A town centre to be proud of

An artist's image of the proposed new extension
An artist's image of the proposed new extension

Exciting plans for a £10m extension of Market Walk shopping precinct – including a multi-screen cinema – have been unveiled.

If approved, the new jobs-spinning development is expected to be open for Christmas 2016.

The plans could result in the demolition of Chorley Council’s Union Street offices to make way for car parking.

A multi-storey car park has not been ruled out, but is not a preferred option.

The ambitious project has been described as the ‘biggest change to the town centre’ for generations.

It is linked in with the £1m redevelopment of Market Street and the construction of the new Asda store.

Coun Peter Wilson, deputy leader of Chorley Council, said: “If this goes ahead, we think it will be a town centre for people to be proud of.”

The extension will feature eight new units.

But the council is stressing that importance of having a cinema.

“Key to this will be having a cinema in there,” said councillor Wilson, who wants to stem the flow of shoppers and leisure seekers going out of Chorley and spending their money in neighbouring towns.

More than 200 new jobs could be created from the proposed Market Walk extension.

It would also bring a flagship retailer to the town.

The council’s preferred option is for:

n Two-storey retail and leisure development of 84,800 sq ft.

n Landmark building to anchor the corner of Union Street and Clifford Street.

n Keeping the Flat Iron market and car parking visible from the north along Clifford Street.

n A cinema.

n Covered walkway allowing access from Clifford Street which may also work as a food court.

The plans come just months after the council bought the shopping centre.

Now people are being asked for their views on the proposed extension during a consultation period.

Coun Alistair Bradley, leader of the council, said: “When we bought Market Walk we did so with a view to using that investment to improve the offer we have in the town centre and a key part of that would be to look at extending the mall.

“We’ve been looking at a variety of options and this is the scheme that we think will be best for the borough and we are now seeking people’s views before we formally submit a planning application.

“People have told us that they want big-name retailers in the town and for there to be more things for people to do, particularly in the evening.

“We’ve listened to that and the scheme we are proposing looks to incorporate all of those things.”

There are two alternatives of the proposal that would see the development of up to eight new units, over two storeys on the Clifford Street side of the Flat Iron car park.

There is also an option to demolish the civic offices on Union Street, to create additional car parking and possibly one additional leisure unit.

The scheme would be funded by the council with no development taking place without getting tenants signing up in advance, meaning the authority would generate an income from the extension that would go to providing services for residents.

“We know people will be saying what’s happening with the car parking and the Flat Iron market and these are two of the biggest challenges,” said Coun Bradley.

“But we believe that a development that could deliver a flagship retailer and provide much-needed entertainment is worth pursuing and we will be looking at ways of overcoming all the challenges.

“We are discussing our plans with retail and leisure providers to understand what would make them choose Chorley – we won’t proceed with this without getting tenants signed up in advance.

“We bought the shopping centre to benefit the people of Chorley and to give us more influence over what happens in the town, so it’s important you take part in the consultation.”

You can view the plans at chorley.gov.uk/marketwalk and there will be display boards showing the plans at the council’s Union Street

Short sections of Market Street will be closed to traffic from tomorrow as work starts on transforming the road, making it more pedestrian-friendly and appealing to visitors.

The work is part of the £1m revamp of the area around the new Asda store and will continue from the former Big Lamp roundabout through to St George’s Street over the next six months.

It is being delivered in partnership between Lancashire County Council, which is part funding carrying out the works, and Chorley Council, which is also funding the scheme and incorporating it into the wider town centre improvements.

Coun Peter Wilson, the deputy leader of Chorley Council, said: “It’s great to see that work is progressing well on the improvements around the new Asda store and the next phase of work will really start to bring home the improvements that we will see in that part of town.

“The whole of Market Street from the junction of Pall Mall to St George’s Street will be transformed into a more pedestrian-friendly area with wider pavements, benches and trees and I’m really pleased that we’ve been able to work closely with Lancashire County Council to get this done as quickly as we can.

“With all the other improvements taking place including the resurfacing of car parks, the shop front improvements along Market Street, the redevelopment of the former McDonald’s and the possible extension to Market Walk there is a lot to be excited about for the

The improvements will be done in stages, with sections of Market Street closed to traffic for a few weeks at a time – the first area to be done will be from Pall Mall to Cunliffe Street.

The carriageway of Market Street will be narrowed and resurfaced and natural granite and high quality paving will be used on the footways, loading and parking

A number of courtesy crossings will be constructed for pedestrians, and a restricted parking zone will be introduced on Market Street to avoid the requirement of yellow lines on the road

The Big Lamp itself will be re-positioned on a plinth in the new widened footway area of Pall Mall at its junction with Market Street.

Once the highway work is complete, Market Street will work as a shared surface meaning that pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles will travel on the same level which is much more attractive to the eye and pedestrian-friendly as it will encourage a reduced speed in traffic.

Coun Jenny Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “It’s vital that we continue to invest in our town centres to make sure they are appealing to visitors and provide a nice environment for people to shop.

“We will be working with businesses to make sure pedestrian access is maintained at all times.

“And although there will be some temporary disruption we hope people will agree that the end result will make it all worthwhile.”

Once the stretch between Pall Mall and Cunliffe Street is completed, the road closure will be lifted and moved to the length of road between Cunliffe Street and Anderton Street.

Car parking is at the top of the agenda for market traders who say they will work with the council through the consultation exercise into the extension.

Malcolm Allen, chairman of the Chorley Traders’ Alliance, said: “The town is in dire need of extra car parking. The development of extra housing over the last ten years in the borough, ie Buckshaw, has not so far been accompanied by sufficient car parking to accommodate extra customers.

“The town plan is already in consultation considering building on existing car parks that feed customers on to the revamped Market Street as the proposed extension would dramatically alter the focus of retail in the town. Many established independent businesses would be left very much on the periphery, and there are concerns as to how this would affect these businesses.

“We had this when Market Walk was first built. As a town centre we also suffered around a £6 million drop in town spend when the car park on Clifford Street was turned into the bus station.

“The impact studies for the building of ASDA show that another £3-£5 million would be lost from the town centre area.

“The majority of new customers in the town over the last couple of years have come from the surrounding towns who like what we have. We are also aware that local residents want more, as can be seen on the Facebook page ‘Chorley Now and Then’.

“Going forward we all need to work together to meet everybody’s needs to provide a successful market town that draws shoppers here.”