Young people living in St Helens have put forward their own ideas for town centre improvement at a pop-up event. English Cities Fund (ECF), which is in a long-term partnership with St Helens Borough Council to transform the town centre, facilitated and welcomed feedback from four local schools – Carmel College, Lansbury Bridge, Cowley International College, and De La Salle. The ideas formed the centrepiece of the activity last week where residents were also invited to find out details and comment on St Helens Borough Council’s draft Inclusive Growth Strategy.
The children’s requests included more green spaces, somewhere for flexible outdoor events, and better access to trains and buses. Making public areas feel safer was also singled out as a priority.
“Young people said that they would feel safer with more street lighting, busier and more overlooked streets and public areas, along with traffic calming,” said Max Bentham, Development Director at ECF.
“In the school workshops, pupils told us that there is not enough for teenagers to do in St Helens,” Max Bentham added. “They want to see more activities focused on creativity, learning, gaming and hanging out with friends in welcoming and safe spaces. The masterplan of the development does include many of these ideas, such as a Discovery Park alongside other social spaces for young people.”
Artwork showing ideas for the sort of spaces young people want to see in St Helens was displayed at the pop-up event to provoke more discussion, and much of their feedback mirrored what other residents had to say.
Colin and Angela Metcalfe, of Thatto Heath, commented on the importance of creating jobs and growing the local economy. “Hopefully, we are on the verge of something good,” said Angela, who works locally for the charity Hope Place. “St Helens was built on neighbours helping each other and we must not overlook that in the future.” She spoke of wanting to see more events to bring the community to life. “I’d like to go into the town centre at Christmas or in the summer and feel it’s special, with great events happening.” Colin Metcalfe, a retired engineer, added: “People follow success, and the rugby club is an example of that here. We need more examples of progress being made.”
Councillor Richard McCauley, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Planning at St Helens Borough Council said: “We’re grateful to everyone who took part in the pop-up event and shared their thoughts. The Masterplan Development Framework and other activity in Phase One of the development does mirror much of the thinking we have about bringing new vibrant streets and high-quality public realm to the town centre. The Market Hall, for instance, will provide hangout spaces, as will the Gamble Building project.”
The draft St Helens Inclusive Growth strategy covers a range of issues, including education, employment, health, and wellbeing. The consultation closes on 8 March 2023.