,” one of four key criteria, along with value for money, deliverability and characteristics of place.

The update for cabinet reported that “work has continued and is continuing for options and opportunities” for Bootle Canalside, along with the long-term repurposing of the adjacent Strand shopping centre, bought by the council in 2017.

However, there is a rethink on the cards for Crosby. The report says that further consultation with communities has recently been undertaken “and a review of alternative options will be undertaken in the coming months”.

Sefton remains committed to securing any and all backing available through LUF, however it said it will continue to challenge the borough’s classification in ‘Category 3’, which should deprivation come into play as a key consideration, would place Sefton at a disadvantage.

A further blow has come with the confirmation in the report that a bid for £3.5m in Arts Council England backing to go towards Southport’s Marine Lake Events Centre has been unsuccessful.

The £75m attraction was and is the centrepiece of Southport’s £37.5m Towns Fund application, which was approved in the March 2021 Budget.

As Place North West reported in June, the bid was time-sensitive, and has been refused on the grounds that the project is scheduled to finish later than the March 2025 deadline for projects in this funding round.

ACE advised the council that it had discussed the issue with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport but said no flexibility had been offered.

The project remains well supported locally, with Liverpool City Region’s Combined Authority last month committing further cash to pre-development funding, with a £2.3m package.

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The strand needs to be knocked down and a retail park of smaller shops should replace it with a link from the canal through to north park. Its an ugly, depressing building lost in the 80s.

Crosby village should reopen the road through it, and add some layby/EV charging hubs. Nobody goes to Crosby village because nobody knows whats there. If people could drive through it and see the offering they will be more inclined to visit. Its got no character.

By Geoff