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West Lancs District Council is preparing to make a strong case for Skelmersdale

West Lancs District Council is preparing to make a strong case for Skelmersdale at the Public Inquiry into controversial plans to build a massive new retail development at Kirkby, along with a new Everton football stadium, hotel and offices.

The Council has joined forces with other local councils to jointly fight the proposals to build one of the largest retail centres in the north west. West Lancs, Sefton, St Helens and Lancashire County Council are working together at the Inquiry and will argue that it would seriously damage other towns in the region by drawing away both shoppers and commercial investment.

In addition, the case for Skelmersdale will be strongly supported by regeneration specialists St Modwen Properties PLC, who worked with the Council to draw up exciting proposals to build a new town centre for Skelmersdale.

The scale of the Kirkby scheme, if it goes ahead, will undermine the regeneration plans for Skelmersdale in terms of its viability as a retail centre. For this reason, further work on preparing plans for the Skelmersdale town centre regeneration scheme will slow significantly until a decision is made on whether the Kirkby scheme will go ahead. The Secretary of State is expected to announce the decision in spring/summer 2009.

It is stressed that the plans to build a new college in Skelmersdale will not be affected.

Councillor Martin Forshaw, Portfolio Holder for Planning for West Lancs District Council, said:

“This enormous over-development is totally out of proportion for the needs of Kirkby. If it goes ahead, it will undermine our carefully developed plans to build a new heart for Skelmersdale. The huge new retail centre proposed at Kirkby, which in our view is contrary to national, regional and local planning policies, would attract investment away from other centres and would soak up spending power in the region.

“The Council is preparing to make the strongest possible case for Skelmersdale and we are working closely with St Modwen and also with other local councils because if this huge complex is built it will damage not just Skelmersdale but town centres in other areas.”

Councillor Adrian Owens, portfolio holder for regeneration, said:

“In the current circumstances the Council and its partners are taking a prudent and pragmatic approach which is in the best interests of Skelmersdale and West Lancashire as a whole. Until we know whether the Kirkby scheme will win approval from the Government, further work on the Skelmersdale scheme will of necessity slow significantly. This is inescapable.”

Michelle Taylor regional director of St Modwen Properties PLC, said:

“If the Kirkby development goes ahead it will have a detrimental effect on many of the surrounding towns in its vicinity, including Skelmersdale. This will undermine the deliverability of our scheme and we are working closely with West Lancs District Council to put together a case for the inquiry.”

Earlier this summer, West Lancashire District Council adopted a masterplan, put together after extensive consultation with local people, setting out the proposed shape of the new town centre for Skelmersdale over the next 10 to 15 years. This includes a new high street, more shops, another supermarket, a new leisure centre, community facilities, improvements to the Tawd Valley, and housing. The masterplan also shows the clearance and redevelopment of around 200 houses and flats at Findon and Firbeck for new homes. The tenants and homeowners have been consulted on a package of compensation measures that will be offered if planning permission for development is granted.

West Lancs District Council appreciates the concerns of Findon and Firbeck residents about the progress of the scheme and has written to residents to inform them that further progress on the Skelmersdale town centre regeneration will slow significantly until the result of the Kirkby public inquiry is announced. In the meantime, the Council is assuring tenants that it will continue to maintain the estate and will not allow it to fall into decline.

Further information

The Public Inquiry into the proposals for Kirkby starts on 18 November and is expected to last until early 2009. The Secretary of State’s decision is likely to be announced in May or June 2009. The Inquiry will be held in Kirkby and administered by Knowsley MBC. Full details are available on the Knowsley Council website:

Note to editors

West Lancashire District Council is committed to delivering a new, high quality town centre for the people of Skelmersdale, involving the local community in close consultation. The Council, a significant landowner in Skelmersdale, has selected St Modwen as the developer to work on behalf of both the Council and English Partnerships to develop proposals and ultimately build the new town centre over the next ten to 15 years.

St. Modwen is the UK’s leading regeneration specialist operating across the full spectrum of the property industry, through a network of seven regional offices and a Birmingham-based head office. The company is wholly focused upon regeneration with expertise in partnering industry, brownfield land renewal, town centre regeneration and heritage restoration.

With over 30 years of regeneration and development experience, St Modwen has built up a strong track record for successfully delivering large-scale town centreregeneration projects, such as Skelmersdale, that take many years to deliver. With each project, St Modwen leaves a legacy and is therefore committed to developing and maintaining long term partnerships that last throughout and beyond any project lifecycle.

For further information, contact the West Lancs District Council PR Unit:

tel 01695 585011