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Exciting future ahead for Bootle’s landmark shopping centre

Sefton Council’s vision for the long-term future of Bootle New Strand Shopping centre continues to progress with the acquisition of adjacent sites and progression of soft market testing regarding options and opportunities for the future of the centre.

This is the first step in realising the Council’s long-term aspirations to redevelop and repurpose The Strand.

In 2017, Sefton Council bought The Strand and earlier this year it secured some of the neighbouring sites. This means the Council can now steer the regeneration of a wider area of The Strand and Bootle town centre.

With Bootle proving to be one of the towns in the UK hardest-hit by COVID-19, the council is reviewing a range of short-term, cost effective “meanwhile” uses for the site while the long-term plans are being considered.

Following the adjacent site acquisitions, demolition works will commence this year, as part of work towards making better use of the canal-side location.  There will be an emphasis on a distinct food and beverage offer next to the canal, and images have been released to show how the area could look like in the future. These interim, “meanwhile” uses will transform the area in the short term while longer term planning and public consultation and engagement with residents, businesses and customers takes place.

Introducing these “meanwhile” measures will mean decommissioning certain areas of the centre. This may contribute to a reduction in rental income, but the Council will work through the financial impact, alongside these exciting new developments.

Pleasingly, in the most recent financial year (2019/20), The Strand made an operating surplus despite the COVID-19 pandemic affecting all sectors of society, including retail.  This surplus has been added to previous balances generated and has made possible the investment of £1 million to help fund other Sefton Council services since the Centre came back into council ownership.

This proves that the decision to take the centre back into council control and away from the private sector was the right one for the regeneration of Bootle and the Borough.  If this hadn’t taken place, The Strand would be unsupported and would be in decline with a wide-ranging impact on the local community and wider borough.

There is no retail unit or shopping centre in the UK that has not been affected by the pandemic, as the economy has seen a significant decline leading to the country now being in recession, and The Strand, together with all shopping centres in the Borough, will be no different in experiencing financial challenges over the coming months and years.  Now more than ever, exciting plans such as these to transform a much loved and valued local asset have never been more important.

As part of the long-term vision for The Strand and Bootle Town Centre, Sefton Council plans to carry out widespread consultation with local residents and partners, including a “Festival of Ideas” in September 2020. The input and perspectives of the public will be key to the success of the centre in the future.

Cllr Ian Maher, Leader of Sefton Council, said: “Sefton Council has big ambitions for the future of The Strand and Bootle Town Centre. They remain central to the area’s regeneration and this is an opportunity to explore other uses for them.

“We want to transform the space so that it is be more open and integrated with the surrounding community. It will be a beautiful public space hosting a wide range of uses and facilities, including retail but also food and drink and leisure opportunities.  We will also evaluate a number of other potential uses to ensure long-term economic, social and environmental sustainability of the centre.

“In particular, we have an ambition to link The Strand to the canal, which can provide not only an attractive environment and space for leisure, but also ‘a green transport corridor’, for walking, cycling and travel by water. This would link The Strand with other parts of the borough and beyond, including the proposed new Everton football stadium at Bramley Moore Dock.”

The illustrations released today are artist’s impressions of how the area could look.

Day trippers asked to plan ahead during the Summer Holidays

For many, summer usually means family holidays but COVID-19 has complicated things this year.

With staycation becoming the norm, more and more people are heading out on day trips or mini UK breaks.

But we all must still remember to follow the guidelines, we know that outdoors is generally safer than indoors, social distancing is key, cleaning and sanitising hands can mitigate risk and we must be wearing masks when we’re on public transport or in shops and visitor attractions.

It’s also key to think ahead and plan your journey, as we know the good weather sees more people heading to the beauty spots around the borough, but this can also lead to increased traffic, parking nightmares and long delays for everyone.

So, if you’re intending to visit the areas, then please check your local radio stations for traffic updates and follow Sefton Council’s social media channels for status of local car parks and traffic alerts.

