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Success of first Bootle Strand event marks start of Sefton Council’s ambitious plans to kick-start town’s economy

Councillors at Sefton Council’s Audit and Governance Committee meeting this week will be told that the first ever event held at Bootle Strand Canalside over the recent August Bank Holiday weekend was attended by thousands of people.

People flocked to the outdoor site for the free festival where they were able to enjoy the entertainment and sample the tasty delights and drinks being served from brightly coloured shipping containers.

Hard-hit

Hundreds of feedback forms were filled out which will be used to help shape Sefton Council’s plans to revitalise Bootle, The Strand and the Canalside and revive the town’s hard-hit economy.

Bootle Canalside is an important site for the recovery strategy for Bootle, which is one of the towns hardest hit by the COVID pandemic and other issues in the country.

An update on the Strand Shopping will also be considered at the Audit and Governance Committee meeting.

Sefton Council sees the Strand Shopping Centre as central to the future growth of Bootle, and at the heart of the town centre’s physical, social and economic regeneration. It also provides essential services and amenities to local people.

Securing investment

The Council has earlier this year published the key issues from the Centre’s latest Business Plan, and this recognises the challenges that faced high streets across the country before the pandemic and which have been exacerbated by lockdown restrictions and the changes this has made to people’s shopping habits. The Plan highlights Sefton Council’s continued commitment to supporting and securing investment to the area and includes proposals to develop the Canalside area.

In June, the Council submitted a £14.5 million Levelling Up Fund bid for Bootle. Proposals contained in the Bid include a new, hi-tech digital and Virtual Reality venue hosting the UK’s first ‘Flying Cinema’.

Using a robotic hydraulic platform to create the feeling of being airborne, the ‘Flying Cinema’ would transport visitors on a tour of the British Isles, while a Virtual Reality Time-Travel Tunnel will take visitors on a journey through the ‘History of Bootle and Liverpool’, including an experience of the Blitz. Feedback is expected from Government on the bid later this year.

When complete, Bootle Canalside will include an urban garden, food, drink and leisure outlets and events spaces. It will bring activity to currently under-used land and will help to kick-start the local economy, transforming the look and feel of the town for residents, businesses and visitors. It will also improve the quality of life and create opportunities for the community.

Such an approach and the role of Sefton Council leading this regeneration and redevelopment is only possible due to its decision to purchase the Strand Shopping Centre in 2017.

Long-term plan

Cllr Ian Maher, Leader of Sefton Council said:  “I am delighted that the first event, as part of our long-term plan to revitalise Bootle town centre and The Strand was a success and am glad that people left us lots of feedback. 75% of the feedback was positive about the event, and we recognise the key areas of feedback and next steps identified. Access to the site from Stanley Road will be progressed in the coming weeks, for example, as we look to sustain momentum with this project.

“Regenerating a town that was one of those that has been hit hardest by the COVID pandemic and other factors is going to be a long haul and, as a result, the decision to acquire the Strand Shopping Centre in 2017 to act as the catalyst for this regeneration has proven to be the correct one.  Without the council owning the Strand this project would not be possible.

“As would be expected, there has been a reduction in the value of the Strand shopping centre complex, to the current figure of £14.24 million.

“However, this valuation does not impact on the Council’s financial position, but the acquisition illustrates how Sefton Council is firmly committed to creating opportunities for local people to influence the future of the site and the town centre.

“Achieving this means having the vision, ambition and confidence to take the long-term view and being open and honest about how we intend to achieve it.

“I hope that the Government will do the same by backing our innovative Levelling Up Bid for Bootle.”

Cllr Ian Maher added:

“As we have always stated the acquisition of the Strand Shopping Centre has and will remain a key regeneration project for Bootle and Sefton.

“Achieving this means having the vision, ambition and confidence to take the long-term view and being open and honest about how we intend to achieve it.

“Any current value is irrelevant as we have no plans whatsoever to sell the Strand, and never have.”