STALYBRIDGE is to receive Tameside Council’s nomination for Andy Burnham’s Town Centre Challenge.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester made the disclosure at his Tameside Question Time in Droylsden on Janaury 24.
Though the decision has yet to be ratified by the full Tameside Council, Mr Burnham indicated Stalybridge is the Cabinet’s preferred choice.
And when the decision is finalised, Mr Burnham has promised to visit Stalybridge to hold a public meeting to spell out his vision for the regeneration of the swathe of land between the railway station and town centre.
It would look to deliver more housing in town centres that is also linked to the transport system.
And he believes having more people living in town centres will stimulate local economies, namely bars and restaurants.
Mr Burnham has already visited Stalybridge with local MP Jonathan Reynolds who has been lobbying for the town since the mayor announced his initiative.
Though the Tameside Question Time was a borough event, Stalybridge featured prominently in the discussions, with police funding also an issue.
After Greater Manchester’s grant for policing from central government has been cut for an eighth successive year, Mr Burnham explained the precept is being raised by £12 for a band D household to help protect frontline policing.
Linked to this was anti-social behaviour, with recent incidents by youths in Ashton and Stalybridge spotlighted.
Mr Burnham explained there was no excuse for such behaviour, but added more needs to be done to support young people as they are drawn into crime as they see no hope in life.
And to help young people, Mr Burnham is setting up the Youth Combined Authority that will comprise 40 young people from the 10 authorities. He is also advocating a free bus pass for those aged 16-18 years.
Mr Burnham added transport is also one of his top priorities, saying the bus and train systems are not working while roads are congested.
He is setting up the Mayor’s Transport Board to tackle the challenges with former Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman appointed as walking and cycling commissioner.
Locally, the issue of the Mottram by-pass was raised, a scheme supported by Mr Burnham, with the accusation being it tackled only half the problem.
It was pointed out the by-pass will simply shift the problem elsewhere and that the traffic through Stalybridge was “horrendous”.
Mr Burnham was asked to speak to local people about the traffic issues and not simply the local MP.
He pointed out fixing the transport system will take decades for it to be like London, but the buses are his priority and expect “big changes” soon.
He says buses have been a “disaster” since de-regulation with annual passenger numbers in Greater Manchester falling from 350 million to 210m while in the same period London’s have doubled.
Mr Burnham added some of the issues regarding local rail services have been resolved as there will be improvements in Stalybridge while some of the concerns regarding Mossley and Greenfield have been addressed.
But he described the cancellation of the electrification of Trans-Pennine rail lines as “outrageous”, adding such improvements must not be to the detriment of local services.
“The voice of the north has to speak louder and win the argument. We’ve been second-class citizens for too long and need to be at the front of the queue,” he said.
Mr Burnham also vowed to tackle homelessness, ending sleeping rough by 2020, though it is getting worse due to the effects of changes to the benefits system. He explained he set up the Mayor’s Homeless Fund nine months ago when he was elected and contributes 15-per-cent of his income to it.
He said when he speaks to people on the streets, increasingly young women, they all want a Greater Manchester Curriculum For Life to help provide a pathway, adding education is university led and there is not enough provision to help others.
There was an impassioned plea for Mr Burnham to reopen public toilets in the city centre on health grounds so the homeless can wash. It was also mentioned that sickness among them was down to a lack of hygiene and some are sleeping where there is excrement or urine.
Social care, the NHS and mental health, especially among the young, were also subjects raised.
And in the wake of personal criticisms, he added he cannot solve the many issues in the nine months since he took up office.
“Give me time and be patient and I promise I will give it my all. I may not be able to do everything, but I will give it my best shot,” he concluded.