Levelling Up Fund
Transforming Ellesmere Port Town Centre
We have successfully secured £13,378,478 from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities' Levelling Up Fund to support the transformation of Ellesmere Port market hall and pedestrian links, as well as to help bring forward sites for new housing.
We have committed a substantial amount of funding to support regeneration in Ellesmere Port, and this is being used as match funding with the addition of Council funding, this represents a total investment of £14.8m.
We have an ambitious vision and project for Ellesmere Port called Transforming Ellesmere Port Town Centre.
This aims to break the cycle of town centre decline through delivering new footfall and spending power into the heart of the town centre and by investment in low carbon infrastructure to help mitigate against climate change and rising energy costs.
The project has three core elements:
- Transforming the market
The project aims to radically improve the appearance and thermal efficiency of the market hall. Externally it involves introducing new windows to let more light into the building, install photovoltaic solar panels to generate green energy, and better insulation, making it a more attractive destination and increasing its use of renewable energy. Internally, the proposals include new business-start up space, a children's play area and Changing Place standard toilets to improve accessibility for people with disabilities and their carers. The proposals will radically upgrade the flea market to create a new flexible event space which will allow for a wide range of events to attract new people into the town centre, and also encourage new users to discover the market.
- Improving pedestrian and cycle access
The project will deliver a safe cycle route from the station to the market hall and along Wellington Road as well as providing new secure cycle parking. The aim is to encourage 'active travel' by making it easier and safer for people to walk or cycle which in the longer term will help reduce congestion and encourage people to make short journeys on foot or by bike which can also help their health.
- Unlock low-carbon homes
The proposals also include plans to unlock development of new homes in two sites at Civic Offices and at the junction of McGarva Way and Coronation Road. The aim will be to demolish empty or redundant buildings and then work with developers to build new first-time buyer or family homes. The new footfall generated by these new residents will help local shops and should help stimulate new business growth such as cafes and more night-time activities.
Fundamentally the project aims to bring new life and footfall into the heart of the town centre, deliver a significantly reimagined Market Hall with events/business start-up space; and help stimulate the new business start-up elements which will boost pride in Ellesmere Port and deliver the real change that residents want to see
We were seeking Government support and endorsement of its approach for Ellesmere Port Town Centre via Levelling Up applications.
We secured the full support for the £13.39million project. The work involves both redevelopment of the market hall and flea market, new transport infrastructure as well as site preparation to unlock housing. Work will need to take place over several years, with completion scheduled for March 2025. Inflation costs have been taken into account to ensure there is enough funding available if prices rise further.
Ellesmere Port benefits from a strong industrial base with many employers such as Stellantis and Essar at Stanlow. The industrial area is leading the way in industrial decarbonisation and energy technology. There are key visitor attractions including Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet Village, Blue Planet Aquarium and the National Waterways Museum. However, the town centre suffers from poor 1960s car-centric design and high business vacancy levels (26 per cent shops are empty) and many people who live in the wider area only visit the town centre for a supermarket visit.
There are higher levels of unemployment in the town centre, low household incomes and the rate of self-employment is just 2.6 per cent compared to the average of 9.1 per cent across the Borough. Many residents are dissatisfied with the town centre and want to see new amenities, events, and a night-time economy.
The market hall is the hub of much community activity in Ellesmere Port and is a popular place for people to meet friends or shop. The proposals are a direct result of consultation with traders and shoppers and aim to increase footfall, bring in new customers similar to the trial events held last year, creating new opportunities for people to start businesses. Importantly the plans will improve the energy efficiency of the market and bring in new natural light to create a better environment.
Public money cannot subsidise individual businesses or deliver restaurants, cafes, and entertainment that people ask for but though unlocking new town centre housing, it will help create new footfall and spending power which together with the upgraded flea market as an events space will help stimulate the business start-ups.
This in turn will help create jobs and raise household incomes. In addition, by making it safer and easier to walk and cycle, residents will feel more able to come into the centre to enjoy events, shopping, or meeting friends which will improve health and well-being.
As the LUF outcome was later than expected, we are reviewing our timeline in conversation with government at this time, however when this is determined, the proposals for the market will be refined following additional engagement with traders and customers construction will be carefully planned to minimise disruption for existing traders and will need further engagement to discuss opportunities for using space during the phased delivery.
Some work is already taking place in the short-term considering the planned demolition of the Civic Way Offices as well as working with consultants and housing developers to explore how to bring forward this and other underused sites on Coronation Road and Civic Way. It may take a while for the new housing to be built to ensure that the right developer can deliver against the ambitions for high design standards and low-carbon living.
All work will be scheduled well in advance, and local people and businesses informed, especially if there have to be any temporary traffic lights or closures.
An important part of seeking support from the Government is that the project has support from local people, stakeholders, and the local Member of Parliament.
The project is formally backed by the MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston.
Many businesses are supporting the proposals including local traders, owners of the Port Arcades as well as Ellesmere Port Development Board whose members include University of Chester, Cheshire College SW, Cheshire Oaks (McArthurGlen) Outlet Village, Cheshire Police, ForHousing, third sector organisations, local ward Members and key employers including Stellantis, Peel and Essar. The proposals have support from Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership.
The project has evolved from the master planning and consultation work undertaken just before the Covid pandemic where 70 per cent of respondents wanted to see more food and beverage and events to attract new businesses into the centre and there was a strong consensus to keep but improve the market offer and improve pedestrian accessibility. While there were mixed views on housing, respondents supported this where it increased footfall and spend to help stimulate new shops/amenities.
The project aims to encourage new footfall into the town centre to help benefit traders and stimulate new business start-up. The market hall will include a new entrepreneurs' hub which can be used for informal working or can host workshops to help young businesses thrive. The new events space with spill out space for use in the summer will enable home-based businesses to try trading at special events. Combined, these elements aim to help more people in Ellesmere Port become self-employed or start small businesses as a means of improving household income and life satisfaction. The new footfall generated from the housing will help increase spend so that new and existing traders can thrive.
The project also has several wider community benefits, the market hall will be refurbished with a new children's play area, community hub and youth area, together with new Changing Place facilities and customer toilets and the pedestrian and cycle routes will make it easier to get to the centre without a car. The aim is to invest in the market as the heart of the town centre and help improve its environment so that residents will want to spend time with friends and family in the centre and it will be a place they will feel proud about.
Climate change is central to the development of this request for support and all three of the elements have adaptation to the effects of climate change at their core. The market hall proposals include large new windows (so lights don’t always have to be switched on), photovoltaic roof panels to generate solar energy to reduce running costs and insulation making the building a more attractive destination and more energy efficient, making it better for the environment by reducing fossil fuel use which also means overheads are kept to a minimum.
The sites being unlocked for new housing are aimed to be low carbon homes, to accelerate the path to net zero by driving the growth of low carbon living and will complement other initiatives in the area and will help to stimulate more low energy homes for the future. The funding for the transport components is aimed at making it easier to walk and cycle, enabling people to leave the car at home for some journeys thereby reducing congestion and reliance on cars.
Ellesmere Port is seeing a huge investment in low carbon business growth, and the aim of this project is to ensure that the town centre is upgraded simultaneously to this investment so that it is a place that residents and new employees in these businesses will feel proud to live in.
While detailed concept proposals have been developed and priced there are still lots of opportunity for change. The markets team will work with traders to help refine the detail for proposals. There will be a series of information and engagement events to let local people and stakeholders know more about the proposals and share feedback.
The other elements will be further refined over the next months including engagement with other property owners to understand their aspirations and explore ways to perhaps work together. Residents and stakeholders will be fully informed over the next months.
A redacted version of the bid is available to read: