Knowsley sees more than £100m in new construction

Hundreds of new homes, retail and leisure outlets, logistics hubs and the new Shakespeare North Playhouse add up to projects worth more than £100m in Knowsley. Tony McDonough reports

Kirkby Cinema
Image of a new cinema planned for Kirkby town centre


More than £100m worth of construction projects are either under way or in the pipeline in Knowsley that will transform areas across the borough.

Schemes currently under way or imminent include hundreds of new homes, retail and leisure outlets, logistics hubs and the new Shakespeare North Playhouse. They will lead to several thousand jobs and a significant increase in opportunities for local businesses and suppliers.

Tony Clark, the council’s Assistant Executive Director for Development and Infrastructure said the council’s Local Development Plan, and the pro-active approach of the authority along with Invest Knowsley and Knowsley Chamber was now paying dividends.

He said that, despite the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, Knowsley was now in a strong position to push forward with economic recovery and growth. He added: “We have some amazing investment going into our town centres. It is providing confidence for existing businesses, creating jobs for local people and creating opportunities in the local supply chain.

“Despite the pandemic, we are seeing as much new development in the borough now as we have seen at any point in the past few years. Economic development for our residents is our top priority.

“In 2020 alone we saw the construction of around 1,000 new homes across Knowsley. Developments by Anwyl, Bellway, Torus and LMH are well under way. Liverpool FC’s new £50m first team training facility was also completed last year.”

Knowsley Council’s own plans include a focus on the regenerations of its town centres – Kirkby, Prescot and Huyton. Work is already under way on the redevelopment of Kirkby town centre. The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has committed almost £13m in to support the scheme.

Phase one will deliver 94,000 sq ft of new retail space anchored by a Morrisons supermarket alongside a petrol station, Home Bargains, KFC and Taco Bell. There will also be a new multi-screen cinema and food and drink outlets on the site of the former Kirkby Library. It will lead to the creation of more than 500 jobs.

New development in Prescot has a focus on the leisure and visitor economy. The town has already seen the opening of 14 new food and drink outlets over the past year. And the centrepiece will be the £27m Shakespeare North Playhouse.

Due to open in 2022, the theatre will provide a flexible capacity of between 320 and 472 seats, based on the 17th century ‘cockpit-in-court’ design. It will also boast an inclusive education programme, digital gallery, visitor centre and additional performance spaces including an outdoor performance garden.

Shakespeare North
The Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot is due to open in 2022
Torus will build 131 Rent to Buy Homes in Huyton


In Huyton, an emerging night-time economy is developing with a number of new restaurants opening their doors including in the village centre. In addition, the council will soon be starting the search for a development partner with which it aims to create a new commercial district within the Liverpool city region.

Mr Clark explained: “The council owns and currently occupies a seven-acre piece of land in the town centre which could offer significant scope for new development.

“What we are looking at is the provision of new commercial office space, a hotel, residential development and leisure facilities. We believe this has the potential to create a significant number of new jobs.”

Other projects under way or in the pipeline for Knowsley, include:

  • Tritax Symmetry has submitted a planning application for the creation of a 1m sq ft logistics hub, called Symmetry Park, on the site of the former Cronton Colliery at Halsnead Garden Village. It could create up to 1,035 direct temporary jobs during construction and up to 1,000 permanent jobs in the finished scheme. It is forecast it will generate around £51m of net additional GVA every year.
  • Image Park at Knowsley Industrial Estate, owned by Seybourne Estates, is set to see the creation of a 65,000 sq ft industrial facility on the former Kodak premises.
  • Affordable housing group, Torus, has acquired a site from Knowsley Council to deliver a £24m Rent to Buy housing scheme offering 131 two, three and four-bedroom homes at Knowsley Lane and Astley Road in Huyton. Working in partnership with the Council, the development will see the brownfield site repurposed in an area identified for investment.
  • Your Housing Group has started work on a £37m housing development in Kirkby. Main contractor ENGIE will build 266 houses – 106 for shared ownership, 115 affordable rent and 45 for private rent. Located on Whitefield Drive, it will have a mix of two, three and four-bedroom homes and a landscaped community setting.

In late January, a report from property consultancy Cushman & Wakefield showed take-up of logistics space in the North West hit 4.7m sq ft in 2020, an increase of 32% on 2019. Much of this demand was fuelled by online retailers such as Amazon who have seen a big increase in business during the pandemic.

Almost 38% of total annual take-up (including parcel delivery and postal operators) came from e-commerce operators, an all-time high. Demand across the North West originated from all major sectors with manufacturing accounting for one third of deals signed.

At the same time, availability of space in the region fell by more than 40% in 2020 to 7.4m sq ft, significantly below the long-term average of 9.3m sq ft. With its excellent transport links, Knowlsey is well-placed to capitalise on the logistics boom and Mr Clark advised that the Council are in ongoing dialogue with a number of key players in this market sector.

Proposed Symmetry Park logistics hub on the former Cronton Colliery site


Mr Clark concluded: “At North Perimeter Road close to Kirkby, the council owns a piece of land of around 30 acres. We know this has immediate potential for logistics space. There is a huge demand for logistics accommodation and  this site could directly lead to the creation of hundreds of jobs.

Cllr Tony Brennan, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development, summed up the developments across the borough: “Our development plans for the borough are driven by strong market demand.

“We already have some fantastic and world class businesses here and we know, due to the connectivity we offer, that other businesses are keen to set up bases in the borough. Increasingly people also want to live here which is why we need to support demand for new homes.

“The aim of all these projects is to support economic growth and offer Knowsley residents new homes, new retail and leisure facilities and opportunities for local firms to bid for contracts and create new jobs and apprenticeships.

“And other important aspect is that they will generate extra revenues through business rates and council tax to fund critical services for people across the borough. By getting this balance right and delivering our local plans, we can help to create an even greater future for Knowsley, its businesses and its people.”

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