Skelmersdale on the verge of massive regeneration

The short term economic future of Skelmersdale will be decided during the next six weeks, according to the economic development champion for West Lancashire, councillor Frank McKenna.

Frank McKenna 3After securing Reel Cinema as a key tenant for the long awaited town centre regeneration scheme in the town, councillor McKenna confirmed that a further dozen major retail and leisure groups were on course to sign up for a project that will potentially lead to the creation of up to 500 jobs, and generate more than £8m in new spend.

Plans include a retail and leisure offer that will establish a genuine night time economy for the town, a revitalised Tawd Valley that will be at the heart of the scheme and the development of up to 900 additional houses across the town.

McKenna said: “After too many years of waiting, the people of Skelmersdale can finally look forward to this project starting later this year, and being completed in 2018. The MP Rosie Cooper, the development partner St Modwens and the borough and county councils have worked tirelessly to bring this exciting plan to fruition, and I am delighted to see how much progress has now been made, particularly since January.”

However, councillor McKenna warned that there was still one potential hurdle for the project to overcome – a Judicial Review of the whole scheme which may be triggered by the owners of the Concourse Shopping Centre London & Cambridge.

Councillor McKenna added: “Having taken years to get to within a whisker of delivering what will be the biggest thing Skem has seen, we now have to wait with bated breath to see if this proposal is challenged by the owners of the Concourse.

“I will be disappointed if that happens, not least because this new regeneration scheme can only benefit the Concourse in the future. With the additional footfall this initiative will bring to the town, the jobs and the additional cash that will be circulating in the local economy, I believe the existing shopping centre would be shooting itself in the foot to oppose these plane – whilst confining Skelmersdale to a further period of frustration, uncertainty and economic decline.

“The town has been hit hard by three major recessions during its short history, and it has opted out of three economic upturns. UK Plc is currently enjoying growth, and it will be an absolute travesty if, through the actions of short sighted property owners who have no real interests in the town, we are forced to miss out on this latest wave of prosperity.

“I don’t think the community of Skelmersdale with either forgive or forget easily anyone who gets in the way of our best chance to put our town on the map for the right reasons.”

Councillor McKenna also confirmed that work is already under way to secure as many of the new jobs that will be created for local people, and that the council have plans to market the town’s economic development potential more aggressively in future years. “West Lancashire is at the heart of the government's Northern Powerhouse agenda, located thirty minutes away from the North West’s two major economic hubs of Manchester and Liverpool. It is a fantastic borough to locate a business, and to invest in. It is a great place to live, work, rest and play. We haven’t told that story well enough in recent times – but we will do going forward.”