Posted by: westlancashirerecord | December 13, 2017

When Doves Cry

  As if to echo the row over Brough Butchers, the excellent QLocal reports on yet another Ormskirk shop closure. It seems that if we residents and council tax payers need to know how and why the retail trade is seemingly in crisis we need to ask Roger Blaxall of QLocal.

He writes “Remember when Church St. used to be a busy shopping street? Andrew Bowyer does – and that’s one reason why five years ago he opened the Dove Mill shop opposite the former Tesco Metro. Those days have well and truly gone – with Church St. now a shadow of its former self – but what’s upset Andrew even more is that not a single councillor or council officer’s contacted him to find out why he was shutting up shop and concentrating his business online.

“We’ve had regular customers telling us how sad they are to see us go, but that’s it. Not a single councillor or council officer has spoken to me. It’s all very well quoting footfall statistics but the fact of the matter is that this end of Church St. has been dying a slow death since Tesco left,” he concluded.

“And of course footfall doesn’t know the age of the feet – with very few younger families making Ormskirk a destination of choice nowadays…” You can read the article here

In the WLBC “A Market Town Strategy For Ormskirk” you can read about “Research – updating market research; establishment of a footfall base; recognising “our customer and visitors”. And also “Members heard that the proposed market research into footfall would include consultation with current market traders as well as town centre retailers”. We might well also ask what is the ongoing arrangement to monitor the footfall at Wheatsheaf Walks, now owned by WLBC and its council tax payers after paying £2,880,000 for it?

A property agent recently advertised “Investment Summary Prime trading location. A 20 year full repairing and insuring lease to Café Fortune Limited (Company No.08787652) trading as Starbucks from 22 May 2015. The lease contains a tenant only option to break in 10th year of the term. The lease is guaranteed by Gastronomy Foods UK Limited (Company No. 05612486). The current rental is £35,000 p.a.x. with annual compound RPI uplifts with a collar and cap of 1-3%. n Good future rental growth prospects off a rebased Zone A level of £36.61. The subject property provides modern ground floor retail accommodation with staff and storage facilities located at first floor level. The unit benefits from dual frontages to both the pedestrianised Moor Street and surface car park to the rear which is home to Marks & Spencer Simply Food. The property has been registered for VAT purposes and it is assumed that the transaction will be dealt with as a TOGC. We are instructed to seek offers for our client’s freehold interest of £500,000. A purchase at this level would reflect a net initial yield of 6.68% and a reversionary yield of 7% in May 2020 (current RPI for 2015 is 1% which annually compounded would equate to a rental of £36,785.35 in May 2020)”.

And footfall was of intense interest when Two Saints Retail Park was for sale at over £9,000,000. It “occupies a highly prominent site inside of Park Road (A570), Ormskirk’s ring road and main arterial route. The Property benefits from its position opposite Morrisons supermarket and immediately to the rear Church Street. Church Street comprises part of Ormskirk’s pedestrianised centre, leading to the town’s prime high street retail pitch along Moor Street and Aughton Street. A pedestrian route links Church Street with the Property, ensuring constant footfall to and from the town centre. Footfall is further enhanced by the Property’s car park, which is the largest in Ormskirk town centre, complemented by an adjacent smaller council car park”.

Not so far from Dove Mill and the declining Church Street. What will WLBC do to really improve on its Ormskirk Market Town Strategy? Not to mention again its footfall!


  1. The issues are highlighted by the article itself; the effect of the internet and internet shopping, Amazon et al. have had and are continuing to have a profound impact on the numbers of people using local shops. The fact that monitoring for footfall is taking place is not that the method of doing so is flawed as suggested, it is more the fact that this is only now taking place. If such monitoring had been in place previously then the next part of the process e.g. analysing what is actually happening rather than everyone harking back to some golden era which is not a practical approach in my opinion, could now have been more advanced.

    As previously stated, we need two years worth of data to stand chance of taking forward active measures which will help to reverse what is a national trend if we are to make a success of the Ormskirk Town Centre Strategy. What I do know is that anyone from outside Ormskirk, whether it be potential entrepreneurs or especially customers – will not be encouraged to do so by constantly highlighting the ‘problems’ of Ormskirk or by contrasting the current Town with some rose tinted nostalgic wish to turn the clock back. For shops and businesses to thrive in Ormskirk means less internet shopping and more local shopping.

    • Do you recall that Roger Tym & Partners was appointed in March 2011 to undertake the West Lancashire Retail and Leisure Study. The overall aim of the study, as specified in the study brief, was to ensure that the Council maintains an up-to-date and robust evidence base on retail, leisure and other town centre uses. “There have been a significant number of important changes since the last Borough-wide Retail and Leisure Study was undertaken in 2007, and many of the inputs and assumptions which underpinned the 2007 study have become out-of-date. In particular, forecast rates of future retail expenditure growth have been revised downwards by forecasters as a consequence of the recession and the ensuing economic downturn”.

      And do you recall the reference in the report that “The Borough Council first began the process of securing the revitalisation of Skelmersdale Town Centre in 2002, and it adopted the Skelmersdale Town Centre Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) and Masterplan in September 2008.

      I know it’s not your fault that the local Tory party failed so abysmally after setting out clear economic visions and strategies for the borough, remembering the Wally Westley “I didn’t know the retail vacancy rates in Skelmersdale” shambles only referred to recently on this website. But these studies were expensive and paid for with wasted council tax. How many more studies will be made for us to learn such utter tripe about securing the revitalisation of Skelmersdale Town centre, and now maybe Ormskirk too?

      • I was aware that there had been a number of studies in the past, but the current approach, i.e. The Ormskirk Town Centre Strategy was put together within the context of the issues previously outlined in regard to the big change in recent retail shopping habits, also, within the context of the current position of tourism within Lancashire ( I served on the Lancashire Tourism Board review) and Ormskirk’s relation to ‘Marketing Lancashire’ which has seen huge success. The trick here is how to tap into that wider success. Also in parallel has been the Portas Review which ‘Love Ormskirk’ was the local manifestation – interesting to hear Mary Portas’ opinion of how the Government handled that one! Its still very much work in progress and thats the key ambition – progress!

      • Thanks for this input. Don’t lose sight of what the Dove owner said, no councillor or council officer came to see him when it was announced he was leaving. That’s shoddy for any council that has a distinct retail problem. He might still have something useful to input to the debate.

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