Home Business and economy Kirkby Town Centre’s development plans take another step forward

Kirkby Town Centre’s development plans take another step forward

by Jonathan Kearney

Knowsley Council has ambitious plans for Kirkby Town Centre and if you’ve visited recently, you will know that the Council has a successful track record of delivery.

In less than two years from taking ownership of the town centre, the new retail development has progressed at pace – despite a pandemic. Already two of the units are open (Taco Bell and KFC) with the Morrisons superstore, petrol filling station and Home Bargains set to open shortly.

Plans are also underway for the multi-screen cinema scheme, including food and drink outlets, with the second phase of ground investigation works recently being completed.

Just before the pandemic, in March 2020, the Council asked the local community “What makes a good town centre?” The results from this consultation have helped to shape the Council’s plans for the town.

Key priorities for residents and businesses were a supermarket and a greater choice of shops, more places to eat and drink, other facilities such as a cinema and over half of the respondents would welcome more or new housing, outlining the need for affordable homes, bungalows and eco-homes.

With the other priorities progressing, the Council recently went out to tender for the land south of Cherryfield Drive (a 55.7 acre brownfield site) as part of the Council’s Housing Land Disposal Programme. The brief was very clear in terms of incorporating the views of the local community and the Council’s aspirations for the site.

As well as draft site layouts, house types and sizes (including affordable housing), bidders were also asked to consider the potential for a neighbourhood energy network as a way of reducing carbon consumption.

Following a robust evaluation of the nine tenders received, Cabinet will consider on Wednesday 8 September the granting of an exclusivity agreement to the recommended preferred bidder – Barratt Developments and David Wilson Homes – for a period of six months. This will enable them time to carry out further due diligence, along with consultation and engagement with communities prior to any planning application being submitted.

The Barratt Developments and David Wilson Homes bid outlined:

  • 796 new homes – 73 affordable two and three bedroomed homes, a 66 home affordable extra care scheme and 657 market homes for sale. This would equate to provision of 18% affordable homes, which significantly exceeds the Council’s 10% planning policy requirement.
  • The affordable homes would be split on a 75% affordable rent / 25% shared ownership basis.
  • The market homes for sale would comprise 15 five-bedroomed homes, 372 four-bedroomed homes, 207 three-bedroomed homes, and 63 two-bedroomed homes.
  • All new homes would meet Energy Performance Certificate Rating “A” as a minimum.
  • Initial design and layouts broadly aligning to the required design principles contained in the development brief which includes:-
    • A logical framework of streets and spaces which link to the surrounding area;
    • Active frontage onto all streets, pedestrian routes, and open spaces;
    • Strong pedestrian links to Kirkby Town Centre and its existing / proposed new amenities;
    • Integrated movement for pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles through the site and to the wider area;
    • A number of open space areas which are well located and well overlooked;
    • Landscaped green edges with a variety of planting options which enhance biodiversity;
    • An environment which is not dominated by cars, using soft landscaping to mitigate the impact of parked cars;
    • Additional town centre car parking spaces;
    • Sustainable drainage; and,
    • Provision to enhance the existing public open space.

In addition, the recommended preferred bidder has proposed to deliver a range of social value outcomes, including the creation of apprenticeships, work experience placements, work ready workshops, and local labour and supplier commitments (including two “meet the buyer” events).

Cllr Tony Brennan, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development, said: “We have ambitious plans for Kirkby and importantly, we are taking on board the views of our communities in helping to shape those plans.

“They said they wanted more shops, more places to eat and better facilities such as a cinema – we are delivering this. They also said that they wanted more housing options in the town. We have listened and our development brief for the land south of Cherryfield Drive included the comments we received through our consultation.

“Plus as well as provided much-needed quality homes, the scheme would also create new job opportunities for local residents and contract opportunities for local businesses.

“Communities will be a key part to the development of this scheme and they will be invited to have their say before any planning application is considered.

“It really is an exciting time for Kirkby and, as a Kirkby resident myself, I look forward to seeing Kirkby’s development plans continuing to progress over the coming months and years.”