A £3.1m heritage-led regeneration project is beginning in Prescot following the confirmation of Government funding of £1.55m and Knowsley Council’s own contribution of £1.55m.
This new project, the Prescot High Street Heritage Action Zone, will be delivered by Knowsley Council with the support of Historic England, the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s historic environment.
For the past year, Knowsley Council has been working up the details of this project with the local community, businesses and property owners. The High Street Heritage Action Zone initiative, which will help to breathe new life into the historic heart of Prescot town centre, will bring physical building and public realm improvements as well as cultural activities to regenerate and restore local historic character.
Cllr Tony Brennan, Knowsley’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development said:
“Through this grant award Historic England has recognised the years of hard work and this Council’s investment alongside private sector investment that have gone into the transformation of Prescot’s historic town centre. I am delighted to see further heritage led investment and look forward to working in partnership with Historic England.
The High Street Heritage Action Zone follows the success of our Townscape Heritage Initiative improvements and comes at just the right time for Prescot, as lockdown measures are eased and shops, pubs and restaurants start to reopen. We will also see the opening of The Shakespeare North Playhouse midway through the programme of improvements that the High Street Heritage Action Zone will make to the surrounding area.”
More about the Prescot project
The High Street Heritage Action Zone will run until 2024 and the specific projects are:
- The repair, restoration and conversion of 8-14 Kemble Street back to its original use as Prescot’s first cinema, including its surviving auditorium dating form 1912. The present occupier, Prescot Community Church is moving to new premises at Whiston Colliery.
- The repair, restoration and conversion of 34 Church Street, originally a large townhouse, then a bank and formerly the Prescot Museum. This Grade II Listed Building will be re-used as a ‘makerspace’ for new and small businesses in the creative, craft, arts and digital sectors.
- Grants to repair, restore and convert historic buildings in and around Market Place. This will see empty floorspace re-used and elevations and shopfronts restored in privately owned historic buildings.
- Public realm improvements around Prospero Place and Market Place to make the space more pedestrian friendly and traditional in character.
- The masterplanning of the large Sewell Street – Kemble Street site that extends from Market Place down to the rear of Cables Retail Park. This is the largest area of disused land in the town centre.
- A cultural consortium led by The Shakespeare North Playhouse to use the arts and Prescot’s heritage to engage and bring more people to the town centre and build towards Knowsley’s year as Borough of Culture in 2022.
- Community engagement with a focus on participation, engagement and local heritage.
Work has already started with detailed surveys already carried out at the former Museum and former cinema, while site and archaeological investigations are underway at the disused Sewell Street – Kemble Street site. In addition the Project Officer who will run the different strands of the project will start in post this month (July 2020). Work is in progress with Historic England on preparing the community engagement and cultural strands.
In terms of building grants, two early projects of the High Street Heritage Action Zone are two of its most prominent buildings at either end of Market Place: the former HSBC bank and the former Red Lion pub. Both buildings will undergo extensive external repair and restoration later this year, with the ground floors converted to uses that will expand the town’s evening economy.
Paul Brannan of Croft Construction who is the appointed contractor redeveloping the former HSBC Bank at 2 Eccleston Street as a new restaurant with apartments above said:
“The building is in a superb location between the Shakespeare North Playhouse, Market Place, the Parish Church and the amenities of Eccleston Street. We look forward to working in partnership with Historic England and Knowsley Council as we give this empty building a new lease of life. Had it not been for the grant funding then a scheme of this scale and quality would not have been financially viable for our client.”
Prescot was a market town known as ‘a town of workshops’ because of its diverse commercial activities that included watchmaking, pottery, coal mining and tool making. It was only one of three places in all of Merseyside that is classed as an urban settlement during the medieval era. It thrived as a market, administrative, religious and commercial centre of a very large parish. At the turn of the twentieth century this independent town of makers took on a new dimension and grew significantly when thousands were employed in wire and cable works and hundreds more were later employed in two separate printworks.
Prescot’s High Street Heritage Action Zone focuses on the area around Market Place, which for centuries was the commercial heart of the town, and was home to its most important civic functions: the town hall, court leet and market hall. By the 1950s and 60s a programme of redevelopment saw some key buildings and spaces lost or drastically changed, though many historic buildings survived and the area has been a conservation area since the 1970s.
Prescot has seen a dramatic transformation, as a result of Knowsley Council’s masterplan for the town, in recent years with new independent bars and restaurants, creating a new night time offer in the town. This sits alongside the new homes being built in the town, improvements to public transport and public realm and the ongoing construction of The Shakespeare North Playhouse which will attract visitors from all over the globe when it opens in 2022. There is significant and continued high levels of investor confidence in the town in spite of the impacts of Covid19.
Parallel to this, significant investment has been made via the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Knowsley Council’s investment alongside private sector investment in the Townscape Heritage Initiative which has improved numerous historic buildings along and near Eccleston Street and created a new public square at Market Place. The £8m Prescot Connects scheme, funded by Liverpool City Region is currently re-paving Eccleston Street in natural stone, providing new wayfinding form the railway station and town centre and making vital improvements to the station itself including the installation of passenger lifts on the platforms for the first time.