Southport could be thrust “back on the map” thanks to the opportunity to secure £25million funding through the Town Deal.
A three-week Wider Consultation has just begun, with people being asked what they most want to see money spent on to regenerate our town.
Cllr Marion Atkinson, the Sefton Council Cabinet Member for Skills and Regeneration, said: “We need Southport up there, back on the map, the way it was, and we will be doing what we can to make that happen.”
Cllr Atkinson and Sefton Executive Director Stephen Watson gave their views in an exclusive Stand Up For Southport video with TV and radio presenter Roy Basnett.
Cllr Atkinson said: “This is such an exciting time for Southport and Sefton and we are doing everything we can to get every penny of that £25million.”
A number of ‘Big Ideas’ have now been put forward as possible schemes to regenerate Southport. They cover five themes: a “world class waterfront”, a “thriving town centre”, a “stronger economy”, “green and clean” and “better connected”.
Initiatives include building a ‘Marine Village’ on the edge of the Marine Lake; an all-year indoor leisure attraction at Southport Pleasureland; a new rail, bus and cycle transport interchange; and a cinema, dining and events space inside the former Beales department store and Wayfarers Arcade.
People are being urged to view the Big Ideas and submit their views online at https://yourseftonyoursay.sefton.gov.uk/futuresouthport/
Those without internet access can call the consultation hotline on 0808 168 8296. It closes on until Monday 20th July.
Stephen Watson said: “We are one of 100 towns that have been identified and have been asked to express interest in securing up to £25million to develop and implement a locally-owned Town Investment Plan focused on economic and cultural infrastructure to create and support the creation of enhanced transport, digital connectivity, skills and employment and really building on the existing Development Framework that already exists, the existing vision for the borough and the town.
“So plans are under development with that bid opportunity in mind.”
Cllr Marion Atkinson said: “We are so excited about this Town Deal.
“We already think that Southport is a good place to live, a good place to work. We want to make it better.
“We want it to be a place where people love to come, they love to live, they love to work.
“We are really, really keen to build on that reputation that Southport has got, and that is important to us.
“We also want to look at trying to diversify the economy a little bit.
“The visitor economy is a massive influence in the economy in Southport.
“We need to look at a bit of diversification.
“That could be digital, there’s lots of opportunities we need to tease out of this process.”
Stephen Watson said: “Diversification of the economy is a really important opportunity. It comes up really strongly with the board and with stakeholder engagement.
“The hope is that these opportunities support the attraction and retention of young, talented people in the town as well.
“Over the past 30 years the population of 18-24 year olds in Southport has dropped by 22%.
“The population of over-65s has grown by 12%.
“So in terms of resilience and stability of economy there is an opportunity there that hopefully enthuses young people.
“I think this is about identifying the opportunities in infrastructure and connectivity that can support that and then, as Marion said, this will be a great place to live, to work, and building on opportunities we have already got and creating visibility of those opportunities.”
Southport has a number of superb natural assets it can build on. What possibilities have emerged so far?
Cllr Atkinson said: “The appetite is there for change.
“The Marine Lake is emerging quite strongly. That is coming through in the conversations that are taking place at the moment.
“Lord Street is factored in there as well.
“There is a real appetite I would say for the Marine Lake and development around that area.”
Stephen Watson said: “The stakeholder engagement and communication and consultation that has happened so far, including with Stand Up For Southport, has been really invaluable.
“Our environment, the use of green space, the open air, are all things that come through really strongly.
“It is about building on the assets that we have and the Marine Lake comes through really strongly in that respect.
“There are some really exciting opportunities already in train at the southern end of the lake, around the Southport Pleasureland and King’s Gardens area.
“It’s ‘what can we do’ further north as well around the Southport Theatre & Convention Centre area further north by the lake as well.
“It is an incredible asset to build on.
“One of the board members refers to it as ‘a good bone structure’. One of the opportunities we have got is this great bone structure on which to build with opportunities like that.
“We have the boulevard like Lord Street as well as some of the other areas along the coast and the area around the Business Park at Kew as well.”
What happens next is down to the residents, businesses and organisations in Southport expressing their views.
Stephen Watson said: “This belongs to all of us, the opportunity belongs to all of us.
“It needs residents’ input into it to develop it and make the most of it.
“Hopefully this will be the catalyst for much more to follow as well.
“What can £25million do to help to stimulate further investment and confidence?
“There are a number of stars aligning.
“It feels like this can be the catalyst for so much more.”
Cllr Marion Atkinson said: “We know that the previous few years there have been major challenges for the town. Covid, that hasn’t helped.
“But that is not to say ‘ok, that’s it’.
“We are really passionate about doing our best for Southport. Really passionate.
“We want people to come with us. We won’t be doing this to people, people will be leading this. They will be consulted, there is no doubt about that..
“We need Southport up there, back on the map, the way it was, and we will be doing what we can.”
This stage of consultation ends on July 20, after which the Southport Town Deal board will look through the feedback from local people before forming their submissions to Government.
Stephen Watson said: “As we would expect, the Government has been diverted in many directions so we are still waiting for guidance and clarity on the process.
“The intent is to be ready to submit our proposals later in the Summer.
“This is so important for economic recovery and resilience in the town and across Sefton.
“The intent is to be ready to go as soon as the Government is ready to go..”
Cllr Marion Atkinson said: “Sefton have really worked hard previously as well.
“The Government will know we will be knocking on the door really hard on this as well.
“We have secured £2.5million through the Southport Townscape Heritage Initiative, £2.9million for the restoration of Southport Pier, the council invested in the Southport Theatre & Convention Centre, in King’s Gardens, we host the three major events of the town, so they know how passionate we are and they know we will be knocking on the door, I certainly will.”
Stephen Watson said: “You feel the enthusiasm shared by local businesses and partners as well, both in the public and private sectors, and there is a lot moving already as well, even despite the current circumstances.
“There are some really good opportunities coming together and this will be the catalyst for making a lot of those a reality over the coming years.”
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