Battling for a better Crosby

Plans to regenerate Crosby village have got everyone talking as Amanda Griffiths discovers<br/>Photography by John Cocks

Plans to regenerate Crosby village have got everyone talking as Amanda Griffiths discovers - Photography by John Cocks

If David Cameron was looking for somewhere to make real his vision for a ‘Big Society’ he could do a lot worse than visit Crosby, a community with some real spark.

 It’s a place where people have considerable pride and want to make sure it is looking and functioning at its best, whether by keeping the streets clean or having a say in the development of their town.

‘In my role as councillor I meet people every day, on the street at meetings and surgeries and I know they  have very strong views on their town,’ says local councillor Peter Hough.

‘There’s always something going on here. Crosby recently won the Best Small Coastal Town in the North West in Bloom awards, for instance.‘We have just released funds to get a few projects underway in Victoria Park. We have four parks - Victoria, Coronation, Moorside and Alexandra. They all hold various events like fetes and family events.

‘Coronation Park has won a Green Flag Award for the last couple of years so we’re trying to bring Victoria Park up to that standard. There is a master plan we’re working to, which includes a new toddlers’ play area in Victoria Park as well as relaying and, in some cases, re-siting pathways and replacing railings.

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‘We’ve just had a new play area for older children completed thanks to a grant and we’ve had plans passed to upgrade the footpath between here and Formby to take cycles as well, extending the cycle path between Crosby and Hightown.’

Crosby Marina has also just seen around �10 million worth of redevelopment which it seems has benefited the local clubs using the lake.

Charles Lloyd is Chairman of Crosby Scouts and Guides Marina Club and he is pleased with the interest the club has received since the marina re-opened last year.

‘The club has been here for 35 years, that’s a sign of success in itself,’ he says. ‘Its run by the scouts and brownies but it is open to all children from Sefton, which means member can bring their friends from school as well.

‘In the summer we meet on Saturdays and Sundays as well as Wednesday evening. We have all our own boats and equipment that we provide for the children. In winter we only meet on a Sunday because it can be a bit cold - but we don’t like to stop the children having their fun!’Members also take part in competitions like the National 12Hour race in Southport and the Scout National Regatta in which the under 18s won their category last September.

‘I’ve been involved with the club since my son was in the scouts, probably 15 years ago,’ adds Charles, also a keen sailor and a qualified dinghy instructor. It was quite busy then, now we’ve got around 85 members.

Membership did dip while the regeneration was taking place. We were based in a hut on the car park and really had no facilities. But since the season began in April last year we have seen membership take off again.

The new marina, which has a conference centre and restaurant as well as new gym, has meant more people coming down to see what’s going on and will often stop and ask how their children can get involved. Before the development it was only really us and the sailing club that used it, so during the week there was little to see, but now there are other clubs.

There’s always something going on down here now. The official name is Crosby Lakeside Adventure Centre - it’s more than just sailing now.’

Talk to anyone in Crosby at the moment, however, and you’ll find there’s one hot topic. A development proposal worth an estimated �50 million and which was rejected by Sefton Council planners in September. This was a disappointment to some, but a relief to others who believed the scheme was not in the best interest of the village as a whole.

‘I think everyone agrees that Crosby village is really in need of some regeneration,’ says Councillor Hough. ‘Last year Sainsbury’s, which owns a lot of land came up with a plan of regeneration which consisted of an investment of �50 million. Their plans obviously included a larger supermarket and some of the existing shops would have had to been demolished but they were proposing other buildings in their place for traders.

‘Unfortunately, when it came to the planning meeting it was rejected. Of course, it wasn’t perfect, but in times like this investment opportunities are hard to come by.’

Jeweller Catherine Caddick, former chairman of the Crosby Village Traders’ Association, says: ‘I have never known such depth of feeling in the village.

‘I am disappointed the plans were rejected but we have to get on with it. I have to admit, it was big. The development would have gone across Liverpool Road and a lot of shops would have been knocked down but they had promised to provide new accommodation in their place, as well as a multi-storey car park. It represented a huge investment in Crosby.

‘Crosby is a lovely place to live and shop, a really pleasant place. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We haven’t got the same selection of shops that we used to have but I believe if and, hopefully, when we get the regeneration this investment will encourage other businesses into Crosby as well.’

Most of the objections concerned the size of the project, the risk of losing the character of Crosby, which has many old and interesting buildings as well as art deco ones and the fear of losing local jobs even though there was a promise it would create them.

Jamie Scott is the founder of ‘A Better Crosby’ an organisation which objected to the planning proposal. ‘We had more than 8,000 people sign our petitions, but now we are moving on and organising ourselves to do more in the community, like holding some family friendly events,’ he says.

‘We want Crosby to be revived in a positive way, to become the kind of place it used to be years ago with a thriving village centre. We’re not against supermarkets or change, we want to see it developed but don’t want to lose businesses like Satterthwaites. We want it to be full of character, an interesting and vibrant village centre with little shops serving the community � alongside the supermarket.’

Roger Wilson owns Sattherthwaites, a family run bakery which has just celebrated its centenary. ‘I certainly don’t object to Sainsburys putting money into the village to regenerate it,’ he says. ‘Unfortunately, the plan as was put forward would have had a huge impact on our business and we were unable to ascertain if they were able to help us with these concerns from the plans submitted. I would very much like to talk to them as a stakeholder in a quiet considered way. So far, I have not been able to establish this communication, but I’m still trying.’

Steve Pritchard owns Pritchard Bookshop. ‘Everyone agrees we need regeneration but it’s about making sure it is done the right way,’ he says. ‘We have the opportunity to build something really nice. People were saying, yes we want regeneration and this looks like investment so we should be for it, but no-one I know thought that the building they were going to construct was anything more than an ugly grey box.’

With everyone in agreement that Crosby village could do with a touch of TLC it will be interesting to see what, if any, plans are submitted for its future. In the meantime, Crosby is still a nice place to visit with a lot going for it, including those striking Iron Men on Crosby beach, which continue to stand firm against the tide.A Better Crosby are holding their first Annual General Meeting in St Luke’s Church on 9th February, which will include a talk from Professor Cathy Parker, a nationally renowned expert in town regeneration from Manchester Metropolitan University  twitter @ABetterCrosby

Where is it? From Southport follow the A565 coast road or take the M58 to Liverpool from junction 26 of the M6 and follow the A5207 into Crosby.

Where to park? There are three pay and display car parks in Crosby which are well signposted.

What to do there? Take a wander around the shops in Crosby Village oron College Road, known for its independent boutiques; take a strollalong Crosby beach and see the Iron Men; see a show at Crosby Civic Theatre; have a look round the new marina and get involved in one of the sports, watery or otherwise on offer there.

Where to eat or drink? There are plenty of places to eat and drink, whether you pick up a pie from Satterthwaites to eat on the go or sit down for a meal at the new restaurant at the marina.

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