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
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.
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.
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.
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
"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.”
“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 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.”
"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.”
"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.”
"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.”