‘We want Leyland to be the next Penwortham’: council leader confident in town’s future after retail exodus

The leader of South Ribble Borough Council says he is “disappointed…[but] not overly concerned” at the disappearance of a raft of retailers from Leyland ahead of a £38m facelift of the town centre.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Paul Foster hopes the forthcoming revamp will see the town’s high street share a similar renaissance to that of Penwortham - including by tempting more visitors of an evening.

Leyland’s branches of Boots and Bodycare shut up shop on the main Hough Lane thoroughfare last month, while on the nearby Churchill Way retail park, Lidl also ceased trading. Last year, the edge-of-town site lost its Poundstretcher, while at least two independent shops in and around Hough Lane have also departed in recent weeks.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It comes as Leyland prepares to undergo a transformation as part of the Town Deal secured for the area. A £25m government cash injection has been bolstered by £13m from the borough council’s own coffers, with some of the funding being used for a wholesale refurbishment of Leyland Market and the creation of a new market square.

How Hough Lane will look after Leyland's Town Deal revamp -  but which shops will line the street?How Hough Lane will look after Leyland's Town Deal revamp -  but which shops will line the street?
How Hough Lane will look after Leyland's Town Deal revamp - but which shops will line the street?

Other elements of the scheme include a revamp of Hough Lane, with new road and pavement surfaces being installed, in a similar style to the ‘shared space’ design introduced on Preston’s Fishergate around a decade ago.

Cllr Foster told the Lancashire Post that while the authority was constantly monitoring Leyland’s retail health, he took heart from the fact that the recent exodus of big-name outlets was to do with “national issues” specific to those chains and “nothing directly linked with Hough Lane”. He said he was also encouraged by advice from agents that there was “huge demand” for the units that had been left empty.

However, he said the forthcoming overhaul of the main shopping street and surrounding area was, in any case, a chance to reset - and expand - Leyland’s retail offering.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Historically, a lot of people, not just from Leyland ..[but] Central Lancashire, do naturally go into Liverpool and Manchester [to] do [their] shopping - and…the night economies in both those big cities are vibrant. But we have seen a sea change - and…one of the reasons we're spending all this money in Leyland is [because] people do want to stay more local.

“Once we get through the works over the next 18 to 24 months, we're hoping to hold on to people so they don't jump on [a] train [elsewhere]. You only need to look at Penwortham - since the bypass has gone in…and all the improvements [were made] to Liverpool Road, the evening economy…is hugely exploding.

“It's really pleasing to see and that's what we want to really develop in Leyland as well,” Cllr Foster added.

To that end, he is more concerned about the tough trading environment facing independent retailers in the town. Sumner Street coffee shop The Hideout closed down in January, citing “impossible” costs, while gift shop Bathroom Delights/Charisma Crystals was forced out of business after barely a year last month.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Some [small] businesses have seen [their] utility costs doubled - almost tripled, some of them - which is really disappointing. A lot of the government support for those businesses has now ceased,” Cllr Foster said.

As the Post revealed last year, Leyland Market will close and move into a temporary home while the site is refurbished. That relocation - together with the street works on Hough lane - are likely to be the aspects of the Town Deal scheme that will have the most direct impact on visitors and traders.

While pledging to phase the works to ensure “absolute minimal disruption” to shoppers and businesses, Cllr Foster says he believes any upheaval will be worth it in the long run.

“I'm hoping…in two or three years' time, [Leyland is] absolutely flourishing,” he said.