How to Unleash the Potential of Garston Village

Liverpool South Parkway opened in 2006 on the outskirts of the village of Garston, replacing the former Garston station.

The train station and bus interchange, which is used by thousands of commuters every day and connects south Liverpool to the wider North West and beyond, is around a ten minute walk down St Mary’s Road – the street principal of Garston.

Yet when you leave the station, there is little to no signage to point you in the direction of the street, which is home to many independent businesses.

READ MORE: Demolition begins at iconic TJ Hughes department store in Liverpool

The lack of visibility afforded Garston from a major suburban train station sums up the sentiment of many local businessmen – that the area has never had a chance to shine.

With a high street full of independent businesses, a railway station linking Garston to the rest of Liverpool and beyond, a working port that handles around 500,000 tonnes of freight a year, the area is widely seen as brimming with potential.

Yet many people living and working in the region feel that this has not been achieved.

ECHO traveled to Garston this week to speak to businesses to find out why.

“I think he was overlooked”

Inside Cafe Cargo on St Mary’s Road

Jeanette Young is the owner of Cafe Cargo, which has been on St Mary’s Road for 16 years.

Since opening the popular breakfast and lunch, Jeanette has noticed the area’s progress, but feels like Garston has never had the chance to reach his full potential.

She told ECHO: “The region has definitely improved. When we arrived 16 years ago there were more shops closed than open – so it looked rather grim.

“Over the years he has regenerated and improved so much. Different types of stores have sprung up. Looks like more personalized and original shops have appeared.

“However, I feel like it has been neglected. The road surface and pavements are awful – absolutely awful. They have never changed.

“Garston could be so much better, but I feel like that’s all there is left.

“Garston was never exploited and I think everyone feels like he was just left behind – compared to other areas.”

The investment “could spruce up the place”

St Mary's Road in Garston
St Mary’s Road in Garston

The sentiment is echoed by Gerry Chiu, the owner of Studio8cakes on St Mary’s Road, who believes Liverpool City Council could do more to promote Garston and improve his chances of success.

Gerry told ECHO: “I feel like the council has overlooked it. We have a lot of start-ups like me because the rent is slightly cheaper than places like Allerton.

“It’s great here, but the street is off-putting to potential customers. They feel the neighborhood is a bit run down compared to neighboring neighborhoods.”

Gerry noted Garston’s sense of community, while pointing out that the entrepreneurial spirit of its many independent business owners made it a great place to work.

However, she thinks more should be done for the region and added: “The fact that the money seems to be going into other areas and it hasn’t been showcased here. It could embellish the ‘place.

“A little help with grants would help companies have a better showcase and encourage people to come.

“There are buildings here that have been there for years. Some of them are empty now and nothing has happened to them since I’ve been here. I think something could be done.

“There’s a lot going on in the neighborhood – new things being built, apartments being built, so it definitely brings more life to this part of town.”

“Welcome to Garston Village”

Director William Worthington and owner Lillian Morrow at Garston Garden Center
Director William Worthington and owner Lillian Morrow at Garston Garden Center

Garston Garden Center has been a staple of St Mary’s Road for 38 years, where owner Lillian Morrow works alongside manager William Worthington.

Both have seen many changes in the region over the past four decades, but they feel they are now moving in the right direction.

Highlighting the opening of new businesses, William believes Garston is on the road to recovery after various lockdowns, but agrees more should be done to promote the area.

Suggesting improved signage to attract people to the area, William said: ” If we could have a sign at the end of the village, saying “Welcome to Garston Village”, things like that that would make people want to check it out.

“If people take this bypass (Garston Way, the A road that runs along the village) they go and leave Liverpool – they won’t see the Garston experience.”

At South Parkway, William would like to see” a reminder that you are heading for the village of Garston.”

Gerry agrees and says, “South Parkway has no signage indicating there is a village full of shops down the road.

“The station can be less than a seven minute walk if you’re a slow walker. People go up and down and there’s nothing else.

“There are lots of little gems hidden here and lots of different shops so I think it could definitely come in handy with a little pick-me-up.”

Possibility of improvements

A new Lidl has opened on St Mary's Road
A new Lidl has opened on St Mary’s Road

Despite business owners’ belief that more can be done for the region, Garston has seen investment of private money over the past twelve months.

In 2021, Associated British Ports (ABP) invested over £4.5m in Garston Port. Additionally, a new Lidl supermarket opened at the bottom of St Mary’s Road in February.

The units now occupied by the German discount retailer previously housed a co-op and a Somerfield. However, he had spent a lot of vacant time before Lidl took him over.

Now open, the new store would have created around forty jobs in the region.

Businesses who spoke to ECHO are not worried about the competition the new supermarket could bring, rather they hope it will increase footfall on St Mary’s Road and benefit them accordingly.

Gerry has already seen more traffic on the street, while William has noticed the increase in shoppers on the road and thinks the injection of private money is a promising sign for future development .

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Similarly, Jeanette cited a recently opened cafe in the building next door as an example of healthy competition in Garston, which fulfills her wish that all empty units be filled – to the benefit of the region as a whole.

She says: ” Another cafe opened up next door but we welcomed it as it was an empty building and we wanted it to be used. There’s enough room here for competition – I think competition is a good thing.

“I hated that the store next door was empty. At least now they serve later than us and people come to the area for them. We welcome competition because we want stores open.”

What does the future hold?

It’s unclear exactly what the future development of Garston might look like, but locals believe the combination of community spirit and a thriving business scene gives it the potential to thrive in the future.

Jeanette thinks the missing piece might be an evening save.

Comparing the area with places like Lark Lane and Smithdown Road, which have plenty of bars and nightlife spots, she said: “For couples and families, there aren’t many places to go in the village of Garston.

“If you want to come in the evening and have a nice meal and a drink, there aren’t many options.”

“I’ve noticed a lot more young families buying in the area – house prices are a bit cheaper than nearby. People are moving to the area who would use places like this .”

However, Jeanette thinks the investment should come from the council to allow Garston to improve – primarily to improve road and pavement conditions.

She says: ” I feel like we’ve been forgotten. The sidewalks are horrible and the litter is just appalling.”

Liverpool City Council has been contacted for comment.

When approached to comment on Garston’s potential, Maria Eagle, Labor MP for Garston and Halewood, told ECHO: “After twelve years of Lib Dem/Tory cuts, there is undoubtedly still untapped potential to be unleashed. at Garston.

“However, we have a thriving market day, new social housing is being built under the bridge and Garston Hospital sits at the heart of our community.

“Our three Labor Counselors fund a remote youth team and I have seen firsthand the fantastic places like Garston Venny work to bring the community together, build relationships that last a lifetime and give local children a place to they can be proud.

“It’s important that while we don’t back down from the challenges our community faces, we shouldn’t denigrate the people who support our community and help make it what it is.”

Looking ahead, Gerry said: “Garstonis growing – very slowly – improvements are being made, but it seems to come from freelancers and individuals, rather than the board.

Jeanette said: If Garston had the support that other regions have, we would fly. We’re holding back a bit because we’re not sure people will travel here. The people here are supporting you, he just needs a helping hand from those in charge.”

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