This week saw the grand opening of the huge fashion brand H&M in Church Square Shopping Centre. Swathes of people turned out to celebrate the opening, in what is sure to be a shot in the arm for retail in St Helens.
Although the town centre has had a difficult time recently, I very much hope that the arrival of H&M – and Fat Face earlier in the year – will pave the way for many more big names to follow suit and invest here in our borough.
Similarly, plans for Windle Island Junction have just been approved, which will see improved access to St Helens via the A570/A580. The project will no doubt play an instrumental role in securing further investment due to its links to Haydock Industrial Park and the SuperPort.
Work on the project – ninety per cent of which is being funded by the Liverpool City Region Growth Fund – is expected to start next autumn, leading to more job prospects and housing.
Speaking of housing, the council has pledged its support of National Empty Homes Week (30 November – 6 December). We’re urging owners of empty properties within the borough to do the right thing and help bring unused homes back onto the market.
Procedures and solutions have been in place for a number of years now to encourage owners to put housing back to use, which could be empty for any number of legitimate reasons. But we’re really focusing on those that have been idle for longer than six months, or those that are having a detrimental effect on neighbourhoods.
And finally, looking ahead to next week, we’ve a couple of fantastic events taking place in the town centre. On Saturday 5 December, we’ll be holding the annual Santa Dash in aid of Willowbrook Hospice and the Steve Prescott Foundation. It’s always great to see the community pull together during the festive season to raise money for good causes.
Then, on Sunday 6 December, come along to the town centre where it’s Star Wars Day, ahead of the release of the new film. We’ll have authentic Stormtroopers roaming around Church Square – there’ll never be a better opportunity to retort: “These are not the droids you’re looking for.” It’s a must see event for fans young and old, so come for the Stormtroopers, and stay for the shops!