In 2017 Sefton Council paid £32.5m to acquire Bootle Strand shopping centre but since then its value has plummeted by more than half – now a new vision for the centre has been unveiled. Tony McDonough reports
Sefton Council is looking for millions of pounds from the Government to breathe new life into Bootle Strand shopping centre and the surrounding area.
In 2017 the council took out a loan to acquire the 400,000 sq ft 1960s shopping mall for £32.5m from London-based retail investor Ellandi and Avenue Capital. However, in September last year council leader Ian Maher admitted its value had plummeted to under £15m.
Sefton sees the centre as a vital component of regeneration of the wider strand area. Working in partnership with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, which has invested £500,000 from its Mayoral Towns Fund and £1.8m strategic investment funding into the Bootle Canalside project.
The council has employed property consultancy Avison Young and consultants K2 Architects to come up with a vision for the area. Now a new plan for the centre has been unveiled to diversify its offer.
This would include new food and drink offers; leisure and entertainment; culture and education; as well as new integrated health and social care facilities. Bringing all of this together in one place, the council says would improve access for the whole community and make the town “more resilient and confident”.
Its added investment in the Strand would support the development of a thriving night-time economy in the town centre and help to promote Bootle as an ideal place for businesses to locate, creating jobs and renewed confidence in the town.
The council intends to submit a new bid to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) this summer for support with its plans for the Strand and Bootle town centre.
Its strategy is to retain the best of the existing Strand shopping centre and unlock its original potential by opening elements of the centre to create more public spaces and to work with the original buildings and structures, rather than large-scale demolition and redevelopment.
Sefton Council will be launching a market testing exercise in the spring and summer, after which more detailed proposals will be developed, in consultation with local people, and progressed through the planning process.
Cllr Maher said: “We are proudly and passionately committed to the regeneration of Bootle which has been hit hard by the pandemic and has too often been overlooked. The Strand shopping centre is the beating heart of Bootle and the loyalty of the community to this cornerstone of the high street is immense.
“Our plans to offer a diverse range of services within the Strand and transform the surrounding areas would not be possible without council ownership of the shopping centre and the loyalty of the people who go there.
“Our vision for Bootle aims to create a thriving town centre that works for all people, brings investment and interest to an area filled with opportunities and builds a happier, healthier, more resilient population.”