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Prescot Shopping Centre and Town Centre: Your Views

by Lisa Bennett

In December 2022, Knowsley Council acquired Prescot Shopping centre to further its ambitious plans to regenerate and transform Prescot town centre.

Earlier this year, the council carried out a consultation exercise to gather views on the future of Prescot Shopping Centre and the wider town centre. Participation by the local community was high and over 1,400 completed surveys were received.

The council engaged with the local community, businesses, community groups and visitors to Prescot town centre. Surveys were available online and printed copies were available in Prescot library.

Here, we share the findings from that survey and Cllr Tony Brennan, Knowsley’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development, answers some of the frequently asked questions and comments from the consultation.

Prescot Shopping Centre and Town Centre: Your Views

The survey results showed a strong theme of positivity around Prescot town centre, with many residents recognising the significant regeneration and investment that has already taken place. People commented that they would like to see further regeneration activity continue.

Respondents acknowledged how much progress had been made in the town centre, with positive comments about Shakespeare North Playhouse, the public realm improvements, and works to the town’s historic buildings. People commented that they would like to see a continuation of the investment in the town’s heritage, with more visitor attractions and cultural community events, such as the Prescot Elizabethan Fayre.

There was a strong desire from respondents for more family and leisure uses in the town centre, with suggestions for a bowling alley, a cinema, activities for younger children and families and a gym.
Retail was one of the most common topics that was mentioned during the consultation exercise. Specifically, that a greater variety of retail facilities were needed. This ranged from independent and artisan traders, budget retailers, brands and “high end” offers as well as specific retail offers (such as Iceland, New Look.)

The survey feedback shows that people understand that diversity between the nearby Retail Park and Prescot Town Centre is important, with some recognising the impact that changing retail habits (more online shopping) have had on the high street and that the offer of the Retail Park (i.e., larger national brand stores) is unlikely to be replicated in the town centre.

Whilst many respondents reflected on how much retail choice there used to be in Prescot town centre, there was some appreciation for ongoing national challenges in the high street retail sector and how this has influenced visitors to town centres. People did recognise that high streets and town centres need to diversify and offer much more than just retail to continue to attract visitors.

These findings align with Knowsley Council’s understanding and vision to repurpose retail space in the shopping centre and town centre where it is unlikely to be re-occupied to historic levels. Prescot Town Centre will need to continue to evolve to deliver new uses that will continue to breathe life into the town centre and attract people to spend time there.
Most respondents, particularly younger people, celebrate the increased food and beverage offer in Prescot and there was positive acknowledgement that the evening economy had grown to meet demand in the area.
Many respondents felt frustrated that Prescot Shopping Centre had been ‘forgotten about’ and was in such a poor condition. There was a consensus that the council did need to step in to prevent any further decline.

Many respondents commented that the shopping centre needs a ‘complete rethink’ and suggested other uses, not just retail, such as community, leisure, entertainment, and family offers.
Many people commented on the benefits of free parking to accommodate visitors.

When it acquired the shopping centre, the council was able to secure future car parking provision in the town centre and provide spaces for the many visitors to the town and the new Shakespeare North Playhouse.


Here, Cllr Tony Brennan, Knowsley’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development answers the following questions:

Prescot Shopping Centre and Town Centre: Q&A

"The successful regeneration of Prescot Town Centre is a priority for Knowsley Council. Prescot Shopping Centre is identified in the Prescot Town Centre Masterplan as the largest key opportunity site, but over the years and while in private ownerships, the shopping centre has declined in terms of occupancy levels, footfall, and overall physical condition.

"This decline reflects what is happening in most town centres across the country as retail behaviours change. But over the years there was little activity or investment by the previous owners to address this and evolve what the shopping centre has to offer. "The Council’s acquisition of the shopping centre will do exactly this and will help to bring long term improvements and the chance to explore future investment and development opportunities beyond just retail.”
“Prior to the acquisition in December 2022, Knowsley Council has never owned or part owned Prescot Shopping Centre. The council leases part of the shopping centre to accommodate the library and museum.”
“The Council cannot dictate or control which retailers choose to occupy the shopping centre or the town centre. Due to changing retail habits, several national retailers are choosing to reduce their presence on high streets across the country and focus their activities online or to larger out of town retail parks. This is not just the case for Prescot or indeed Knowsley, this is a nationwide issue. Town centres and high streets across the country have seen significant changes in the past decade as many national retailers' presence on the high street and in town centres is reducing and more people choose to shop online for certain goods.

