The Merseyside coastal town has unveiled further proposals for its interconnectivity “refresh”, including 300,000 sq ft of new public spaces in the town centre and waterfront, and improved pedestrian and cycling routes.
Outline proposals were contained in Southport’s £50m bid to the Government’s Town Deal fund, submitted earlier this month. Sefton Council has now provided fresh details of the public realm component of its bid – a project it has named Les Transformations de Southport, after a story about how Prince Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, the future Napoléon III, living in exile in Southport after the French Revolution and inspired by the grandeur of the town’s Lord Street, ordered architect Baron Haussmann in 1838 to model the reconstruction of Paris on it.
The project will review interconnectivity across the whole town centre, from improved pedestrian and cycling routes in the town centre and waterfront, to the creation of new public spaces for hosting events, according to Sefton Council.
A key proposal of the Town Deal submission included a request for funding to facilitate the early phases of this project, which are proposed to deliver 323,000 sq ft of well-connected and high-quality public spaces, which give priority to walking and cycling to support ‘clean’ growth.
The first phase would also include a new civic events space on Lord Street, and public realm enhancements in area adjacent to the other components of the Town Deal bid, such as a 1,200-seat convention and events centre on the site of the Southport Theatre and Convention Centre, which closed this year because of the pandemic.
Cllr Marion Atkinson, cabinet member for regeneration and skills at Sefton Council, said: “Les Transformations de Paris made the French capital the “Southport of the South”. Les Transformations de Southport will ensure we again fulfil the potential of our public realm spaces, on Lord Street and beyond.
“When we carried out our consultation on the Town Deal bid, the connection between Lord Street and the Promenade, and the need to maintain existing infrastructure to create safe spaces accessible for all emerged strongly as priorities.”
The council said it hopes the project would deliver significant improvements on key routes, providing an improved visitor experience on arrival and in the town centre, resulting in increased focus and footfall for the town centre.
Cllr Atkinson added: “The town centre is currently dominated by north-south movements, particularly by vehicles, resulting in relatively poor east-west connectivity between the seafront area and the town centre and there are many competing demands for highway space which can be difficult to accommodate.
“The post Covid-19 decline in public transport use may also create additional pressure on the highway network to accommodate private vehicles. If we can address these issues, provide infrastructure which allows for more walking and cycling in the town centre, along with the associated health and wellbeing outcomes, it will provide an entirely different proposition for visitors, strengthening Southport’s vibrancy, attractiveness and accessibility, and enhancing visitor numbers.”