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Ten Years On - How Was the Sainsbury's S106 Fund Spent in Neston?

Author: Rob Ward Published: 14th December 2020 12:43

With the tenth anniversary of the opening of Sainsbury's in Neston just past, local resident Rob Ward, who took minutes for the S106 meetings for a number of years, catches us up on how money brought into the town as a result of the development was spent on town centre improvements.

When the Sainsbury's supermarket was built, £750,000 was paid in what is known as S106 compensation, to be spent on improvements in a closely defined area of Neston Town Centre. There was an additional £20,000 for public transport (upgrading bus stops in Brook Street and Ladies Walk) and £10,000 for town centre recycling facilities.

Sainsbury's development in NestonSainsbury's under construction, as meetings of the S106 group began. Photo by Bernard Rose

The Neston S106 Working Group was set up to recommend how the money should be spent. This was chaired initially by Cllr Scott Mealor, then by Cllr Andy Williams (who sadly died in 2020). Members also included representatives of Neston & District Chamber of Trade, Neston Community & Youth Centre, Neston Town Council, and community group ch64inc. Later, Neston Civic Society representatives joined as non-voting members. A succession of people came and went, only Carrie Spacey, representing the Chamber of Trade, being a member from beginning to end.

The money was given to Ellesmere Port & Neston Borough Council, which passed £482,066 (after enabling works had been funded) to Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Some enabling works were designed to alleviate parking issues, as Sainsbury's was to be built on one of the town's main car parks. Part of the fund (£93,000) was spent on improving Chester Road Car Park, Penningtons Weint, and Pykes Weint. The next batch (£210,000) was spent on Hinderton Road pedestrian Crossing, Sytchcroft park cycleway and lighting, Town Hall Frontage Scheme, Raby Road off-road Parking, and the Library Car Park.

Neston town centre mapMaps were produced to help promote existing businesses.

The first scheme approved by the steering group was for Town Centre Maps to be produced, showing the locations of the existing businesses at the time, in part to alleviate concerns that the incoming supermarket would have a negative impact on smaller shops.  It was decided at the same time that £20,000 should be set aside for further marketing initiatives, with this ring-fenced sum subsequently moved across to Neston Town Council.

£25,000 had already been designated for a Town Centre Manager. Neston Town Council added to this sum, and employed Katy Pierce from June 2013 to July 2016. She developed the Friday Market, and S106 money was spent on new market stalls,though these have now been sold on.

Katy also developed Neston Cycle Town, which led, amongst other things, to a public bicycle pump being installed at The Cross, using S106 funds. A sub-group of the S106 committee was formed to assist Katy with marketing initiatives such as rebranding of the Market and window vinyls on empty shops.

Window vinyls for empty shopsPhotographs of local landmarks and landscapes by Bernard Rose were used on window vinyls to help cheer up empty shops in the town centre.

A contribution of £5000 was made towards the Neston Economic plan, published in January 2016. It recommended a Delivery Group with representatives of the Town Council and CWaC, local businesses, and the Parkgate visitor economy sector. It also advocated a Wirral Coast working group under the umbrella of the Mersey Dee Alliance.

The car park in Station Road, Neston, was resurfaced and extended, and better lighting installed. It is used by visitors to the shops in Bridge Street, Neston Community & Youth Centre, parents collecting children from Neston Primary School and visitors to the Wirral Way.

Another project funded by S106 was Snug Play equipment in 2012. This was used at Stanney Fields fun days, in the Market Square and at the Village Fair.

This is NestonSnug Play equipment was used at many events, including This is Neston in 2013.

In 2010 CWaC employed a company called TEP to ask local people their opinions on how the centre of Neston could be improved. The Public Realm Design Guide (PRDG) contained plans for improved footpaths, lorry delivery bays, town furniture and public art, plus a number of other town centre improvements to create a better environment for the public, and to boost town centre trade.

The first of these improvements was new heritage-style lamp posts in the centre of Neston, incorporating brackets for hanging baskets and fittings for Christmas lights.

The plan for the centre of Neston was publicised on the 19th and 20th of April 2013 at This Is Neston, a two-day event in the Market Square, when residents were invited to give their views.

In 2014, improvements to The Cross cost £277,000 (with an extra £54,000 from CWaC). The main scheme saw the installation of York Stone paving in part of the town centre and wider pavements, especially near the Town Hall. There was a new bench, and the Bushell Fountain was cleaned. The roadway was slightly raised, and paving showed points where pedestrians often cross the road, since when many drivers wait for people to cross.

PRDGImprovements were made to pavements and the area around Bushell Fountain at The Cross

In 2015 the S106 fund paid for 23 art panels in the Market Square, displaying artwork by local primary schoolchildren, and for lighting bars for the Civic Hall, along with a portable one. Money was also given for five finger posts, to direct pedestrians around Neston town centre.

In 2017 Chester Road car park was further improved, by widening the entrance from Chester Road, at a cost of £14,000.

In 2018, £90,000 was spent refurbishing Sytchcroft Park, with new play facilities.

Sytchcroft ParkImprovements were made to Sytchcroft Park. Pictured are Rob Ward and Janet Griffiths from Neston Civic Society.

Finally, since the contents of litter bins are now sorted, and suitable material recycled, the money earmarked for recycling was spent on new bins for the town centre.

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At 22:37 on 14th December 2020, merrymac commented:
Thanks for that Rob
At 08:06 on 15th December 2020, Steph commented:
Thanks for sharing this.... PS: I always wondered who had been responsible for the bicycle pump on the cross, that became a real game changer for Neston :)
Mike Shipman
At 13:02 on 16th December 2020, Mike Shipman commented:
Thanks for that Rob. I wonder whatever happened to the Neston Economic Plan's Delivery Group. Did it ever deliver?
Carrie Spacey
At 14:18 on 16th December 2020, Carrie Spacey responded:
My recollection is that the Neston Economic Plan cost about £15k, and I argued against S106 making its £5k contribution but lost the vote. My reason for arguing against it was that there have been too many times that similar reports have been sweated over, only to end up as metaphorical door stops. Unless someone can clarify to the contrary, it seems this is yet another.
Robin H
At 20:50 on 16th December 2020, Robin H commented:
1. The bicycle pump at The Cross doesn't work. The pump at the Donkey Stand no longer has a handle. Both good ideas, could do with signing, but who is responsible for fixing them?

2. The Economic Plan, published by CWaC and the Town Council in 2016, was a disappointment because it largely reiterated the findings of the Neighbourhood Plan, though less well. It failed to address the practicalities of implementation and was not, in my view, value for money. Neither of its sponsors has taken it up and it has certainly had zero impact. The Delivery Group, jointly-led by CWaC and the Town Council, came to nothing, like so much else. So, five years after it was proposed, CH64 is still without an Economic Strategy. It is still the only semi-urban settlement of any size in Cheshire West that is not part of or adjacent to a priority development plan. Because multiple strategies aside, economic planners and the Town Council have done nothing about it. Lucky that Investments by local businesses have been good. CWaC could have taken it into its economic development plan but didn't address the matter ; while the Town Council, our representative body, has said it is not interested - I doubt it has the capacity anyway; this is a job for people with appropriate competence. Apart from the market and grants, I often wonder what the Town Council is for given the sizeable rate precept.? So, where are we? Well, at the risk of repeating myself, I have, for a long time, advocated an independent local development corporation which will campaign for and implement change. Is there anyone out there, individual or business, that would be up for it?
Robin H
At 20:55 on 16th December 2020, Robin H commented:
P.S. Good stuff, Rob. A helpful reminder.

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