Time to push on for Skelmersdale

West Lancashire’s key economic priority has to be the regeneration of Skelmersdale town centre, according to the local authority’s economic development champion.

The project has been at the centre of challenges and court battles with a final bid to stop the shopping and leisure scheme going ahead rejected in the High Court at the end of last year.

Frank McKenna, economic development champion for West Lancashire Council and Lancashire Business View columnist, says that the project now needs to push on.

He said: “For too many years, plans, projects, and promises have failed to materialise.

“There is a determination within the council to make sure that a realistic initiative that can begin to offer residents a 21st-century retail and leisure experience is up-and-running this year.”

Regeneration specialist St Modwen has been given the task of delivering. It has been working on the plan in partnership with the council and the Homes and Communities Agency since as long ago 2007.

At the moment there is still no indication when work might start. Asked for the latest on the project its spokeswoman said: “We don’t have an update at this present time.”

St Modwen did release an update in March, when the company said it was “encouraged” by the level of interest from potential occupiers following “the hiatus of the legal challenge”.

In a statement Paul Batho, projects director at Modwen, said: “We are now actively working with our partners to identify a time frame for delivery of the project and are engaged in progressive discussions with a number of potential occupiers who are interested in coming to Skelmersdale.”

He added: “Although the regeneration scheme was granted planning permission by the council in 2015, the decision was subject of legal challenge and consequently we have been unable to progress the scheme or make any major announcements.

“Having successfully defended against the legal challenge, we are now in a position to resume discussions with potential occupiers.”

As well as delivering new shops the regeneration scheme is looking to create new leisure opportunities including a cinema, restaurants and bars.

St Modwen says it will create more than 500 new jobs and bring other benefits, including making the town centre more attractive for shoppers and visitors and building a night time economy.

  • A fuller version of this article can be read in the current print issue of Lancashire Business View. Subscribe here.

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