All we want for Christmas is a new town centre!
MP Rosie Cooper is calling on West Lancashire Borough Council and St Modwen to give Skelmersdale residents a special Christmas present - in the shape of news about the new town centre!
And following her appeal, bosses at St Modwen have emphasised that they “remain committed” to delivering the town-centre regeneration scheme.
Ms Cooper has supported a new town centre since ‘Skemersdale Vision’ was launched in 2005.
Throughout the ups and downs of the project, the MP has always campaigned for and supported the scheme, even opposing the Tesco Kirkby development, resisting the council wanting to pause the contract, and then the delays caused by the judicial reviews by the Concourse.
Residents can’t understand why, now the legal obstacles have been overcome, there are no announcements from the council and St Modwen and feel that despite the council giving St Modwen exclusive rights for 15 years to develop the town centre in 2007, there is nothing to show for it.
Skelmersdale is yet to see its first digger kick-starting the new development, which is due to bring fresh retail opportunities and a night time economy to the town, while St Modwen announce plans to start work in nearby areas including Kirkby but not in Skelmersdale. Rosie Cooper has written to the West Lancashire Borough Council chief executive Kim Webber asking why the delay and when plans to begin the work will be announced.
Ms Cooper is pleased that the council has reaffirmed its commitment to delivering the town centre regeneration, but is disappointed that they have yet to give any time scale whatsoever.
The MP said: “It is imperative we get a move on especially as in recent weeks, Skelmersdale has seen the announcement of the NatWest branch closure, GE Oil & Gas potentially set to make up to 90 redundancies and solicitors Scott Rees moving 200 jobs to Newton-le-Willows.
“What I’m seeking is a date when the work on the new town centre will begin, that is the least that Skelmersdale residents deserve after ten years of waiting, or an immediate full disclosure of what the problems are. Is it financial viability or commercial interests?
“The lack of a full explanation puts serious question marks over whether we will see the council and St Modwen proceed with the town centre regeneration at all, which would be a disastrous scenario for Skelmersdale and West Lancashire.
“If St Modwen can’t deliver a scheme, after ten years, it’s time for them to go!”
Paul Batho, projects director for St. Modwen, commented: “As you are aware, the regeneration scheme was granted planning permission by the council in 2015, but the decision was the subject of a series of legal challenges.
“While the council successfully defended these challenges, a significant amount of time was lost in the project and as a consequence it has been necessary to go back out to the retail/leisure market to ascertain the current level of commercial interest in the scheme.
“While this is a time consuming exercise, I would like to emphasise that the partners remain committed to delivering the town centre regeneration scheme in Skelmersdale and continue to devote significant effort and resources to the project. We are engaged in progressive discussions with a number of potential occupiers who have expressed an interest in coming to Skelmersdale."