AN ambitious proposal to regenerate Stalybridge town centre is being spearheaded by local MP Jonathan Reynolds.
Mr Reynolds has revealed his vision to transform Stalybridge in the wake of a key announcement by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who is putting one of his manifesto pledges into practice.
The Town Centre Challenge invites all councils across Greater Manchester to nominate a town to be part of the initiative.
The mayor, working with each council, will bring together housing providers, public and private landowners, developers, community groups and other key stakeholders in a concerted effort to support local councils to unlock the potential in town centres to deliver viable housing markets and sustainable communities.
The initiative will be supported by new mayoral powers to establish Mayoral Development Corporations, the use of compulsory purchase orders and mayoral grants to kick-start developments.
It is hoped it will be supported by a new housing deal that is under discussion between the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the government.
Mr Reynolds, who is keen to develop the corridor between the shopping centre and railway station, has already been pro-actively championing the cause.
He explained: “I invited Andy Burnham to Stalybridge for himself to see both the town’s challenges and its potential.
“I am delighted the town is now being considered as one of the Mayor’s potential sites for focused rejuvenation.
“Stalybridge has some fantastic assets which make it ripe for investment – great road and rail links, the canal, the River Tame, stunning views, some hugely successful new projects and businesses.
“But there is no doubt we have also found it difficult to deal with the large-scale shift to online and out-of-town retail shopping.
“It has so much more potential for urban living housing, which would ease the pressure of the greenbelt, independent and high street shopping, and a strong cultural offering.
“The land behind the station, known as Stalybridge West, will be crucial to this, and I hope that together we can develop a truly visionary ambition for the town, which respects our traditions whilst confidently building a new economy.
“I fully support bidding for Stalybridge in this process and am really excited about the town’s future.”
A spokesman for Tameside Council said: “We have only just been made aware of the criteria for selecting a town centre and because of that have yet to make a decision.
“The matter will be discussed at executive board on December 5, and the name of the chosen town will be ratified and revealed at executive cabinet on December 13.”
The Greater Manchester Mayor is seeking a new approach to planning and development.
The Challenge was launched at an event in Bury town centre and Mr Burnham said: “This new initiative is all about regenerating town centres across Greater Manchester which have felt left behind.
“The time has come to breathe new life into our proud towns and move away from the developer-led, green-field first approach of the past.
“We need to build a new future for those towns through higher density mixed and affordable housing, with local retail and leisure facilities and supported by transport and digital connectivity.
“There is a massive housing requirement across the city-region and we must have a housing and planning policy which is based on housing need and regeneration, not just the number of units. We need to build the right homes in the right places.
“Greater Manchester is suffering from high levels of traffic congestion and that means we will only be able to support new housing growth if we link it much more closely to transport infrastructure.
“This is part of the approach we are taking as we are re-writing the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.
“But I want to make clear that this new approach will not mean that there won’t still be difficult planning decisions ahead and some green sites will still be needed.
“I am pleased to see the scale of ambition local areas have for their town centres and want the Town Centre Challenge to help accelerate change on the ground.
“I have made working with councils to support improvement in our city-region’s towns a key priority of my first term as mayor, alongside addressing the housing crisis.
“Every single district has a role to play and will contribute to making Greater Manchester the best place to live and get on in life.”
Work will continue between districts and the Mayor into the new year, working together to address any issues identified in an effort to accelerate plans towards the development stage.
Greater Manchester has eight principal towns as well as around 20 smaller towns and over 50 further significant local and suburban centres.
Experience has showed that what is required to regenerate many of Greater Manchester’s town centres is the capacity to co-ordinate efforts across multiple stakeholders, including councils, private developers and the GMCA.