Why Chorley is enjoying an influx of investment and visitors
PUBLISHED: 11:51 11 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:51 11 March 2019
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.’
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 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.’