Work begins on ‘long-awaited’ Skelmersdale town centre redevelopment
BUILDING work has finally begun this week on the long-awaited town centre redevelopment which West Lancs Council is hailing as a “new dawn for Skelmersdale.”
Builders arrived on site on Monday (January 20) to start construction work on the scheme which the local authority believes will “breathe” new life into the area by bringing significant investment and new jobs.
West Lancs MP Rosie Cooper also welcomed the start of work on the project which council chiefs say will provide benefits for the whole of the borough, not just Skelmersdale.
Phase one will see new shops created to house Lidl and B&M Bargains stores, along with another retail unit. There will also be a “fantastic” new play area in Tawd Valley Park and a new high street will be provided to link West Lancashire College with the rest of the town centre. Enhancements will also be made to the public areas outside Skelmersdale Library.
The council says that while construction work is taking place on phase one, plans will also start to be developed for future phases and the residents of Skelmersdale and the borough as a whole will be consulted on these in due course.
The town centre redevelopment scheme is a partnership between the borough council, Homes England and developer St. Modwen, and is supported by the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership.
Councillor Ian Moran, council leader and cabinet member for regeneration, said: “This is a special day for the people of Skelmersdale as building work begins to make our new town centre a reality.
“Over the coming months the town centre development will take shape and we can all look forward to the day when we start shopping in these stores and our children are enjoying the play area.
“I want to thank everyone at West Lancashire Borough Council, St. Modwen, Homes England and all our other partners who have helped make this happen. The scheme proves how ambitious the council is for the economy of Skelmersdale and West Lancashire as a whole.”
Speaking to the Champion, Cllr. Moran commented: “I have had a long, frustrating four years working on this scheme. We are finally there now. We can now get phase one done and then start talking to Skelmersdale about the next phase.
“Phase one starts today with tree and ground clearance and work will begin to fence the site off. We will be getting the workers on site also. This is a very sustainable project and we have carried out a full business plan to get to this stage. We will be the owners of it and it will be paid for by the rents received.”
St. Modwen development director, Alex Jaques said: “St. Modwen is proud to be involved in this scheme to develop Skelmersdale town centre and we are delighted that construction work has begun on site.”
Rosie Cooper commented: “It’s been a very frustrating project, which has driven me and the residents of Skelmersdale completely mad because it has taken so long to get to this point. It has changed many times.
“I am really glad that it is beginning. It is phase one and I am looking forward to the other phases happening much more quickly.
“I want to thank everyone who has been involved in getting this going, but I think it is a poor reflection that it has taken 14 years to get here.
“We now need to get night-time economy into Skelmersdale. We need some restaurants and we do need the cinema. We need it to be vibrant. Today is the start of it actually beginning.”
Asked if the project could operate side-by-side with the Concourse, the MP added: “The Concourse is going to have to invest into their building to make it vibrant. Schemes like this will bring people into the town. A total of 90 per cent of the available money for Skelmersdale is spent outside of Skelmersdale, because there is not an attractive offer here.
“This is the start of Skelmersdale developing into a real town as opposed to a one-building town centre. This is the 21st century. We need 21st century answers.
“Skelmersdale has had more visions than St Bernadette. Those visions have been changing but at least today one of those visions is starting. Be under no illusion, it is not the end, it is not the whole answer but at least that vision is beginning.
“We have now got to get the railway station here. People will be able to go to the theatre in Liverpool, Manchester or Wigan and come home without having to pay ridiculous amounts for taxis.”
The new scheme is expected to be completed in late spring 2021.