Proposals for a waterside events centre, year-round surf resort and a revamp of Southport Pleasureland feature alongside business incubator space and a regeneration of Lord Street, the town’s central retail boulevard, in a £50m Sefton Council funding submission to the Government's £3.6bn Towns Fund aimed at rejuvenating town centres across England.
The bid, prepared with support by multidisciplinary consultancy Turley, is part of Sefton’s hope for £400m investment in Southport and is projected to create 1,250 additional jobs.
Many of the proposals were set out in Sefton’s 2050 Southport Vision, published in the summer to provide a strategy to regenerate the town over the next few decades.
The £50m Town Deal bid proposes:
- a new convention and events centre on the site of the Southport Theatre and Convention Centre, which closed earlier this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The space would house a 1,200-seat auditorium, exhibition halls, a café and co-working space. The proposal was contained in the 2050 Southport Vision and is aimed at attracting new types of events, such as the e-sports industry, to the North West
- a regeneration of Lord Street, to restore the town’s grand boulevard and shopping area to its former glory.
- business incubator space housed in one of Southport’s former shopping arcades, providing space in particular for the town’s digital and creative businesses. A larger ‘Enterprise Store’ would ‘ be developed in a former department store building to provide scale-up space for growing businesses
- an immersive water, light and sound show on Marine Lake
- a revamp of Southport Pleasureland, partnering with a “globally recognised brand” to create a themed indoor attraction open to visitors all year round, according to Sefton Council
The town’s central boulevard would be refreshed under the plans
The plans are intended to “transform the fortunes” of the coastal town.
Dwayne Johnson, chief executive of Sefton Council, said: “The Town Deal process has raised the profile of Southport with investors and we can already see the positive effect it is having.
“For example, the Southport Cove resort with its £40m of private investment…will add value to our Town Deal plan and complement our proposed projects, such as the convention and events centre and Marine Lake experience.”
Richard Laming, senior director at Turley, added: “This plan signals a clear intent to the government and other investors that Southport has a clear vision for the future.
“The projects are unique and investable, and each have the ability to leverage significant regeneration benefits to accelerate the region’s recovery from Covid-19.”
A decision on the funding is expected in early 2021 and further details of each project are to be released in the coming weeks, according to the council.
Rob Fletcher, chair of Southport’s Town Board, which oversaw the preparation of the bid, said: “Our plan has been informed by the biggest conversation that the town has ever had about its future [a public consultation on the 2050 Southport Vision in July], and is designed to provide opportunities for current and future generations.”