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Graphic with the words Kirkby Town Centre.

The Continuing Transformation of Kirkby

by Laura Johnston

Following years of failed plans and promises from private sector businesses to develop Kirkby Town Centre, Knowsley Council took a brave decision in November 2019 to step in and buy it, in order to kickstart the much-needed regeneration and development.

The Council invested £43.8m in buying Kirkby Town Centre, and, in just four years, the return on that investment is now having a positive impact in the transformation of a town which is thriving.

In just four years:-

  • A brand new 94,000 feet2 retail development with 460 car parking spaces has been constructed.
  • Around 500 jobs have been created for local people and the local economy has been boosted by over £15m per year.
  • Across Kirkby Town Centre, 20 new businesses have opened, including a long-awaited supermarket opened by Morrisons. Other new businesses include food outlets, clothing stores, a gym, and a travel agent.
  • Four existing businesses have recently confirmed their commitment to Kirkby by renewing their leases and one of those four businesses (Heron Foods) is expanding into an adjacent unit.
  • More new businesses will be opening in Kirkby before the end of 2023, including IntoUniversity (providing education support and development opportunities for 7-18 year olds), Bon Marché ladieswear and Fun 1st Entertainment (with an inflatable park on the ground floor and a food and drink market on the first floor).
  • A major landmark, Central House, is getting ready to welcome over 200 new office staff early in 2024.
  • The popular Kirkby Market, which has been trading for over 60 years, has benefited from £50,000 of investment in improvements and maintenance upgrades.
  • BBC data has shown a massive 160% increase in footfall in Kirkby Town Centre over the last three years – the highest such increase in the whole of the UK.
  • The Financial Times has highlighted Kirkby as one of the top three towns to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Kirkby Town Centre has benefited from Knowsley Council investment in an enhanced CCTV network.
  • Two pedestrian crossings have been installed, improving links into Kirkby Town Centre as well as accessibility with footpaths widened and kerbs removed to provide single-level access.

Future Plans

Knowsley Council’s ambitious plans show no signs of slowing up – a number of other projects are under way or in development, including:-

  • The refurbishment of the Multi-Storey Car Park, transforming it into a travel hub which will include sensor controlled lighting and electric charging points – this project is now well under way and the new travel hub is due to reopen early in 2024.
  • Plans for new housing which are being developed by Barratt Homes and David Wilson Homes for the land south of Cherryfield Drive. While those particular proposals are still subject to planning permission, an increase in the number of people living near Kirkby Town Centre could help to maintain the existing offer and also attract new investors into the Town Centre.
  • McCarthy and Stone Retirement Lifestyles Limited has expressed interest in acquiring land on St Chad’s Drive to construct 53 new homes and offer specialist provision for people aged 55 and over.
  • The Council remains committed to delivering a cinema scheme for Kirkby Town Centre once the national economic situation is more settled and the project can be delivered within budget.
  • Kirkby has secured £20m of Government investment through the Levelling Up Fund – this money will be received over a ten-year period to support the town’s local priorities.

Councillor Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council, said:

“Back in 2019, the Council made a very brave and bold decision to purchase Kirkby Town Centre – it was an approach which we had never taken before, but it was definitely the right decision.  Not only have we delivered a long-awaited supermarket for local residents, but we have also attracted other businesses into the town.  The increase in footfall shows not only that local people are now able to shop local, but also that we are providing an attractive offer which is bringing in visitors from outside of the area.


“What we have achieved over the last four years is truly astounding, especially when you take into account the fact that it has been achieved during an unprecedented period of uncertainty – first because of the COVID-19 pandemic and then because of national economic uncertainty.  But that four-year period of achievement is just the start, and our plans to develop Kirkby so that local communities have the services and facilities they deserve will continue to be a key priority for us.


“The success of Kirkby Town Centre in recent years in terms of our recovery from the pandemic, our continued regeneration plans, and increased footfall has been recognised by the Financial Times and the BBC.  Many other high streets across the country are declining, but Kirkby has successfully attracted businesses which meet the needs of the local community.


“I’m proud of how this Council is leading Kirkby’s transformation and look forward to seeing further progress being made over the coming months and years.”