Neston was one of 17 market towns in the Northwest in the Countryside Agency/North West Regional Development Agency Market Town Initiative programme.
In Cheshire, there were three towns, Neston, Frodsham and Sandbach.
The three-year Neston Market Town Initiative Programme co- funded by Ellesmere Port & Neston Borough Council, the North West Development Agency & Cheshire County Council ended on the 31st March 2008
The purpose of the initiative was to maintain and enhance the economic viability of Neston whilst endeavouring to engender community development and involvement
A local Partnership was established, to which all residents of Neston over the age of 18 were eligible, and an Executive Board was elected under the chairmanship of Paul Davies
Shop Front Improvement Programme
Applicants were able to apply for grants to improve their building. Grants of 50% of the cost up to £10,000 per property were offered
The Conservation Officer for Ellesmere Port & Neston Borough Council prepared information, policy statements and procedures, not least of which was the need to ensure works sat alongside the character of Neston as an historic Market Town
Despite a slow start 34 grants were given. Attempts were made to improve the approaches to the town centre, which has proved a notable success
From the Liverpool Road approach Carsons Print, who received the first grant, was completed as was the Malt Shovel Public House.
Parkgate Road entrance to Neston benefited from improvement to the front of Redcliffe Dental Practice.
On the Burton Road approach, considerable improvement resulted from the works to Rightway Shop and the conversion of derelict and unsightly buildings for office and retail use. Together with improvements to the eight properties opposite this transformed this area to a restored and reinvigorated image
In Parkgate, Hardings Motors replaced the front of their showroom, ensuring that visitors to Parkgate see buildings in good order. This important tourist area also benefited from improvements to Nicholls’ famous Ice Cream Shop.
Willaston has seen improvements to Blain Bolland’s building, which also brought vacant premises back into use
The centre of Neston sees many visitors, particularly around the Cross and Neston’s famous Parish Church. Works to premises including Help The Aged, The Brown Horse, Allisters Opticians, Galen Pharmacy, Neston Pet Shop, and Gittin’s Carpet Shop assisted the improvements, which should benefit the whole town.
Some £240,000 of grants from MTI were introduced, which added to private funds of over £240,000 meant a total amount of around £485,000 was invested in the fabric and future of Neston retail sector.
Other support to Traders with Shop Front Programme
To complement the physical improvements to shops the programme funded a series of workshops designed to assist traders increase profits and trading skills.
The four workshops held at Burton Manor over a 10 day period and supported by Neston & District Chamber of Trade (Successful Marketing on a Shoe String: How to Make your Customers Keep Coming Back: How to Market your Business on a Shoe String and How to give your Shop Eye-appeal) created an opportunity for shopkeepers to hone their skills on improving business.
Shopkeepers who attended indicated they found the events helpful, and several recognised the importance of pursuing the possibility of all town traders acting together.
Co-ordinated Curriculum (Lifelong Learning)
The Neston Lifelong Learning Integrated Curriculum Project was developed in response to the ‘Health Check’ supported by the Neston Market Town Initiative and was most successful.
Its aim was to improve access to Lifelong Learning for Neston residents, with a focus on improving employment opportunities for unemployed adults, or those who are employed but need to improve their skills or qualifications
Courses, training sessions and information events were delivered. Strong links were established with local organisations. Courses were well publicised and enrolment levels improved.
A successful example of the merits of effective partnership working has been the Neston Return to Work programme. This course was developed to help local people gain employment and to assist learners gain up to date and recognised qualifications thus ensuring a greater range of job opportunities.
Return to Work learners enrolled on several courses and were offered opportunities:
- ‘Brush up’ English, Maths and IT and work toward a qualification.
- Pre -employment skills
- Job application skills,
- CV writing, interview and presentation skills,
- Personal Development
- Communication Time Management and Confidence building
- Career Guidance
Drop-in events and Ready to Work Conferences also supported this programme and four Volunteer Mentors were recruited to assist return to work learners.
Business Workshops provided business start-up advice and business support, covering the basics of being self employed, developing business ideas, and identifying other sources of support. Further events were held in Neston to encourage participants to identify training needs.
Bridging The Gap – Women & Business provided advice and guidance to ladies wishing to set up their own business. Further Course were planned for beyond the end of the MTI programme.
Courses were also delivered on Skills for Life, First Aid, Help to those over 45 plan their working future, a paediatric course at Neston’s Children centre, an Art taster class, and a programme of IT.
A brochure Turn Over a new Leaf was highly successful.
The Delegated Fund
The Delegated Fund provided grants to community organisations and small businesses. A total of £11,000 was spent. Those aimed at improvements for tourists/ visitors included:
- Illustrated leaflets for Parkgate and Willaston
- Sign posts to Neston on the Wirral Way
- Signs on the A540
- The establishment of the successful Farmers’ Market
- Activities around Heritage Open Days
- Town Map outside Neston Church
Conclusions and Overview
The MTI achieved measurable success that will be to the long-term benefit of Neston and its residents, as highlighted by:
- Many local organisations received grants to create activities ranging from Mums and Toddler Group to the Cyber Centre and Football training for local youths via the Delegated Fund.
- Employment support achieved 53 outputs within the Coordinated Curriculum.
- A total of around £485,000 of public and private investment resulted from Shop Front Grants enabling considerable improvements to the appearance of the town centre, bringing derelict properties back into use and demonstrating confidence in Neston by owners, landlords, tenants, and investors.
- The building of the new Community and Youth Centre enabled community activities to a have a new purpose and a new home.
- Festival of Events in the form of Citizens Week brought the community together and offered a vast number of activities spread over several days illustrating effective community partnership and involvement.
- The development of Neston’s own Web Site created and run by volunteers is promoting Neston as a thriving Historic Market Town and providing local information to residents and visitors.