Chorley is alive and kick­ing

Lancashire Life - - SUCCESSFUL WOMEN - WORDS: Emma Mayoh Š PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: John Cocks

With big in­vest­ment plans, a loyal com­mu­nity and busy events scene, peo­ple in Chorley are cre­at­ing a win­ning for­mula

Chorley is buck­ing the trend. While many places strug­gle to get vis­i­tors in, Chorley paints a dif­fer­ent pic­ture. In­vestors are lin­ing up to de­velop in the town, oc­cu­pancy rates on retail units are high and com­pa­nies want to do busi­ness here. It has a blue­print other towns and cities could learn from.

‘We are al­ways building on the fan­tas­tic mar­ket town we have al­ready got,’ said Peter Wil­son, deputy leader of Chorley Coun­cil. ‘We had a more than 17.1 per lift on foot­fall at the end of 2018 - a huge in­crease on the year be­fore.

‘The ex­ist­ing Mar­ket Walk shop­ping cen­tre has had full oc­cu­pancy for much of the time since we bought it in 2013. This is all against a na­tional pic­ture that isn’t great, with many other shop­ping centres and towns see­ing huge de­cline. What Chorley is do­ing is re­mark­able and a great success story.’

Rather than rest on its lau­rels, peo­ple across the com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing Peter, are driv­ing a number of projects and pop­u­lar events all with one aim in mind – to keep Chorley thriv­ing. The £12 mil­lion Mar­ket Walk Shop­ping Cen­tre de­vel­op­ment, spear­headed by Chorley

Coun­cil, will in­clude a new M&S Food­hall, six screen Reel Cinema, restau­rants and other new

busi­nesses. The am­bi­tion is to trans­form the town’s night time economy and make Chorley a place res­i­dents and vis­i­tors want to spend more time in.

‘We’re do­ing well but we are al­ways aim­ing for bet­ter,’ ex­plained Peter. ‘We of­fer a great retail ex­pe­ri­ence but we do fall down on what we of­fer in the evening.

‘We want to change that and we’re hoping the de­vel­op­ment at Mar­ket Walk will give res­i­dents more and bring new peo­ple in. We’re giv­ing peo­ple a rea­son to stay here af­ter 5pm. It is going to be fan­tas­tic for Chorley.’

‘We have so much to shout about and we want more peo­ple to know what a great place Chorley is’

Just out­side the town a new £8.4 mil­lion Strawberry Fields Dig­i­tal Hub, sched­uled to open in May, is aimed at boost­ing start-up com­pa­nies and ex­ist­ing busi­nesses that want to grow and op­er­ate within the ex­pand­ing dig­i­tal economy.

The new Botany Bay Out­let Vil­lage de­vel­op­ment near junc­tion eight of the M61, from F1 Real Es­tate Man­age­ment, will see the re­fur­bish­ment of the ex­ist­ing Vic­to­rian cot­ton mill into shops, restau­rants, and up to 288 homes on the 37 hectare site.

‘Chorley is an ex­cit­ing place to be,’ said Peter. ‘The coun­cil has played a big role in that, we’re quite for­ward think­ing. When we bought Mar­ket Walk, there weren’t many coun­cils do­ing that.

‘We have so much to shout about and we want more peo­ple to know what a great place Chorley is.’

One of Chorley’s con­tin­u­ing success sto­ries is its mar­ket. This is down to in­no­va­tive traders like Sarah and Mike Bryan who run The Bees Coun­try Kitchen. Even on a bit­ing cold, win­ter’s day, peo­ple sit in their out­door eating area to en­joy the whole­some, nu­tri­tious food cooked by the husband and wife team. Since set­ting up the stall in April 2015, the duo, who both have hos­pi­tal­ity back­grounds, have worked hard to make an im­pact on the lo­cal food and drink scene. As well as serv­ing hot meals, they also sup­ply a se­lec­tion of make-at-home kits with a fo­cus on fresh, lo­cal and sea­sonal pro­duce and make their own range of pre­serves. They also cater for pop­u­lar lo­cal events and are in­stru­men­tal in the success of food and drink show­case, A Taste of Chorley, held in June.

‘We can’t believe the recog­ni­tion we’ve had from awards, it’s pretty ma­jor for a mar­ket stall in Chorley’

‘We wanted to pro­vide pre­mium, healthy food made from lo­cal pro­duce and we wanted it to be as sus­tain­able as pos­si­ble be­cause that’s how we live our lives,’ said Sarah. ‘Mike had been run­ning The Hart­wood pub in Chorley for many years and the op­por­tu­nity for the stall here came up. It was too good an op­por­tu­nity to miss.

‘For us it’s also im­por­tant for us to use lo­cal pro­duce – much of ours comes from the mar­ket it­self. We al­ways look to Chorley busi­ness. There are so many good sup­pli­ers, we don’t need to go fur­ther.’

Their ef­forts have earned them praise in­clud­ing be­ing short­listed in the BBC’S Food and Farm­ing Awards in 2018 and they have also been short­listed in the Res­tau­rant Awards. The cou­ple now have dreams of run­ning a successful sup­per club.

‘We want to put Chorley on the food map,’ said Sarah. ‘There are world class prod­ucts in this town and we want to make more peo­ple aware of that.

‘We’ve al­ready done a few pop-up sup­per clubs in the town and it’s gone well and peo­ple want more. It’s ex­cit­ing for us. We can’t believe the recog­ni­tion we’ve had from awards, it’s pretty ma­jor for a mar­ket stall in Chorley. We’re really pleased and we want to build on what we’re do­ing.’

ABOVE: Ast­ley Hall is the lo­ca­tion for sev­eral of Chorley’s pop­u­lar events, in­clud­ing Pic­nic in the Park in June RIGHT: At the li­brary are Caro­line War­ing, Nigel Ste­wart and branch man­ager, Amy Overum

LEFT: Food writ­ers Tom Parker Bowles and Nigel Bar­den with Sarah and Mike Bryan at The Bees Coun­try Kitchen short­listed for a BBC’S Food and Farm­ing Award RIGHT: The new Mar­ket Walk de­vel­op­ment will in­clude a six screen cinema and an M&S Food­hall BE­LOW: Peter Wil­son, third left, joins lo­cals at Steve Cooney’s mar­ket place mi­cro pub,the Bob Inn BE­LOW RIGHT: A com­puter graphic re­veals the im­pres­sive plans for Botany Bay

ABOVE: Mar­ket traders Dave Critch­ley of Critch­ley’s Farm, Rob Livesey of Livesey’s Fish Stall, Johnathan Tyrer, Fruit and Veg stall holder, and Butcher, Paul Gobin

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