Thousands of people attended the festive relaunch of a high street which business leaders hope will be the turning point for the struggling town.
Friday’s Eckington Christmas lights switch on marked the £70,000 relaunch of Market Street, following 12 months of Yorkshire Water works that brought the town to a standstill.
Funded by Yorkshire Water and Eckington Town Team, the works include renewed block paving and kerbs, the installation of new benches and plants and the extension of the York stone flag paving at the junction of Market Street and Southgate.
Geoff Wheatley, chairman of Eckington Town Team which organised the light switch on, said: “It’s about attracting attention. The event was a fantastic success that brought much-needed footfall to the town, and showed off the work that has been done.
“There is still a lot to do to regenerate Eckington but we are going to work hard to achieve it.”
The Town Team have also set up a heritage and visitor centre on Southgate, complete with a Narnia-style Santa’s grotto.
Margaret Fry, secretary of the Town Team, said: “It has been a great success with children.
“They absolutely love it.”
A spokesman for Yorkshire Water, which helped fund the improvements following the year-long multi-million pound sewerage works, said: “We worked with the council and landscape architects to come up with a solution to encourage economic regeneration in the town.”
Retailers hail the regeneration
Roger French, from French’s Ironmongery, said: “The event was wonderful. We were chock-a-block. I raised £124.79 for Ashgate Hospice by having a model fairground in here.”
Trish Owen, who runs TJ’s cafe on Market Street, said:
“I do think things will start to pick up now but we still need something more. More events like the Christmas one would be good. It was brilliant for my business.”
Celia Kwok, owner of the Little Closet on Market Street, said: “The Town Team have done a really brilliant job. I hope Eckington is on the up. Now people know we are here so hopefully more people will come down.”