A CAMPAIGN continues to save a convenience store on the facility-starved Ridge Hill Estate in Stalybridge.
More than 500 customers have signed a petition against the loss of Waz’s Convenience Store while local councillors and MP Jonathan Reynolds have also weighed in with their support.
Social housing company Jigsaw, formerly New Charter, has been granted permission to demolish the row of shops on Rydal Walk as part of a redevelopment plan.
And while local ward councillors wholeheartedly back the proposal for 35 new homes to replace two blocks of flats, one of which has already been razed to the ground, they object to the loss of amenities, including the convenience store and Big Local hub which is used for community activities.
Tameside Council has yet to give the planning application the go ahead for the new development with councillors wanting either the block containing the shops renovated or a new convenience store incorporated into the new housing scheme.
Cllr Jan Jackson said: “Jigsaw have already bulldozed some of the flats and have notified Tameside Council they intend to demolish the shops which have flats above them.
“They have submitted plans to build 35 houses which will be beautiful and fit for the next century which is what we need. It will alter the face of Ambleside which is not a problem.
“It is knocking down the shops, notably the convenience store, which we take issue with.”
Cllr Jackson added Jigsaw’s planning application contravenes Tameside Council’s Unitary Development Plan which contains its land use planning policies relating to the loss of amenities like the convenience store, a thriving business run by Arshad Mahmood for more than a decade, cannot be lost when redevelopment of an area takes place.
She continued: “There is a lot of poor health and deprivation on Ridge Hill where life expectancy is less than the rest of the country.
“There is a lot of elderly, some with mobility issues, especially at Kendal House, and sick people and there is a need for a convenience store and maybe also a pharmacy.
“The shops are a meeting place and focal point of the community and allow people to get out of their homes and breaks being isolated.
“Many other younger people with children don’t necessarily have access to their own transport so buying bread, milk or other essentials becomes an increasing problem as local facilities close.
“It was one of the main reasons for establishing the Big Local on the RASH estates. Indeed, the Big Local have managed to reverse this trend by reopening the boating and fishing lake as well as establishing a local youth group and summer camps for local children.
“Many other groups on the estates have also worked hard to keep community facilities going based at local churches and Silver Springs Academy. This is why we were so concerned at the prospect of losing another local shop. Our neighbourhoods suffer without such amenities.”
Cllr Jackson also pointed out the value of the shops becomes even more important in winter during bad weather when buses are sometimes unable to get on to Ridge Hill Estate due to its steepness.
“Even at normal times there is a failing bus service while taxis are not an option for many because of the cost,” she said.
Cllr Jackson revealed local councillors and Mr Reynolds have written to and met with representatives of New Charter and Jigsaw to express concerns and try to identify with them different ways to retain the shop and other facilities.
They have also met with planning officers to express our concerns and held discussions at the Big Local on the future of the Rydal Walk area.
Jigsaw have notified the council that they intended to demolish the flats, work which is currently ongoing, but as yet no planning permission has be granted for their replacement or any associated facilities.
Cllr Jackson would like to retain the shops or, if that is not possible, a convenience store be incorporated into the new development.
She said: “Local councillors will continue to work with all parties and local residents to ensure as far as possible that the regeneration the prospect of this new development brings, will meet the needs of local people including community facilities.
“We are exploring if there are ways that Jigsaw and the Big Local can work together to solve this problem which could provide exciting opportunities for new initiatives to meet the needs of the whole estate.”
Garnet Fazackerley, operations director of development at Jigsaw Group said: “Jigsaw Group has submitted a planning application to carry out much needed redevelopment of the Rydal Walk and Ambleside properties, creating new affordable housing for rent.
“We appreciate that residents have some concerns over our proposals and we are currently in dialogue with local representatives to discuss and try to address those concerns.”
A Tameside Council spokesman said: “There are unresolved issues and, because of these, the application is still under consideration. We are aware of the local community’s concerns and these have been raised with the applicant (Jigsaw). All representations will be taken into account as part of the assessment process.”