It’s five years this week since St Annes’ former flagship store JR Taylor closed its doors - and the first signs of activity within the premises since then have prompted hope that it can act as a catalyst for further investment in the town
Several months on from the building being sold, the identity of the buyer still remains a mystery, but the start of internal work has offered cause for optimism along with relief among councillors and trade representatives as well as the area’s MP.
Taylor’s closed its doors in January 2015, with the loss of 60 jobs, after 114 years at the corner of St Annes Square and Garden Street.
The building was then the subject of a dispute between its owners and previous tenants, preventing any new business opening in the five-storey premises.
That was resolved last April and the building was listed for sale with offers invited in excess of £1m before ‘sold’ signs appeared in the summer.
The start of internal work sparked renewed speculation as to what its future might hold, but despite repeated inquiries by the Express and trade representatives, no information has been forthcoming.
But on the eve of the anniversary of Taylor’s closure, Fylde MP Mark Menzies has joined trade leaders and councillors in welcoming the signs of a new lease of life for the building.
He said: “I’m delighted to see works begin on the JR Tay lor site following its sale after a protracted court battle.I hope this will now be the catalyst for further investment in St Annes.
“Fylde and St Annes Town Councils have recognised the need to raise funding for the centre and plans are coming along . It is important that the council and private landlords work together.
“We know there are private landlords and investment funds which are probably not even aware they own a piece of property in the town.”
Colin Ballard, chairman of the St Annes Enterprise Partnership, said: “I have been delighted to see skips outside the premises and windows whitewashed out indicating that there is potentially a eureka moment round the corner. It will be brilliant to see the premises re-opened.While we do have some closed units in our town it should be noted that St Annes still has a lower percentage of closed units than many towns.”
Fylde Council leader Coun Sue Fazackerley said: “I am just relieved to see some signs of life within the building and am daring to be optimistic.”
Coun Richard Redcliffe, chairman of the St Annes Town Centre Working Party, added: “The work on the JR Taylor site can only be good news and a real boost for St Annes.”
Arnold Sumner, co-ordinator of the St Annes Chamber of Trade said: “Taylor’s is much missed and I will be very interested to see what the future has in store for the building.”