‘He was just left to rot’: the tale of two towns

Newton-le-Willows is a market town on the edge of Merseyside with a small population of around 22,000.

However, for many people living on one side of town, it can feel like a tale of two cities.

The west side of the city consists mainly of Earlestown, a built-up area with supermarkets, bus and train stations and an array of small shops. While the east side includes the popular High Street area.

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While Newton-le-Willows was recently named one of the hottest places in the country to move to by property site Rightmove, Earlestown is perpetually struggling, and a stroll through the town center reflects that. Lack of footfall and disposable income means that by 3pm on a weekday many shutters are already down in stores.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that Earlestown neighborhoods are among the 5% most deprived neighborhoods in Europe.

How can one side of town seem thriving while the other struggles?

ECHO spoke to some business owners in booming Earlestown and the High Street to hear their views.

Wendy Penberthy has worked in her shop in Market Street, Earlestown for 17 years

Wendy Penberthy worked in her shop on Market Street, Earlestown, selling collectible gifts and homewares for 17 years. She thinks that despite the lack of traffic around the city center, it is the locals who keep the economy going.

Wendy told ECHO: “It’s the community, it’s very united and it’s the regulars that keep you going. I really like it here because of that, it’s about the people.

“Years ago when the market was booming, the town center was much better off, but it’s kind of been left derelict and in ruins, you’ve closed the shutters of many shops to that people don’t care.

“It looks like the council are really making plans to try to help, so I’m hopeful.”

Another store owner in downtown Earlestown, who did not want to be named, also shared his views with ECHO.

They said: “There’s never been a bigger gap between Earlestown and Newton. I’ve lived here all my life, I remember going to Sayers with my mum buying cakes when I was child. The city was booming, but it’s just left to rot.

“When you walk around Earlestown you can see the difference, all the buildings in Newton High Street have hanging baskets and are beautifully decorated, but here it seems people don’t care a bit.

“We have another business helping us to continue, we couldn’t depend on this one alone.”

Debbie Makin has owned her Willows Womenswear shop on Newton High Street for five years
Debbie Makin has owned her Willows Womenswear shop on Newton High Street for five years

Debbie Makin opened her Willow Womenswear & Home boutique on Newton’s High Street five years ago.

She told ECHO: “We were one of the first stores like this to set up shop on this strip, and the store is doing very well.

“Unfortunately I think a big part of the reason why Earlestown is struggling is because of the name that has been attached to it, obviously there are problems there but there are problems everywhere. But there are a bad reputation attached to the region and it shouldn’t be like this.”

Directly across from Debbie’s shop is Drinksworthy, a craft beer and wine shop that opened just under a year ago.

The store owner said: “We looked at both Earlestown and Newton when it opened, we had some concerns about opening security in Earlestown, and I live closer to Earlestown.

“There is definitely a stigma but I think it’s time for a change, there should be, Earlestown has huge potential, it has a bus station, a train station, it’s a little gem. It has just needs some work.”

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