Reimagining Market Place:
Bringing Prescot's historic commercial heart back to life
The space itself is approximately 800m2 in area and is principally level concrete flag paving with the exception of a pedestrian ramp leading up to the public highway at Market Place and a staircase leading up to the War Memorial and Churchyard. The site includes a small single storey disused public conveniences block dating from the mid-1960s that could be removed or remodelled and reused as part of the redesign of the space. Whilst demolition of the toilet block is an option, it should be kept in mind that it is part of the retaining structure to the churchyard above the site. Therefore its removal and replacement with a new structure could have significant cost implications and time implications in terms of disturbing a long established burial ground.
A set of photos of the space as existing can be viewed on the downloads page.
Currently, the Market Place is on the fringes of Prescot life, with Eccleston Street, the nearby Cables Retail Park and indoor Prescot Shopping Centre fulfilling the retail function for the town. Town Centre events usually take place on Church Street, Eccleston Street or the performance space at Leyland Street. Most people simply pass through the site, or walk around the perimeter. The exception is a small group of young people who congregate there of an evening.
The overall budget for the scheme after the completion of this design competition is £495,000. This includes all professional fees, any other relevant fees as well as the capital works to the site itself and any associated overheads, VAT and contingencies. There is simply no scope for spending more than this amount.
THI public realm projects have a unique set-up in terms of financing in that they always include a share of ineligible project costs that must be borne entirely by the Council. The split for Prescot Market Place is £354,000 on the eligible items and £141,000 on the ineligible items. There is no movement between these categories. The Council must spend the full eligible share for it to obtain the full contribution to the budget that is made by the HLF grant. The categories of eligible and ineligible work can be viewed on the downloads page.
Work on the THI has shown that there are numerous and varied stakeholders in Prescot Town Centre from the private, public and voluntary sectors and local faith and community groups. These stakeholders have been integral to the process of identifying uses for the site and informing the design brief. It is key that the new Market Place has local ownership and buy-in, for it is the local stakeholders who will ultimately ensure whether the space is well used and well-loved. The re-design of Market Place should reflect the aspirations of local residents and stakeholders, as obtained via the consultation carried out in 2016. The full report is available at the Prescot THI website.
In summary the key themes were identified as follows:-
|Answer Options||Daily||Weekly||Monthly||Once a quarter||Twice a year||Annually||Never|
|Space to sit and relax||90%||7%||1%||0%||0%||1%||1%|
|Play space for children||59%||16%||7%||2%||0%||2%||14%|
|Café / fixed food outlet||63%||9%||2%||1%||0%||1%||25%|
|Youth clubs / structured youth activity||12%||41%||23%||5%||1%||3%||15%|
|Community events / festivals||2%||15%||50%||21%||8%||4%||0%|
|Temporary food outlet||24%||25%||27%||6%||1%||1%||16%|
|Performance E.g. theatre, cinema, music||11%||21%||36%||21%||3%||2%||5%|
|Public art / art activity||17%||17%||38%||16%||4%||3%||5%|
|Private events (e.g. weddings)||7%||27%||21%||10%||2%||3%||30%|
At the highest end of Market Place, in what is presently the Mill Street car park, there is planning permission in place and pre-development work underway for the Shakespeare North Playhouse and Cultural Complex. This £19million scheme is led by the Shakespeare North Trust and Knowsley Council and is expected to be constructed 2018–20.
The complex has come about because of Knowsley's historical links with William Shakespeare. There was a twelve year period in Shakespeare's life between when he completed his studies at Kings New School, Stratford and emerged in London as a fully fledged playwright with a handful of his early plays already written. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that for some of this time Shakespeare was in Lancashire and was for a time at Knowsley Hall (just outside of Prescot) under the patronage of the 5th and 6th Earls of Derby. The association with the Earls of Derby appears to have continued during the 1590s, a time when many of his key works were written and first performed. Prescot itself had the first known playhouse outside of London and it was built circa 1596–8.
The Shakespeare North Trust has picked up these strands of history that are of international importance and is set to build a 350-seat playhouse in Prescot, complete with an international university college that will focus on Shakespearian performance practice. The playhouse and cultural centre will add an entirely new dimension to Prescot town centre and will draw in audiences, performers and students from across the globe, all within 100 metres of the Market Place site.
The Prescot Shopping Centre opened in 1989 and is home to some of the town centre's largest retailers, the Council's One Stop Shop, Library and Museum and the town centre's largest public car park. In October 2016, Groupe Geraud, the owner of the Shopping Centre, publicly announced its intention to redevelop the Shopping Centre as a six-screen cinema with ancillary food and beverage units within the Shopping Centre alongside traditional retail and the existing Council services.
Groupe Geraud has also purchased the adjacent former Stephenson's (a vacant eyesore) and intends to incorporate this in its redevelopment of the Shopping Centre, most likely as the site of a multi-storey car park.
The intention is to complete the redevelopment of the Shopping Centre by 2020.
Along with the playhouse, the cinema and food and drink uses will help to make Prescot more of a leisure destination with more visitors in the evenings and at weekends. This will all happen very close to the Market Place site, with two of the routes from the redeveloped site emerging onto Market Place itself.
The lack of a strongly defined north-south route through Prescot has hampered its regeneration and has left its principal destinations poorly linked.
The Council has made a bid to the Liverpool City Region's Single Investment Fund (SIF) to provide a pedestrian and cycle link that will connect the town's railway station, Cables Retail Park (circa 2million visitors per year), the town centre and Shakespeare North Playhouse and further north to Knowsley Hall and Safari Park (circa 500,000 visitors per year).
The route will improve crossings and incorporate wayfinding and public art to create a pleasant and convenient route across the town centre. The route will pass through Market Place, coming up Sewell Street from the south, crossing the full length of Market Place and passing in front of the Shakespeare North Playhouse.
Prescot's Parish Church, St Mary's, is medieval in origin. Its ancient, possibly Celtic circular churchyard was extended south in the eighteenth century before a formal cemetery was added in 1935. The older parts of the churchyard fell into neglect and became increasingly overgrown.
In 2013 the Friends of Prescot Cemetery and Churchyard was established by local people with the aim of making the cemetery and churchyard a place of beauty that honours Prescot's heritage and the memory of loved ones. The group, which is entirely voluntary, has made great strides improving the churchyard and cemetery and making them assets once again. New memorials were dedicated and unveiled in 2014, a walk linking the war graves in the cemetery was published in 2015 and in 2016 a large ceremony was held to mark the 100th anniversary of Prescot's War Memorial (one of the first such memorials in the country).
The Council is working with the Friends to submit a 'Parks for People' bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to continue and expand upon the good work carried out to date. The enhancements will cover all aspects of improving the space, from soft landscaping, trees and planting through to footpaths, boundary and retaining walls and of course interpretation and information. As with any 'Parks for People' project the aims will be to enhance or better reveal the site's heritage values and to encourage more people to visit the churchyard and cemetery.
The churchyard immediately joins the Market Place site to the west and north.
In summary the re-design of Market Place comes at an exciting time where the damage done to the town's economy and townscape over the twentieth century is being repaired and renewed for the century ahead in a manner that respects its rich heritage.
The competition is being managed and administered by RIBA Competitions on behalf of Knowsley MBC. All enquiries relating to the competition should be directed to:
0113 203 1490