STALYBRIDGE would be transformed into a vibrant place to live if plans detailed in Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham’s Town Centre Challenge, aimed at regenerating urban centres across the county, materialise.
In documents seen by the Correspondent, the vision is described as residential-led regeneration of Stalybridge town centre to deliver 1,000 new homes in the next five years.
That in turn will create 1,500 medium-term jobs and would support more retail businesses and services in Stalybridge.
It includes a detailed look at development opportunities in the west of Stalybridge which cover three sites.
• Stalybridge railway station and car park as a proposed site for an integrated transport interchange and possible arrival point for a Metrolink extension.
• The Stalybridge West development site of six acres of land with river frontage including 181 homes, 533 square metres of retail/leisure space and 659 sq m of office space.
• Castle Street car park, a 1.56 acre plot earmarked for 82 homes and 468 sq m of retail and leisure space.
The documents say the delivery of housing on the empty land and derelict buildings in the centre will transform these sites which currently mar the town, link up the gaps in the centre, clean up the street scene and provide more passive surveillance throughout the day, as well as improving the perception of the town’s safety.
These homes will be linked to the high street by an improved walking and cycling infrastructure, together with a comprehensive review of the public realm, refocusing it on the pedestrian’s experience.
Improvements to car parking provision and a new public transport hub, which could include an extension of the Metrolink and improvements to the canal and river walkways, will draw in visitors.
The Stalybridge Town Centre Challenge Partnership Board is also exploring creating a food and drinks venue in the former market hall, similar to a successful one in Altrincham.
Documents said the re-imagination of the civic hall as a food and drink market and entertainment venue, would build on the existing offers in the heritage quarter’s library and art gallery, creating a distinct hub of activity and an identity for this part of the town.
This would rebalance the centre’s offering away from its current domination by its two main supermarkets and hot food takeaways.
There are also plans to create a heritage trail between the railway station and a historic quarter which comprises listed buildings including the civic hall, post office, library, Holy Trinity and Christ Church and war memorial.
And with attractive river and canal side frontages, the document said: “Stalybridge will take its place alongside Saddleworth and Hebden Bridge as a thriving Pennine town.”
The documents continued: “We recognise the need to transform the town, and that to do this successfully will require a cohesive, multi-layer approach including housing, commercial development, retail, and transport and health infrastructure.
“It is important to note that this vision is not a quickly put together masterplan by external consultants, it is the product of two years of collaborative working by all interests in the town, including the residents and shoppers, businesses and key stakeholders, pulled together by the Stalybridge Town Centre Challenge Partnership Board. It is the board’s vision, not just the council’s.
“The board is refining an action plan that will fully deliver on the vision document’s ambition. Once this work is completed this will be submitted for approval by the council, ensuring that governance is in place to fully support it as adopted policy.
“While the task is to tackle the decline of our high street, the strategy must be to address the town centre’s challenges as a whole and our unique opportunity is to turn the issues which currently blight the centre into the opportunity which will fix it.
“There is widespread acceptance that the high street cannot be tackled on its own.
“To embed a bright future for the town, the regeneration measures must be much, much wider.
“There is however a firm belief that a thriving high street, in a new form and use, is fundamental to the eventual success.
“Stalybridge has ambition. It has opportunities and it has the desire and crucially the governance and broader support required to ensure delivery.
“The vision described is achievable. What is required is the support from the Future High Street Fund to accelerate the residential, transport and health outcomes which bind the strategy together.”
The regeneration of Stalybridge town centre is already underway with the recent completion of 67 apartments at Summers Quay and 38 flats on Castle Street, where a further 18 are currently under construction.
• Stalybridge is one of 69 high streets in England vying for a share of £95 million from the Government’s Heritage High Street Fund. A decision on the level of funding will be made in January.