Plans for a skate park in St Helens town centre have hit the brakes as the location is “no longer viable”, it can be revealed.
Construction of Bliss Park, a joint venture led by arts agency Heart of Glass in conjunction with St Helens Council and Merseyside Police, was originally slated to begin early this year.
Planning approval was granted for the site, which is between Chalon Way car park and Foundry Street, in April 2018.
However, there has been concerns within the council over the chosen location of the skate park and how it fits in with its wider town centre regeneration plans.
Subsequently, members of St Helens Labour group voted to put the current skate park plans on hold at its last meeting.
This has now been confirmed by St Helens Council, which said it is in the process of looking for a new location
A St Helens Council spokesman said: “The Bliss Park project was announced before the council’s regeneration plans for the town centre were devised so the location is unfortunately no longer a viable option as it does not tie in with the long-term vision for the area.
“The council and its partners are still committed to delivering a top-class facility that offers young people a place to enjoy skateboarding in a safe environment that is accessible to all and provides a great way for people to get active and meet others.
“We are now in the process of identifying a new location where we can bring the skate park to life.”
The skate park project originally came about due to perceived anti-social behaviour around Church Square, a popular destination for skaters.
Merseyside Police committed £65,000 for the project from the Community Cash Back Fund, which utilises money obtained through the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Heart of Glass had also secured £77,000 of Arts Council funding.
Back in March, Roy Benyon, St Helens council’s head of place and delivery, told the council’s safer communities overview and scrutiny panel the project had stalled pending the outcome of a £50,000 Sports England grant bid.
Mr Benyon said Heart of Glass had signed off the final re-design of Bliss Park after securing the grant and was “hopeful” construction would commence in the second quarter of 2019, but this never happened.
Following the latest setback, cabinet member for economic regeneration and housing Richard McCauley has insisted the project has not been “scrapped”.
The Labour councillor added that the new location will be the “best fit” for the rest of the town centre.
Coun McCauley said: “Plans for the skateboard park haven’t been scrapped, they have been put on hold so that we can incorporate them into the wider town centre development plans.
“We are still committed to deliver the skateboard park as promised and want it to be something that complements the town centre as a whole and we will have a better idea of how that is as the plans for the town centre are being developed.
“There weren’t any specific dates set for installation, so it’s not delayed as such, we’re just tying it into wider plans.
“No definite location has been decided on as of yet, but the location of the park will be so that it’s a best fit with the rest of the town centre.”
A spokesman for Heart of Glass said it is still committed to realising the project “in the next year” and will “work tirelessly” to find an alternative location.
“As a small arts charity, Heart of Glass has worked hard to bring together a unique set of partners to develop this project,” a spokesman for Heart of Glass said.
“As well as partners, the development of Bliss Park, a proposed artwork and skate park for St Helens, brought together world-renowned artists and young people from across the borough, and together they created a unique and world class proposition for St Helens.
“After two-plus years of work, we are committed more than ever to realising this project in the next year.
“Whilst it is regrettable that our approved planning application for the original location is no longer viable, we will work tirelessly to find an alternative location, and in turn honour the commitment and hard work of all involved with the project up to this point.
“We hope progress can be made swiftly. Our commitment is always to the community and we believe that cultural assets are an essential part of the future of our town.
“We believe young people in St Helens deserve a beautiful, purpose-built, world class skate park. Somewhere they can come together, socialise, learn new skills – a place they can own and be proud of.”