New report suggests town has ‘perfect’ main street

Tip-top town centre?: Coun Phil Smith and regeneration manager Howerd Booth with the bronze statue on Hough Lane
Tip-top town centre?: Coun Phil Smith and regeneration manager Howerd Booth with the bronze statue on Hough Lane
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A new report suggests Leyland is ahead of the game when it comes to having a thriving town centre.

Retail expert Mary Portas, aka Mary Queen of Shops, has published a report for the government setting out a series of recommendations on how to regenerate high streets.

And South Ribble Council has come forward to say Mary’s proposals have been taken on board, and Leyland already fulfils a lot of her suggestions.

They include expanding and encouraging the local market, improving car parking, and working with local shops.

Coun Peter Mullineaux, South Ribble Council’s deputy leader, said: “The Portas report defines the scale of the problems facing town centre traders and identifies a raft of measures to help our high streets.

“I’m pleased to say Leyland is ahead of the game and nearly all the measures in the Portas report are already well under way and involve a local partnership between the borough council and local businesses.

“We understand that times are particularly hard for traders and we’ve been actively working with local businesses to do as much as we can to help them.

“But we are far from complacent on this issue and are always looking for further opportunities across the borough.”

The council says Leyland Market has expanded during the last 12 months, with the outdoor market more than doubling in size and plans being drawn up to expand it further.

The market is also the only one in Lancashire to have a 100 per cent occupancy rate.

A £250,000 regeneration of Hough Lane this year saw new gates puts up outside the market, the former North Works site of Leyland Motors, and a bronze statue erected of a Leyland Motors worker.

Coun Matthew Tomlinson, leader of South Ribble’s Labour group and the new chairman of Leyland My Neighbourhood Forum, said: “The council has done a lot in the last 12 months to try and keep the town centre going but I’m hopeful that the new My Neighbourhood Forum can add to that.

“I am hoping we will be able to work with the new Leyland Business Forum to support the town centre and events like the Leyland Festival.

“It has been acknowledged that Christmas in the town centre isn’t what it could be. Maybe that is something we would like to focus on for the future. Mary Portas makes some good points but I don’t agree with everything.”

Other recommendations include improving car parking, supporting local businessed and reducing vancancy rates.

In Leyland, vacancy rates stand at just over six per cent. Nationally, this is around 11 per cent.

Another suggestion is to create town teams, such as the Leyland Business Forum.

Tom Booth, part of the town’s business group, who owns Bean Drinking on Hough Lane, said: “We have got a brilliant market and there are some great shops in Leyland.

“People have got to pay for parking which is always a bit of a down side but it’s cheaper than a lot of other places.

“We don’t have big brands in Leyland so it’s much easier to work together but we don’t have the big budgets that these people, so it’s swings and roundabouts. But the important thing is to work together to make the most of what we’ve got.”

What do you think? Email charlotte.wareing@lep.co.uk