THE BEACON PROJECT – UPDATE MARCH 2016
The Beacon Project has now progressed from where we were a year ago, when we had identified the Old Lifeboat Station and the triangle of land alongside, as a possible location for a cinema and restaurant/bistro.
Although WMBC had been broadly supportive up to that point, the Acting Chief Executive at the time announced in February that issues of the covenant on the triangle of land, which is held by Peel Holdings; of parking limitations; of noise issues, and of public objections to earlier applications for development on the land, meant that WMBC had concluded that the land as ‘NOT FOR SALE’. This came as both a surprise and a disappointment.
The Council also cited what is known as a ‘sequential test’. This is usually applied to protect town centres from out of town development (for example large convenience shopping centres on the edge of towns). Since the site of the old Lifeboat Station is outside the ‘District Centre’ boundary (which runs approximately 200m around Market Street), we were asked to prove that no existing town centre site was available for the Beacon project before the council would consider any site outside the boundary.
The owner of the Old Lifeboat Station purchased the old ‘Jack Rabbit Slims’ building opposite Hoylake Station, which had, until the 1970s, been a fire engine house. Since he also owns the Old Town Hall Building, which enjoys a lease with the DWP for a Job Centre, and other tenants on the site, this provided the perfect opportunity, as he now owns the entire site from front to back.
We went about exploring the possibilities with WMBC and the owner. Both have been very receptive and supportive. As a town centre location, there is a good deal more parking available in the vicinity, including the ‘Park and Ride’ Car Park just over the railway line.
This part of Hoylake has been very neglected in the last couple of years. The night time economy has struggled, and issues of late licensing have been a source of difficult negotiation between bar owners, residents, the council and the police. As a result, most of the bars have closed, leaving opportunities for new businesses to move in, such as the Nine Leaves Tea House. Developing an evening economy in the area that is less focused on late night vertical drinking establishments seems to be a solution that would find broader support from residents.
Architects ShedKM were asked to produce some drawings for us, which can be viewed on the website www.hoylakebeacon.org.uk. These plans include, in schematic form, on the site of the current, empty, Jack Rabbit Slims building, a new building with office, retail or leisure space on the ground floor (and possibly a high quality restaurant) with twelve residential units above.
In the middle of the site, a 120 seat cinema would be built, with associated bistro/café.
The Old Town Hall would remain unaffected, as does the entrance to the original Fire Engine House, both important historic features. The existing tenancy of the Job Centre also remains unaffected, however should the DWP decide in future to move, the space (with full height vaulted ceiling) could be used as a live entertainment (music and theatre) space.
Current discussions centre on the cinema block, which would be fitted out and operated by Light Cinema Ltd. and the need to identify a property developer to take the project forward. We are currently at the stage of deciding whether to pursue outline or full planning permission, which is costly, or a certificate of lawful proposed development, which would encourage a developer to invest.
The support of the HCA would be welcomed for the project.
The Beacon Steering Group, all local residents and volunteers with no financial interest in the project, would ensure that any design build would be of high quality. It would not be pastiche; rather it would more likely involve the use of contemporary design and materials that complement the high quality of the Old Town Hall Buildings. It would be a building we can all be proud of and we envisage that HCA to be involved in that process.
No design decisions are being made at this stage: we are merely trying to rally support for the project in principle and to seek interested developers or investors.
If anyone is interested in talking further about any aspect of the project, including possibly investment or development opportunities, please do contact us.
Beacon Steering Group
8 March 2015