Plan to revamp Victoria Street

David Croxall.
David Croxall.
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Imagine if Victoria Street was given a modern makeover and bustled with excitement, colour and life.

Shoppers and visitors would flock down the street in their hundreds, drawn in to Morecambe town centre to spend money in our shops and boost our flagging economy.

This is the dream of a group of local business heads who want to transform Victoria Street into a high street of tomorrow.

This ‘Town Team’ was set up after Morecambe won £100,000 and status as a Portas Pilot Town, one of 27 flagship towns in the country.

The Town Team is John Watkins (chair), Christine Stebbing (vice-chair), Tracey Bruce, manager of the Festival Market, David Lord from the Morecambe Heritage Bus Company, David Parkinson of Parkinson Accountancy, Graeme Stafford, a property owner on Victoria Street, Darren Clifford, vice-chair of Morecambe Town Council, and Jonnet Middleton from Lancaster University’s Future Morecambe project.

Their first aim is to set up a Christmas-themed street market on Victoria Street on a Saturday in December.

The Town Team believes a Morecambe street market would thrive like its Lancaster equivalent.

“Victoria Street links the two main shopping areas in Morecambe; the Arndale Centre and Morrisons and Festival Market, and we need to give people a reason to go between the two,” said David Croxall, town clerk to Morecambe Town Council.

“A street market could attract people into Morecambe and could become a regular thing.

“But we’ve got to get the balance right with this and make sure there isn’t too much competition for the existing shops on Victoria Street and the Festival Market.”

David is currently helping the Town Team on the Portas Pilot project.

Recently he, assistant town clerk Abi Fawcett and John Watkins, manager of the Arndale Centre, went to London to meet Mary Portas, the TV personality and retail guru behind the scheme.

“It was a really good day and we got a lot of confidence,” said David.

“Some of the ideas we’ve come up with, if people are prepared to go along with them, are similar to what other towns are doing.

“Being a Pilot Town has opened doors. The Arts Council has come to see me and hopefully will contribute money, resources and ideas. £100,000 won’t solve Morecambe’s problems. It’s about trying different things. Maybe something that’s off-the-wall, to see if they have an impact. If the ideas don’t work, they aren’t going to last forever.

“Maybe we need to rip up some of the rulebooks in this town.

“Liskard in Cornwall did that, and they have thriving street markets and are looking at reducing car parking costs on certain days of the week.”

The team’s other ideas include:

* A promotional tour bus going around different towns promoting Morecambe.

* A festival on Victoria Street

* Planting of new trees

* A community drop-in centre on Victoria Street offering classes, business advice and project work

* A ‘town shop’ in the town centre promoting Morecambe and selling produce from the town

* Brightening up Victoria Street with coloured banners on lampposts

* Transforming empty shops with digitally interactive shop fronts and QR codes

A more controversial idea being mooted is the pedestrianisation of Victoria Street.

“People are against it, and some just want part of it done,” said David.

The Town Team is also looking to find uses for some of the street’s tired-looking empty buildings.

They want to meet with the owners of The Victoria pub and the former Crystal Ts.

Plans are afoot for a new indoor skate park in the closed-down St Laurence’s Church.

David said talks would be set up with the church’s owner, Chris Needham.

Overall, the Town Team is looking to give Victoria Street the ‘wow factor’.

And if the public backs their ideas, they believe what is planned could be very exciting indeed.

*We want your views on the ideas for Victoria Street. What would you like to see?

Get in touch with The Visitor on 01524 834094, pop into our office on Victoria Street, write to us at the usual address, post on our Facebook www.facebook.com/thevisitornewspaper or tweet us @the_visitor with #sosmorecambe.