Barrie Grunewald: Parkside deal moving fast

Council leader Barrie Grunewald and Langtree boss John Downes
Council leader Barrie Grunewald and Langtree boss John Downes

It’s only a week or two since we announced our ambitious plans for the former Parkside Colliery site, but things are already starting to happen.

We’ve had the first board meeting of the Parkside Regeneration LLP – the joint venture between the council and developers Langtree – and agreed the first steps in moving forward.

As well as supporting visual improvements to the existing site entrance we hope to start work imminently on a masterplan for the site. We’ve already commissioned traffic engineers to look at the highway implications and they are due to report back to the Board shortly.

Everyone I’ve talked to is excited about this project and its job creating potential. It’s a prime piece of real estate that’s been derelict for far too long. Our vision will turn this 232 acre site into an employment park that could see more people working there than in its heyday as an integral part of the Lancashire coalfield.

Everyone involved with the project is totally committed to its success – and ensuring that it delivers as many jobs as possible for the people of St Helens. This site is one of our most vital assets - and I cannot overstate its importance to the borough as a catalyst for kick-starting the local economy.

We’re keen to make things happen as quickly as possible and aim to produce a full business plan by June - but rest assured there will be plenty of activity between now and then.

g Still on the economy…I believe we have to try and seize every opportunity that presents itself when it comes to maximising our appeal to outside investors – and helping local companies link with the rest of the country.

It’s why I’d like to see the HS2 high speed rail link extended into Liverpool – a move that would bring benefits to St Helens and the rest of the Liverpool City Region.

Not only would it bring economic benefits to St Helens, Halton, Knowsley, Sefton and Wirral, it would help all these areas play their part in the country’s economic recovery

Studies also show that adding just another 20 miles of track to the 330 mile scheme would make this small section far more profitable than the national average.

The HS2 project as a whole could bring major benefits for St Helens – by freeing up extra freight capacity on the existing West Coast mainline – something that would enhance our vision for the new Parkside employment area.

g It’s scandalous that, in this day and age, vulnerable members of our society should suffer during the cold weather.

Sadly though this is the case for many - particularly elderly - residents who can’t afford to heat their homes.

In St Helens the Department of Energy and Climate Change estimates that 16.5 per cent of homes (around 13,000) suffer fuel poverty – well above the national average of 14.6 per cent.

Fuel poverty is defined as a household that has to spend more than 10 per cent of its income on fuel bills to heat the home to an adequate level.

We’re doing what we can to help. Along with Age UK and other local organisations we will be distributing more than 5,000 winter survival packs across the borough over the next few weeks.

The packs are completely free - and available to all those in need by calling the St Helens Cold Weather Advice Line on Freephone 08000 355 878.

The aim is to help vulnerable residents keep warm and well during the winter months. The packs contain a calendar, emergency blanket, thermal mug, LED torch and more.

There’s also the St Helens Cold Weather Advice Line. If anyone needs any information or advice on keeping warm and healthy this winter all they have to do is call free on 08000 355 878.