Prescot THI Blog

Market Place – Design Competition Complete

After what feels to me like years in the making, I am delighted to announce that our design competition for Market Place has been won by Mark Wray Architects and Seed Landscape Design.

The design competition was run in partnership with the RIBA.

A Knowsley News article, with several images of the winning design, is here.

The Panel that assessed the designs felt that the scheme by Mark Wray and Seed Landscapes met the requirements of the community set out in the report by Placed in the following ways:

  • It provides a large amount of seating – 97% of people Placed consulted wanted the space to be somewhere to sit and relax.
  • The remodelled and converted building on the site contains cafe facilities (wanted by 72% of people who responded to Placed) and toilets (80%).
  • The scheme incorporates soft landscaping, trees and greenery (wanted by 71% of respondents)
  • The design includes a large open space that can be used for markets, events and performance. These uses were wanted by 61%, 50% and 36% of people who took part in the Placed consultation. This space is looked over by lots of tiered seating.
  • The design incorporates traditional natural materials, in particular Yorkstone, the paving material used on the pavements at market Place and along Eccleston Street.
  • The scheme as designed should be straightforward to maintain.

While the five finalists in the design competition each took a different design approach, the one used by Mark Wray and Seed Landscapes was of particular interest as its emphasis is on opening up the site and removing barriers.

Any comparison between Market Place today and before 1965 will show just how built up Market Place used to be. It was closely surrounded by buildings. The site that is being redesign was even partially occupied by the Victorian Market Hall and an earlier terrace of buildings. All of this was swept away in 1965 to open up Market Place to cars and buses.

An aerial photo of Prescot, probably from the 1920s. The Market Hall is the odd shaped freestanding building in the middle of the triangular market place. The Town hall (built 1755, demolished 1965) is higher up the hill with the curved gable.

Market Place in the late 1960s. Whilst the open view of the Church from Market Place is nice, it only came about through the demolition of the Town Hall – a hugely significant building, both historically and architecturally speaking. Strangely, the section of landscaping shown in the photo was gone by the mid 1970s! The bit we’re redesigning is all that’s left of the 1960s public realm scheme, and is just to the left of this photo.

This has left Market Place quite open, with no buildings along its western edge other than the existing toilet block. The design by Mark Wray and Seed Landscape Design opens up Market Place further by removing tall walls and the low boundary walls that enclose the site. This opens up vistas and views up Market Place, to and from the entrance to Eccleston Street, and up to the Parish Church. These views presently do not exist – the space in its present form cannot be seen from the entrance to Eccleston Street and the high walls do not provide a great setting for the Church and War Memorial.

Walled-orf Prescotia (I can have a terrible pun every now and again, can’t I?!). The re-vamp of the space in the 1960s opened up Market Place, but still managed to make it quite isolated from the junction of Eccleston Street, Church Street and Market Place.

This open design also provides a better entrance or threshold from Market Place / Kemble Street / Sewell Street into the Churchyard and Cemetery – the biggest green open space in the town centre.

The building on the site is designed to be flexible. It will be possible to partition off the cafe service area from the large room – so the building can be in two uses at the same time or the whole building can be used for a single activity. This will help the building be in use into the evening and at weekends.

What Happens Next?

From this point in time the winning team will work up their scheme ahead of a planning application and then the tender process to find the firm who will carry out the work on the ground. Mark Wray and Seed Landscape Design will be kept on until the project is complete to take their designs through the twists and turns of its delivery.

We hope to have the planning application in this autumn, closely followed by the tender process. The works would then start on site in Spring 2018 with a view to completing in June 2018.

What About the Archaeological Digs?

One of the excellent photos of our archaeological digs at Market Place earlier this month, taken by Steve Samosa Photography. Check out Steve’s other photos of the dig and Prescot here.

Dr Rob Philpott is busy assessing the findings and preparing a report of the findings from the two trenches dug in Market Place earlier this month as part of our community digs.

The findings will be published on this website.

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