BOARD chairman Cllr Adrian Pearce has expressed disappointment over suggestions in last month’s Correspondent that there has been a lack of progress on the Stalybridge Town Centre Challenge.
Cllr Pearce pointed to a number of developments and successes that have taken off as a result of this important initiative.
“I think anyone who attended the board meeting in December would be surprised that we were being accused of not doing anything,” he said.
“At that meeting alone we had two excellent presentations about key developments.
“The first from Simpson-Haugh, the consultants who are working with the partnership, presented the first draft of a detailed framework for a mix of new housing on the derelict site behind the station, with further plans to come forward for the Castle Street area as well as other locations in Stalybridge.
“Secondly, Pete Stringer, from the Greater Manchester City of Trees, outlined a range of exciting ideas for greening the town centre and its links to Cheetham Park, Gorse Hall and Stamford Park.
“This greening initiative is part of a wider project led by Peter Rawson, from the Huddersfield Canal Society, to produce a plan of environmental improvements to make the river and canal safer, cleaner and more attractive for people to enjoy.
“In the longer term, it will form an important part of a riverside and heritage walkway for which we will be seeking funding from the beelines cycling and walking initiative run by Chris Boardman as well as grants from other agencies.”
Cllr Pearce continued: “Even better news was that we, as a town centre challenge area, have accessed additional funding through the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to support our development work.
“This will enable us to look in more detail at parking in the town centre, an issue that featured strongly in our consultation, and to consider a wider development strategy for the east of the town, taking in the river and the market hall.”
Tameside Council has also approved funding for a project officer to work with the town challenge board over the next two years to help support future bids for funding.
Cllr Pearce said their immediate priority was to seek funding from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund.
He said: “This could be a huge opportunity to access funds for the board’s work, but I have to stress that it is not a given, it is competitive and funding will only be available for those areas who put forward the best case for intervention and, more importantly, those areas who have a strong partnership and a comprehensive plan for transformation.
“Yes, we have more to do, and yes it takes time, but we haven’t been handed a chunk of money on plate to spend on piecemeal projects.
“We have to find resources and the most effective way of doing that is drawing together a comprehensive plan that shows what we want to do and how to make our vision into a reality.
“This approach has not only been endorsed by Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, but also by this Government that recognises changing the fortunes of our high streets and town centres is not an easy or overnight process.
“It needs a plan and a vision to make our town centre fit for the future.
“I believe as a result of the work we have already done as a partnership, along with and our long-term plans, we are in a good position to go forward and make a case.”