This end-of-year stocktaking is a bit of an annual event now! Here is the third end-of-year summary of the Prescot THI.
Last year I wrote about how it felt like Prescot was beginning to turn a corner with more independent businesses opening in the town centre, while other established businesses stayed faithful to he town by in some cases moving to larger or more prominent premises.
What are the changes, both large and small?
- After a long period of uncertainty during which its owners were in receivership, the Prescot Shopping Centre was purchased by the international market company, Geraud Group. The Geraud Group (ou si on parle francais: Groupe Geraud) has moved its headquarters into the Shopping Centre (which is now re-branded Market Village) and is busily marketing and finding occupiers for the empty units.
- While I am on the subject of the Geraud Group , it has also purchased the former Stephenson’s Print building (visible from the shopping centre car park) and has tidied up the building and site, which was beginning to look like a neglected eyesore. Presumably there are plans to redevelop the site in the future?
- The Town Team’s Arts and Crafts Fair held within the Shopping Centre started off as a temporary trial in May this year but has both ballooned in terms of the numbers of stalls and visitors and now looks set to be a permanent fixture on the first Saturday of every month, same day as the Producer’s Market. As a further sign of ambition a Sunday market was held earlier this month and was judged to be a success by most of the traders. Who knows, could this be the start of Prescot being more vibrant on Sundays?
18 High Street – now a restaurant but built circa 1870 as a branch bakery with attached manager’s house.
- Quality businesses continue to move into the town – 18 High Street is a fine dining restaurant / bar that brings something different to the town, while the Albion Bakehouse on Leyland Street looks to be going from strength to strength. The Dance Shop in the Shopping Centre / Market Village was the winner of the second Oneark ‘Win A Shop’ competition. Other newcomers include a branch of Brooks Estate Agents (Eccleston Street), Salon Luxe (Church Street) and a shop selling items as diverse as pet feed and guitars (Market Place).
I’m no photographer, but here is my photo from one of the evening performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
- The cultural offer is also on the up with MATE Productions (who are now based permanently at the former Museum on Church Street) successfully staging five productions of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in Prescot Parish Church and Vicarage garden in May and June before touring the production and returning to Prescot in August for another sell-out ‘homecoming’ performance.
- And let’s not forget the Prescot Festival of Music and the Arts. Although 2014’s Festival was the special tenth anniversary, this year’s festival actually surpassed it in terms of attendance over its ten days of events. This is testament to the hard-working team behind the Festival, which, like painting the Forth Bridge, is already gearing up for its twelfth year. The Festival also holds other performances and events throughout the year.
The Green Flag being hoisted for the first time at Prescot Cemetery and Churchyard
- Joint working by the Friends of Prescot Cemetery and Churchyard, the Council and Parish Church have seen further improvements to the ‘green lung’ in the middle of town, so much so that a major milestone has been achieved – the Churchyard and Cemetery has earned a national Green Flag Award (like Eaton Street Park). This can only spur everyone on to make the space better for everyone.
The former Lancashire Watch Factory: wing extensions to the Listed Building going up on the left, new industrial style bungalows to the right.
- The major redevelopment of the former Lancashire Watch Factory site as a retirement village continues with most of the new bungalows now standing and being fitted out, while the wing extensions to the Listed Building are on their way up and most of the repairs to the landmark Listed factory building have been carried out.
- Just a mile away, Knowsley Safari Park has submitted plans for a new viewing area and tree planting that will restore the layout of the historic park. It’s also very early doors but the Hall has made an announcement that it seeks to establish a ‘bio-inspire’ research and development facility working jointly with two universities.
- Last year it seemed that the Shakespeare North theatre / cultural centre planning application was just around the corner – it is still the case now, but a recent press release issued by the Shakespeare North Trust suggests the application will be submitted very soon.