So why not think about alternative ways to get here? 

We have an excellent rail service along the Sefton Coast. The Merseyrail northern line runs every 15 minutes in both directions between Liverpool and Southport and with many of our visitor attractions within a short walk away, it couldn’t be easier.

But remember when travelling on public transport too:

  • keep a safe distance from your fellow passengers on train services – your personal space has never been more important.
  • don’t leave home without your face masks – as they are now mandatory at stations and on public transport – and dispose of it correctly in a bin.
  • don’t carry open bottles of alcohol on trains or at stations – remember the Merseyrail network is an alcohol-free zone.
  • respect rail staff and other passengers. We won’t tolerate anti-social behaviour of any kind. Just text 61016 or call 0800 40 50 40 if you need help or you see something that needs reporting.

Sefton is also served by several bus service providers, from Merseytravel, Arriva and Stagecoach, so why not give the bus a try! But don’t forget your face mask.

If you prefer hopping on your bike, there are plenty of different cycle routes with varying difficulty ratings and distances, where you can expect to see different things such as the Natterjack Toad to the famous Red Squirrel at Formby.

If you don’t want to travel with your bikes, you can hire them at both the Eco Visitor Centre and Southport Train Station.

Don’t forget that on the Merseyrail network you can take your bike along for free, without pre-booking, making your journey choice even easier. As lots of these cycling routes can be accessed from railway stations too.

Peter Moore, Head of Highways & Public Protection said: “With the easing of lockdown restrictions, we have seen more vehicles returning to our roads.

“We want to remind everyone to plan their journey or to think about whether you even need to make your journey by car, as there are many different ways to get to our visitor attractions.

“But, if you do need to drive, drive safely and consider other road users and local residents.

“There are more walkers and cyclists around and we’re trying to improve road space to support people who are choosing active travel on their return to work as well as for daily exercise.”

For walking and cycling routes and guide visit, activetravelsefton.co.uk/ or for public transport information visit, www.merseytravel.gov.uk/

Sefton’s Council and CVS supporting Summer Food Programme

For the fifth year, Sefton Council is working with Sefton CVS on the ‘Access to Food’ programme to offer children, young people and families across the Borough access to food during the school summer holidays.

Over 5,000 takeaway packed lunch meals will be served during the scheme, which helps support a wide range of families across Sefton including those who would normally be in receipt of free school meals during term time.

Cllr Trish Hardy, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing said: “This is always a very important service to provide and once again we are able to help people who would otherwise struggle to put food on the table.

“We have had families tell us that without this service, they would have to miss paying bills to accommodate the extra cost of feeding their children during the summer months.

“Sadly, there is a need for schemes such as the Access To Food Programme and we are delighted that we are once again able to help and support those families that are most in need within our communities.”

Angela White, Chief Executive of Sefton CVS said: “We understand that the summer holidays can be an extremely challenging time for some families.

“We are pleased to be working alongside Sefton Council to offer a coordinated response to meet the needs of our local communities.”

Provided through a a network of community venues and local organisations, The Access To Food initiative is available to all regardless of income throughout the schools summer and complements the service being provided by Sefton Council’s Family Wellbeing Centres in the South, Central and North localities.

Find out more about access to food during the summer holidays.

‘Please park considerately’ – Visitors are asked to please be considerate when parking your vehicle at Sefton’s beautiful coast.

Sefton’s coastline, an internationally protected ‘nature reserve’, is stunning, and we understand why people want to visit, especially when the weather is nice.

Since restrictions were lifted allowing people to spend more time outside, we have seen a rise in the number of people using parks and many of Sefton’s beautiful beaches.

After seeing large numbers of people travelling to these locations the Sefton Coastal Landscape Partnership launch a new multi-agency campaign throughout August.

The campaign aims to remind people to continue to be sensible when visiting its coastline. The campaign includes advice on the need to maintain social distancing and asks visitors to remain respectful and protect Sefton’s public spaces.

