AN ambitious vision to create new shops, a hotel, restaurants, homes and leisure facilities is set to transform Runcorn into a vibrant tourist destination.

Halton Council has unveiled plans for a new station quarter around the town’s busy mainline railway station to regenerate the town.

Plans are already underway to remove approach roads to the Silver Jubilee bridge which are no longer needed now the Mersey Gateway has opened.

A £9.6 million road junction and roundabout will form a major gateway and catalyst for investment into the town centre.

Developers say first impressions count and believe a new public space at the station should be eye catching and distinguished.

Council leader Cllr Rob Polhill is confident the 20-year masterplan will create residential, commercial, retail and leisure opportunities.

“This is an exciting time,” he said.

“We want to make Runcorn a destination.

“The railway station is massively used and could become the nucleus of major redevelopment.”

A consortium led by We Made That including partnering regeneration development Regeneris and Steer Davies Gleave, has been appointed to work with the council and draw up a masterplan to redevelop Runcorn Station Quarter.

Specialists in urban design, architecture, property, viability and delivery, socio economic and transport and movement will work with key stakeholders and landowners.

A map of 21 zones in and around the town centre have been identified as key development sites.

Land beside The Deck on Mersey Road and the former Riverside College campus on Percival Lane could provide more accommodation.

Providing more direct and well designed routes between the station and the town centre will be crucial to the project.

The waterway beside The Brindley could see new canal side homes, restaurants, specialist shops, cafes and bars.

Cllr Polhill said: “Our waterways, the Bridgewater and Manchester Ship canals and River Mersey are our biggest asset and we don’t take enough advantage of them.

“Opening up the locks gives us an opportunity to revitalise the town centre.

“In the summer you often see people parked up having lunch on the waterfront overlooking the Mersey.

“People arriving at Runcorn railway station get off the train and see a big wall.

“We need to get Network Rail and Virgin to buy into this and help us to open up the town. It is a hidden gem.”

Developers are examining innovative designs for stations, homes and retail outlets across the UK, Europe and America for inspiration.

Camden Lock in London, Goose Green in Altrincham, Superkilen Park in Copenhagen and Waterfront Park in Portland have features which they believe could be adapted.

Cllr Polhill added: “I think we have got more of a chance now than we have ever had to regenerate Runcorn.

“The Crosville site was a very hard site to develop but we have done it.

“Words are cheap. People like to see action. Since the pub and Costa Coffee have opened, more interest has been shown by developers.

“When they see we are serious about getting things done I am sure investors will roll in.”