The THI’s contribution has been against this backdrop of positive changes by others, but I hope they are seen as important pieces of the ‘regeneration jigsaw’:
Two buildings brought back into use via the Living Over the Shops scheme: left: 17 Atherton Street (rear elevation) and right: 8-10 Church Street
- Between them the THI and the Council’s ‘Living Over the Shops’ (LOTS) created or refurbished a total of fourteen affordable one- and two-bed flats in historic buildings in Prescot Town Centre. These flats all went into immediate occupation. The buildings brought back into full use are 17 Atherton Street (LOTS). 8-10 Church Street (LOTS), 25 Eccleston Street (LOTS), 29-31 Eccleston Street (THI / LOTS), and 40 High Street (THI / LOTS).
40 High Street before and after THI / LOTS funded works
- The THI’s first building project, 40 High Street, completed in March 2015-. The second project, 29-31 Eccleston Street is all finished bar the restored shopfront which will be installed by a specialist joiner in the new year. The third building project, 11 Market Place is at a similar stage where the specialist firms supplying new windows shop awning and shopfront joinery will be completing the project soon. The THI’s fourth building project, 19 Eccleston Street, started on site on 1st December and is scheduled to complete in January.
From a vacant attic room to somebody’s living room – before and after works at 29-31 Eccleston Street
- In addition to the above there are four more THI buildings that have full grant approval from the THI Partnership Board and are all scheduled to start on site in the New Year, to avoid clashing with the pre-Christmas rush. These are 54 and 56 Eccleston Street and 7 and 9 Leyland Street. In addition to these there are six buildings with outline grant approval that should hopefully all move through the full grant application process in 2016. Another handful of building owners are to put together outline grant applications.
Starting in the New Year: works to 54 and 56 Eccleston Street
- Moving away from the building side, a major change for the THI has been us finally appointing a THI Skills Co-ordinator, Lyndsey-Jane Kevan, in May this year. Lyndsey’s role is to make all those promises the Council made to the Heritage Lottery Fund over employment, skills, and community outreach and engagement a reality.
A ‘tweet’ reporting on the event we held jointly with the Archive Resource for Knowsley
- Lyndsey has certainly hit the ground running and is delivering these parts of the THI better than I ever could. In the seven months Lyndsey has been with us she has delivered arts and crafts activities for Halloween and the Christmas Lights switch-on where over 500 children took part (this was joint with MATE Productions the Town team and Shopping Centre); a knitting and crocheting group / course that has just completed its initial 10-week run and is set to start again in the New Year, drawing a new intake from its waiting list; we have delivered talks and tours to students at Liverpool, Liverpool John Moores and Central Lancashire Universities for students on courses as diverse as Building Conservation, History, Media, English and Engineering; two days of learning and fun for pupils of Our Ladys Primary School at the Knowsley Archive in Kirkby (run jointly with ARK); and an art exhibition entitled ‘Reminiscent Prescot’ with art from two local art clubs (the exhibition will be in Vee’s Place, Kemble Street until February).
A tour around Prescot with UCLan Building Conservation students. Everyone made it through the narrow entrance to Stone Street!
- Just prior to Lyndsey joining we held the THI’s first building skills demonstrations / talks / have a go day at Prescot Town Hall. This was ‘Prescot Old Buildings Day’ which was run jointly with the SPAB. About 80 people, a mixture of local homeowners, professionals and SPAB members from across the region, attended.
A compilation of info about Prescot Old Buildings Day
- In August this year we said ‘good bye’ to Chris Han, our first Historic Environment Intern, who moved straight into a job as a Building Surveyor at the end of his contract with us. The day before Chris left, we said ‘hello’ to our current intern, Dan Longman, who is working with us and studying Building Conservation at UCLan (as well as being an author, serial blogger and magistrate! Where does he find the time?!).
Last but certainly not least, we also said goodbye to Christine Anders, the Principal Conservation and Design Officer who retired this year. Christine was a major part of the Stage 1 and Stage 2 Bids to the Heritage Lottery Fund that made the whole THI happen and I thank her for all of her hard work.
With there being no Conservation Officer for most of 2015, I have been doing a sideline in planning application comments and keeping tabs on the Conservation Area Appraisal process for the wider Borough. Happily we have a replacement Conservation Officer who will start in post in February.
That, in a nutshell is, is the THI in 2015. We have so much more up our sleeves for 2016 – at risk of overusing metaphors I could say that we have plenty of plates spinning and pots on the boil etc etc.