MANY challenges lie ahead before Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham’s exciting vision Stalybridge’s regeneration becomes a reality.
It will be a case of how to deliver the dream for Stalybridge, winners of Tameside Council’s nomination for the borough in Mr Burnham’s Town Centre Challenge.
Mr Burnham, visiting Stalybridge less than 24 hours after Tameside Council’s Cabinet endorsed Stalybridge as their nomination, admitted there are hurdles ahead.
The major obstacle is that no funds have been allocated to help put in place plans to regenerate the area between Stalybridge railway station and the town centre, which will have to come from private backers and initiatives.
Mr Burnham admitted: “There is huge potential in Stalybridge, but the hard work begins in trying to breathe new life into the proud towns of Greater Manchester. We need to bring more people to live here and that will create new bars and gyms.
“A lot has already been done in Stalybridge by local councillors and Tameside Council in producing a masterplan and the challenge is to make it to become real.”
The regeneration would be residentially led, but also incorporating retail and leisure to encourage people to live in town centres to help regenerate them.
The Town Centre Challenge will promote the development of brownfield sites rather than building on greenbelt.
Mr Burnham said: “There will still be difficult decisions to make about greenbelt, but be developing brownfield hopefully we will minimise the loss of greenbelt.”
He also revealed that Stalybridge is a town he knows well.
Mr Burnham explained: “I used to share an office with James Purnell (former Stalybridge and Hyde MP) and helped him bring through the development at Longlands Mill.
“You only have to look at Summers Quay to see the rejuvenation is already underway.”
Jonathan Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, was proactive in Stalybridge winning Tameside Council’s nomination for the Town Centre Challenge.
He said: “Stalybridge and many other towns have changed due to online and out-of-town shopping.
“It is important town centres don’t disappear and it is right we want to regenerate them.
“There is a lot of derelict land between the railway station and town centre and potential here.”
Mr Burnham added financing the project remains one of the major hurdles to overcome.
He continued: “People assume there is a big pot of money, but that is not the case.
“How we solve the problem and make land viable needs to be addressed.
“We have already spoken to architects and they have been very passionate about plans for the town centre and how they can be linked together. I am hoping we can keep them involved.”
The news has been welcomed by Stalybridge town councillors.
Cllr Jan Jackson, chair of Stalybridge Town Council, said: “Stalybridge is a wonderful location for residents to live with attractions like the moors and canal while the railway station is nearby.
“I would encourage others to see what Stalybridge has to offer. It has vibrant and sometimes quirky businesses and there is plenty going on.
“It is great Andy Burnham is helping market it through the Town Centre Challenge. The faxt Andy visited with media can only help.
“We are in a good position and Stalybridge people are up for the challenge so I say bring it on.”
Cllr Adrian Pearce, who represents Stalybridge North, said: “Smaller towns have been neglected in the past, but this is our opportunity to push this forward and be confident in ourselves to make something of it.
“It is up to us – it will be as good as we make it – but I am very optimistic.
“And by developing brownfield sites in the town centre, we will be able to rely less on greenbelt for future housing.”
Those sentiments were endorsed by Cllr Kevin Welsh, who also represents Stalybridge North, who added: “If we develop brownfield land it takes pressure off the greenbelt and our beautiful Pennine moors.”
Ray Harrison, chairman of Stalybridge Town Team, said: “We are very supportive of Stalybridge being put forward for the Town Team Challenge.
“It is very good for the future of the town and I am sure we have a better chance of developing Stalybridge West on a quicker basis. I am sure developers will look more favourably about coming here.”
New Tameside Council executive leader Cllr Brenda Warrington admitted the local authority will be able to provide little input.
She said: “There is a lot of goodwill from our elected members to make it work and make the most of the little we can throw at it.
“There are some good ideas and we will help assist with the development and make Stalybridge change in a positive way.”
The public will be given a chance to have a say as a public meeting is to be held, possibly next month. It will also involve all the stakeholders in the scheme.