“In response to this national evolution, town centres need to diversify and offer not just retail to encourage the local community to keep visiting the town centre. This is exactly what is already happening in Prescot thanks to our well recognised regeneration efforts to date. The town centre is now home to more cafes, bars and restaurants, independent businesses, local community groups and workspaces and the landmark cultural venue, Shakespeare North Playhouse . All of this has been positively received and encouraged people to visit and spend time in Prescot town centre.”
“The rents of units in Prescot Shopping Centre are generally lower than the immediate surrounding, privately owned, commercial properties. It is not high rents that is preventing the centre from being occupied.”
“There are significant costs associated with owning Prescot Shopping Centre or any building of this scale. This includes payment of business rates for vacant units, servicing, and utility costs.

"The largest vacant unit we have in the shopping centre is the former Somerfield supermarket and this has been vacant for 15 years. Even though the unit is vacant, if it were to be ‘mothballed’ it would cost the council a very significant amount of money for every year it continues to be vacant.

"With this evidence of limited interest in the vacant units, high holding costs and the survey feedback welcoming a “complete rethink,” doing nothing, and mothballing the centre is just not a viable option.”
“The former supermarket unit is the largest unit in Prescot Shopping Centre and has already been vacant for 15 years despite efforts of the former owners, and most recently the council, to let it. There are some challenges with the design of this unit. Feedback from discussions with potential commercial tenants is that the design of the unit does not suit modern retailers’ requirements, the ceilings are too low and there are too many columns compared to modern retail parks. Similarly, the unit will be difficult to use for housing or education purposes for these and other reasons.

"Based on this feedback, the council will be investigating other options for the shopping centre unit as part of the longer-term plan for the shopping centre and the town centre.”
“Firstly, we have arranged and paid for the repair of the broken lift so there are now two fully working public lifts in the shopping centre, making it more accessible.

"We have signed three new leases with local business owners. Spanish Cleaning has opened in the shopping centre itself and Mercutio’s Bar and Restaurant has opened at 16 Eccleston Street bringing another great food and drink establishment to the town centre. Another shop is due to open in the shopping centre in July – watch this space for an announcement!

"We are in discussions with Big Onion, a Merseyside based organisation, about setting up a business enterprise hub and we are also in talks with a local operator to explore the potential of a children’s play/activity centre in response to the consultation and the desire of many respondents to see more family and leisure uses.”
“Tesco has never had any ownership or part ownership of the shopping centre, nor does it have any other controls over the future of the shopping centre, its tenants or units in the shopping centre.”
“Based on everything we know about the national retail picture and feedback from discussions with potential tenants, we can say with some certainty that it is unlikely that the shopping centre will ever be fully re-occupied by retailers.

"Feedback from the survey shows that people want us to have a “complete rethink” about the shopping centre and how it is used.

"The Council will now start to work on designs to establish a clear longer-term vision for the site. This is likely to focus on reconfiguration of the shopping centre to create investment and development opportunities, whilst working around the existing tenants we have in the shopping centre.”


In summary, Cllr Brennan commented:

“I would like to thank everyone who took the time to complete a survey and share their views about Prescot Shopping Centre and town centre with us.


“It was really encouraging to see that people are so positive about Prescot and that they recognise the investment and transformation of the town centre over recent years.


“We have really had to take a different approach to attract people into the town centre, and the new bars and restaurants, independent shops, public realm improvements, public transport investment and of course the Shakespeare North Playhouse have all helped to achieve this.


“We are now focussed on developing the shopping centre to complement and enhance what Prescot has to offer and to ensure that the town centre continues to thrive.”