What makes a good town centre? That was the question asked by Knowsley Council earlier this year as part of their plans to shape the future development in Kirkby town centre.
Residents, businesses and visitors to the town were asked to share their views through a face-to-face event in the town centre – there was also an opportunity to share views online.
So, what does make a good town centre? Here’s a summary of the main findings, together with what the council will now do to take these views forward.
Knowsley Council will:
Do everything it can to attract such businesses to Kirkby, including by working with professional agents and engaging with national chains as well as local independent traders.
Progress the existing plans for a cinema development (on the former Kirkby Library site).
Promote Kirkby town centre as a potential location to bowling and bingo operators.
Do everything it can to attract new restaurants and cafés to Kirkby.
Complete the building of a new KFC drive-through restaurant as part of the new retail development.
Do its best to encourage a number of other interested café and restaurant operators to invest in the retail development, as well as food and drink outlets who have expressed an interest in the new cinema development.
Knowsley Council will:
Include recreational spaces and public realm improvements as an integral part of its future plans for Kirkby town centre
Continue to support (and in some cases fund) a range of established sports and leisure facilities and clubs in Kirkby, including:
- Volair Kirkby on Cherryfield Drive - which has recently benefitted from investment in upgrading the gym facilities and also includes a 3G all-weather football pitch, a swimming pool, and a wide array of exercise classes. Find out more at www.volair.org.uk or call 0151 443 2200.
- 3G pitches being provided for community use at Simonswood Lane.
- A number of established boxing clubs in Kirkby including Knowsley Vale, Tower Hill ABC, and Kirkby ABC
- Centre 63 on Hall Lane, which provides a range of activities for ages 8-18 years - find out more at www.centre63.org.uk
- Space in the Kirkby Centre which can be accessed by community groups - find out more by calling (0151)-443 6000
- Vibe (formerly Knowsley Youth Mutual) offer a range of programmes, activities and support for young people aged 11-19 years (or up to the age of 25 for people with additional needs and disabilities). Find out more on Vibe’s website or call 0151 443 5323
Knowsley Council recognises the importance of the need to provide and improve green space. It will:
Ensure that any housing developments include the provision of fully accessible green space as part of any proposals (which would then need to go through the planning process).
Conduct an assessment to identify the mix of housing needed in the area.
Ensure that any housing developments are well considered and appropriate, fitting the needs of the area and requirements of residents - young and old. Any development will provide green corridors and links to/from the town centre in order to generate increased footfall which will help to attract new shops, businesses, cafés and restaurants.
In line with the council’s declaration of a Climate Change Emergency, it will support eco-homes in any new housing developments.
Provide more than 400 parking spaces as part of the new retail development with up to three hours of free parking for shoppers.
Look to improve the existing multi storey car park where longer stay car parking will be available.
Ensure all council-owned car parks have charges clearly displayed.
However, Knowsley Council will:
Ensure that businesses who rent properties owned by the council pay a commercial rent which achieves a balance between generating sufficient income to maintain a high quality town centre and avoiding any burden on the council’s mainstream budget.
The council has researched other shopping areas (including Widnes, Bootle and Huyton) and can confirm that rents are comparable and set at similar levels to other areas.
The council will maintain the rents at Kirkby Market, which were recently reduced in order to support existing traders and “start-up” businesses and also to attract more traders.
It will continue to provide COVID-19 support to businesses – if your business needs support, email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 0151 477 4000.
The council will:
Continue to work with Merseytravel to help to ensure public bus and rail services meet the demand and needs of residents and businesses.
Continue recent positive work with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Merseytravel to create a new railway station for Kirkby at Headbolt Lane.
Maintain the currently excellent pedestrian access to the existing town centre and new retail development from the ideally positioned bus station.
Two new taxi waiting areas will be created as part of the new retail development.
Market rents have recently been reduced to help to support existing traders and “start-up” businesses and to attract more traders.
The council will:
Continue to promote Kirkby Market regularly in order to attract more visitors.
Develop an events programme to attract more customers to Kirkby town centre.
Explore opportunities for specialist outdoor markets, as long as these are not in competition with existing retailers and market traders who have been and remain committed to Kirkby town centre for the long-term.
Continue to support and maintain the relatively new market building (opened in 2014) to its current high standards.
The council will:
Explore creating better connections to/from existing green spaces around the town centre.
Retain and invest in existing publicly accessible green spaces around the town centre, including by securing financial contributions from any new housing developments
Make sure that any new development on the land to the South of Cherryfrield Drive includes high quality green space with green links to the town centre.
Create and deliver an exciting cultural events programme as part of Knowsley being the Liverpool City Region’s “Borough of Culture” in 2022. A key element of this programme is based on involving local communities in helping to shape activities.
The Kirkby Gallery (located in the Kirkby Centre) will continue to host a range of family-friendly exhibitions and arts programmes.
Kirkby Library is also based in the Kirkby Centre and will continue to offer a range of activities and themed events for all ages. It also includes the Archive Resource for Knowsley (ARK) which houses historic records relating to Knowsley –more information is available at https://yourlibrary.knowsley.gov.uk/
Provide two new crossings as part of the new retail development – a zebra crossing from the St Health Clinic (across St Chad’s Drive) and a pelican crossing from St Chad’s Drive to Kirkby Market.
Extend and modernise CCTV in Kirkby town centre.
Provide pedestrian links throughout the new retail development and car parks.
Share this consultation feedback with education providers and encourage them to consider investing in provision in Kirkby Town Centre.
Continue to work closely with Knowsley College to secure new facilities in the heart of the town centre.
Knowsley Family and Community Education services now provide more courses remotely and online as a result of COVID-19. They will continue to operate out of four venues across the borough, two of which are in Kirkby at Northwood Community Centre and Centre 63.
The council will explore the demand for a training/business hub and “maker space” (collaborative spaces to support creativity, boost skills, and support individuals in the early stages of establishing their businesses). There are a number of potential locations in Kirkby town centre for such a facility (should demand be confirmed).
Continue to progress the existing cinema development, which will include food and drink outlets.
Promote Kirkby as an attractive location for investment by restaurant and pub operators.
Some other comments which were made by a relatively small number of contributors included better community spaces, community fun days and good meeting places to socialise.
As outlined above, the council will continue to develop a varied events programme and link in with community groups to help to promote and expand on events they organise. Improvements to public realm will also be delivered and provide social spaces for people to meet. Wider roads on housing estates were also suggested and any new development will follow a planning process. A few comments were also received around the public art tree requesting a better focal point in the town centre and this will be explored.
Cllr Tony Brennan, Regeneration and Economic Development Cabinet Member, said: “I’m delighted with the response we had to our consultation exercise. Thank you to everyone who took part. I’m even more pleased to see that we are all on the same page and that there are no significant areas of disagreement.
“Of course, it is important to recognise that many of these suggestions can only come about if we can encourage businesses and individuals to invest their money in Kirkby. The council will do everything we can to connect with investors and encourage them to come here.
“The responses will help us to shape our plans for Kirkby town centre – we all want Kirkby to offer the facilities which local residents want and need, as well as being able to attract new visitors into the town and ensure that our Townie is successful and vibrant.”
Taking on board the consultation findings, Knowsley Council will continue to develop its plans for Kirkby town centre and will provide further opportunities for the community to have their say over the coming months as these plans develop. Watch this space!