£3.1m regeneration to breathe new life into Merseyside town

A £3.1m heritage-led regeneration project will help "breathe new life into the historic heart" of one Merseyside town centre.

Prescot High Street Heritage Action Zone will see the repair, restoration and conversion of a number of historic buildings and spaces in the town.

The project includes the restoration of Prescot's first cinema, the former Prescot Museum building being repaired and put back into use, and plans for vacant land in Sewell Street.

It will focus 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, such as the town hall, court leet and market hall.

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Funding will be made up of a £1.55m government grant as well as a £1.55m contribution from Knowsley Council. The scheme will be delivered by Knowsley Council with the support of Historic England.

Knowsley Council said it has been working up the details of this project with the local community, businesses and property owners for the past year and that it will "help to breathe new life into the historic heart of Prescot town centre."

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.

"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.

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"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."

The High Street Heritage Action Zone initiative, which will run until 2024, aims to bring physical building and public realm improvements, as well as cultural activities to regenerate and restore local historic character.

The buildings being restored as part of the scheme include:

8-14 Kemble Street

Colin Hill, senior minister, inside Prescot Community Church

The Prescot High Street Heritage Action Zone initiative will see the repair, restoration and conversion 8-14 Kemble Street back to its original use as Prescot’s first cinema.

This will also include its surviving auditorium dating from 1912.

After opening as the Prescot Picture Palace and Theatre of Varieties in 1912, the building went on to become a carpet and furniture warehouse, a bingo hall and later Prescot Community Church.

The present occupier, Prescot Community Church, is moving to new premises at Whiston Colliery.

Market Place

Grants will also be provided 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.

Knowsley Council said public realm improvements around Prospero Place and Market Place will also make the space more pedestrian friendly and traditional in character.

34 Church Street

Originally a large townhouse, 34 Church Street has also been a bank and home to the Prescot Museum in its lifetime.

The Grade II-listed Building is another property in the town that will be undergo repair, restoration and conversion.

It will be re-used as a 'makerspace' for new and small businesses in the creative, craft, arts and digital sectors.

Sewell Street

As part of the project, residents will also see the master-planning of the large Sewell Street – Kemble Street site, which extends from Market Place down to the rear of Cables Retail Park.

Knowsley Council said this is the largest area of disused land in the town centre.

The specific projects also include 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.

There will also be 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.

The project officer who will run the different strands of the project will also start in post this month and work is in progress with Historic England on preparing the community engagement and cultural strands.

In regards to building grants, Knowsley Council said 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.

Later this year, both buildings will undergo extensive external repair and restoration, with the ground floors converted to uses that will expand the town’s evening economy.

The former Red Lion pub, Market Place, Prescot

Paul Brannan of Croft Construction is the appointed contractor redeveloping the former HSBC Bank at 2 Eccleston Street as a new restaurant with apartments above.

He 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."

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