ANDY Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, has warned Stalybridge not to delay and risk losing out on money to regenerate the town.
Mr Burnham was speaking exclusively to the Correspondent at the first working meeting of local groups that gathered at the Civic Hall to drive forward ambitious plans under the Town Centre Challenge.
Revealing there was money available from the Government for housing and a cycling infrastructure, Mr Burnham said: “The quicker Stalybridge gets its plans together, the better the chances it has of being successful in getting funding.
“This is the best chance Stalybridge has to galvanise the town and create one vision.”
Stalybridge was recently announced as Tameside’s nominee, but all 10 of Greater Manchester’s boroughs are also involved in the challenge and vying for the cash.
Stalybridge was the fourth town to arrange a summit to drive forward its plans – Prestwich, Leigh and Farnworth have already met.
Asked whether there was a common theme at the meetings, Mr Burnham said: “No, the discussions have been individual to each place and the issues they faced.”
With local authorities becoming increasingly active participants in the property market, the challenge aims to provide a platform for them to collaborate with landowners, developers, and national bodies such as Housing England, to utilise their statutory powers to remove the barriers that affect the viability of town centre developments.
Tameside Council executive leader Cllr Brenda Warrington said: “I’m delighted by how the property sector has come together along with the community and voluntary sector to work with us on the challenge of pushing forward Stalybridge.
“The Council has already shown willingness to intervene to drive development in the town centre, with 67 apartments at Summers Quay and 103 in Longlands Mill being prime examples.
“I fully intend that we work with the property industry to build on these successes.
“We have a golden opportunity before us to work together to come up with a vision for regeneration that is unique and bespoke to Stalybridge.
“For plans to be successful, it must work with the industry and heritage of the area and we must also seek the views of our young people as it is ultimately their future we are looking to design”
Mr Burnham added: “Tameside Council’s ambitious and wide-ranging plans for the regeneration of Stalybridge are impressive.
“In fact, only a matter of weeks ago I was here speaking to journalists from the BBC about how the town centre is being transformed.
“It is vital that proud Greater Manchester towns like Stalybridge benefit from regeneration and the economic success of the city-region.
“I want us to do things differently, for our town centres to become thriving hubs.
“This bold aspiration is at the heart of my Town Centre Challenge, which aims to kick-start redevelopment across our 10 boroughs, and I welcome Stalybridge’s nomination.”
Ian Simpson, one of Britain’s leading architects, presented SimpsonHaugh’s 2016 Town Centre Vision – Stalybridge, and reinforced the potential of the town.
He said: “The Town Centre Challenge offers not only the opportunity to reinvigorate the town centres that play an important role in the day-to-day lives of Greater Manchester residents, but to also bring forward developments that are sustainable through brownfield site re-use and link that development into public transport infrastructure.
“SimpsonHaugh is extremely proud to have played a key role in the transformation of Manchester City Centre over 30 years, bringing forward some of the city’s most significant schemes.
“As focus extends beyond the city centre, we are excited by the opportunity to work with Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Tameside Council at Stalybridge to realise the huge potential that exists in the town.”
Cushman and Wakefield’s Caroline Baker drew on the work she has done in town centres across the country, giving examples of how public and private sector collaboration is working to help some places be reborn as vital economic assets for their localities.
She said: “Stalybridge has many of the critical success factors of a great place to live – excellent strategic location and accessibility, water frontage, access to attractive countryside and character.
“Public sector commitment and drive has been fundamental to the renaissance of a number of Greater Manchester town centres.
“Public sector partners in Stalybridge are mobilising to determine what needs to be done to ensure new homes are delivered which will provide a choice of modern homes for existing and new residents which will in turn inject a new vitality into the town.
“We are already seeing some great examples of new homes delivered in the town – the future is exciting for Stalybridge.”
The summit’s attendees were called upon to provide their insight and experience to address some of the barriers and issues that must be overcome to enable the vision to become reality.
The workshop session, led by Tameside Council chief executive Steven Pleasant, dug into issues such as planning, conservation and financial viability, with a range of approaches to overcoming these barriers discussed.