Proposals unveiled to radically redesign Leyland town centre

Leyland town centre “cannot continue as it has and expect to stay relevant and well-used”, according to a long-awaited report into its future.

The document - drawn up by a consultancy firm commissioned by South Ribble Borough Council - suggests sweeping changes to the appearance, layout and function of Leyland, designed to put it on a stronger footing as shopping habits continue to change.

This is how a new civic square could look alongside the United Reformed Church on Hough Lane

This is how a new civic square could look alongside the United Reformed Church on Hough Lane

Three “priority proposals” have been put forward to transform the town centre - a new civic space at the heart of the main shopping precinct, a courtyard development outside the existing market and a revamp of Hough Lane which would see it become a one-way street with greater priority for pedestrians.

The blueprint could form the basis of a town centre masterplan - a strategy to redesign Leyland’s retail centre which was first mooted back in 2005. A public consultation on the proposals is set to be launched shortly.

They form the crux of a series of suggestions which seek to stem Leyland’s fall in a national league table of shopping areas - with the town having dropped 700 places in the retail hierarchy. The report describes the town as being at risk of “stagnation”, but acknowledges that its underlying strength is reflected in a vacancy rate well below the national average.

Its authors, WYG, also lay out a general vision for Leyland based on improving its physical environment and diversifying what is on offer in the town - warning that it must evolve to remain “viable and vital”.

Artist's impression of Hough Lane under a new one-way system (image: WGY)

Artist's impression of Hough Lane under a new one-way system (image: WGY)

Matthew Tomlinson, South Ribble’s cabinet member for finance - and councillor for Leyland’s Broadfield ward - said there was an opportunity to “future-proof” the town.

“We all know town centres are changing fairly rapidly - we can’t just build a lot more shops, we really need to think about what the town centres of the future are going to look like,” he said.

The report suggests creating better defined areas across what is a sprawling space - running from the leisure centre in the south to the railway station in the north - and more consistency in how it looks, including more greenery. The area currently “lacks a clear heart and the environment is very poor in places”, the consultants warn.

Consolidation of the town's car parks is recommended, along with trying to attract more people into the centre who are already in the area visiting Worden Park and the British Commercial Vehicle Museum. With a growing number of families in the town, Leyland is told that it should also be doing more to attract younger people into its main streets - including by expanding its night-time economy.

A planned courtyard development close to the market, designed to boost the night-time economy (image: WGY)

A planned courtyard development close to the market, designed to boost the night-time economy (image: WGY)

The scale of the proposed changes means that land and property ownership issues would have to be overcome, with some of the proposed projects - like the civic square development - requiring the demolition of existing buildings.

Buckshaw and Worden councillor Alan Ogilvie wanted to know whether the owners and occupiers of potentially affected properties had “bought into” the idea.

But cabinet member for planning Bill Evans said the specific projects identified in the report were “just suggestions” at this stage. “People might think some of them are a daft idea,” he said.

The meeting heard that it was “timely” for the proposals to be developed just as Leyland is bidding for a share of the government’s Towns’ Fund. If successful, the area could get up to £25m to invest in redevelopment, skills and transport links.

However, according to the report’s authors, it is expected that the masterplan in the form proposed would require “substantial additional investment” by the council. Private sector investment would also be encouraged, but the “appetite” for that is unknown.

But the authority's deputy leader, Mick Titherington, said that the most important thing was to “get on with the consultation”.

“If you asked people in Leyland what they want, everybody would have a different view - but this is a starting point and it is saying something about how we should move forward.

“We’ve got to commence the discussion - otherwise we’ll be looking at this in another 20 years,” he said.

A date for the public consultation is expected to be announced shortly.

WHAT SHOULD LEYLAND LOOK LIKE?

These are the main suggestions on which the the public will be asked for their views:

Church Place civic square

**A “small-scale, but high impact” development alongside the United Reform Church on Hough Lane.

***Designed to provide a focal point open space, it would also include new retail and residential units following the demolition of existing shops.

***Potential difficulty is that the plot is privately-owned.

Market Place development

***Courtyard-style space close to the existing market hall, intended to be a “destination” attraction to complement the existing retail offering on Hough Lane.

***New units would focus on a food and drink offering in an attempt to attract more evening visitors to the town centre.

***Development would be built on the existing markets car park, with a new parking facility created on private land nearby.

Hough Lane improvements

***New one-way system introduced in a westbound direction (towards Asda).

***A “better balance” between pedestrians and traffic, but still providing parking to protect passing trade.

***New surface materials, street furniture and planting.

Chapel Brow changes

***Reversal of the current one-way system to run in a southbound direction towards the roundabout at Hough Lane, rather than away from it.

***Designed to address safety concerns at the Chapel Brow/Golden Hill junction and flow naturally into the proposed one-way system on Hough Lane.

Car parking consolidation

***The 73-space Ecroyd Street car park would be redeveloped and replaced with a new facility, north of John Street - leading to an increase of 99 spaces.

***The closure of the 41-space Churchill Way car park to create space for a residential development.

SUPERMARKET SWEEP

The Aldi store on Towngate 'over-trades' compared to similar branches in the chain - by more than £25m. It is due to move a new location on the corner of Golden Hill Lane and School Lane and the report into the future of Leyland warns that the vacant unit that it leaves behind may need to be sub-divided to attract new new tenants.

Meanwhile, the Tesco Extra and Morrisons supermarkets at opposite ends of the town centre 'under-trade' in relation to comparable stores for each brand - by £16.5m and £0.4m respectively. Asda on Towngate - a smaller outlet than most stores in the chain - under-trades by £3.2m.

LEYLAND TOWN CENTRE IN NUMBERS

147,000 - number of people within a five-minute drive

21,000 - number of people within a five-minute walk

38 percent - proportion of retail floorspace dedicated to convenience goods (Oct 2016)

21 percent - proportion of retail floorspace dedicated to higher-value goods (Oct 2016)