During the recent nice weather, the partnership has received reports of excessive littering and fires and BBQs being lit as well as people parking illegally and inconsiderately by blocking driveways and residential roads.

We want everyone to enjoy themselves when visiting Sefton, but to remember to park their vehicle respectfully as residents and emergency services are struggled with access issues as tourists flock to the area.

If you are visiting by car, please be considerate when parking your vehicle, leave room for emergency vehicles, as tight spaces will slow down emergency vehicles and delay their response time to emergency calls.

Sefton Civil Enforcement Officer have issued Penalty Charges to significantly more vehicles in the last few weeks, then in previous years, after motorists caused problems while parking, so please use designated car parks and don’t just abandon your vehicles on the highway or block access for residents living in the area.

We have now re-opened Ainsdale Beach car park – £8 all day for all vehicles (please note its cash only right now) and Southport’s Esplanade Park & Ride at just £2 per car. Plus, the variable message signs will keep motorist informed on parking updates.

For regular visitors, Sefton Council offers a money-saving £20 season ticket for parking on Ainsdale Beach. Details of how to apply can be found at www.sefton.gov.uk/beaches

Peter Moore, Head of Highways & Public Protection said: “All our car parks are clearly signposted and we always encourage people to park legally, responsibly and with consideration for others.

“Sefton is doing everything it can to address these parking issue and our enforcement officers will be issuing parking tickets to cars parked irresponsibly and dangerously.”

Sefton Superintendent Graeme Robson said: “We know that illegal parking, especially at busy times, can cause huge inconvenience to people locally, with people blocking residents in or out of their own drives.

“But even more concerning, some parking on pavements and where obstructions are caused can prove extremely dangerous.

“We have seen pedestrians including those in pushchairs or in wheelchairs forced to walk into the road to walk around vehicles, and emergency vehicles unable to pass down roads quickly due to inconsiderate parking.

“Our officers will be out supporting Sefton Council’s efforts to persuade visitors to park legally and responsibly, and I urge anyone coming to visit the Sefton coastline to be considerate at all times.”

Sefton residents with Council Tax concerns urged to get in touch now

With the coronavirus pandemic having had an impact on many people’s incomes, Sefton Council is urging anyone concerned about their Council Tax payments to get in touch, on 0345 140 0845, as soon as possible.

A wide range of advice and support is available to people facing difficulties paying Council Tax and other household bills. Council staff can put callers in touch with organisations providing free, independent financial advice such as Citizens Advice Sefton, Sefton Advice Services, Sefton Credit Union, National Debt Line and the Step Change Debt Charity.

There are also a number of ways that people can reduce their Council Tax liability. These include the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme for people on a low income and the Exceptional Hardship Fund. There are also several discounts and exemptions including for people who are sole occupiers.

A Council spokesperson said: “COVID-19 and the measures taken to prevent its spread have had a direct and indirect impact on many of us and has had a negative effect on many people’s incomes.

“Feeling you can’t pay your bills can be frightening which is why we want people concerned about their Council Tax and other outgoings to start talking to us now, rather than just worrying about it.

“The sooner people get in touch, they sooner we can start helping them with practical solutions and ways to reschedule their payments.”

Anyone who thinks they will struggling to meet their payments, should contact the Council on 0345 140 0845 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, where an advisor will be able to help.

Find out more about the help available. 

The spokesperson added: “It’s so important that those of who can pay our council tax, continue to do so – now more than ever. Council Tax pays for facilities and services including to some of the most vulnerable in our communities and it is our duty to everyone in the Borough to collect it.

“We have already written to residents with existing Council Tax arrears to remind them about payment and to ask them to get in touch if they anticipate payment problems.

“The Government recently introduced revised legislation allowing Enforcement Agents to re-start visits to collect debts in the coming weeks. However, where Sefton residents are facing genuine and often unforeseen financial challenges as a result of coronavirus, we want to work with them to find solutions and see that kind of recovery action as a last resort.”

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