Last week was a very busy and exciting one as it brought the very welcome news of the sale of Tesco’s land in Kirkby to leading regeneration specialist St Modwen.
After getting the disappointing news that the Tesco scheme was unable to go ahead last January, excellent progress has been made in securing a new developer so soon. Best of all, this is a developer with a really positive vision for Kirkby town centre.
Of course, there was a flurry of media interest last week as the announcement was made, with much commentary around the sale and what it might mean for the town centre. I gave several media interviews and was happy to go on record stating how proud I am of the work that the council has done to make this possible in such a short time, especially given the extremely challenging economic times we are in.
Given those difficult economic times, I was disappointed that some aspects of the media still looked for a ‘negative’ angle to the prospect of a £35.8m investment into one of our local town centres. Whilst I fully appreciate that there have been setbacks in the past, new investment can only be a positive for Kirkby. The fact that an experienced investor of the calibre of St Modwen has seen the potential of Kirkby town centre – beating off stiff competition from three other serious bidders along the way – is a real vote of confidence in the town and in Kirkby’s future.
Whilst the exact details of St Modwen’s proposals for the town centre land won’t, of course, be fully known until a planning application is submitted, we do already know that their plans include developing the current town centre – which is something I know many residents have been keen to see happen. The council will now be working with St Modwen to help develop those proposals and move them forward as swiftly as possible, because we know that’s what residents want and deserve.
For me, this sale is the icing on the cake considering all the other investments and improvements in the town in the last few years which have included £26m of public sector investment into new facilities like the Kirkby Centre, a new Kirkby Market, St Chad’s Health Centre and new public spaces within the town centre itself.
There is more to come too, as last week we also took steps to pave the way for a potential new office development in Kirkby that could bring 2,000 new jobs to the town. At our Cabinet meeting, we agreed to close and demolish our Civic Building in Kirkby, and to relocate our staff from there to make way for the potential new development on the site. We are already in discussions with a developer – CTP – and they are now working to bring forward their plans for the site in the coming months. Another exciting development and something I will of course keep you updated on.
So, things are continuing to change in Kirkby, that is for sure, and I’m confident that the negative media articles will soon dry up as the transformation takes shape!