When I re-read Stockport’s Portas Pilot Bid the other day, I was actually surprised at how much was packed into it.You can read our successful Portas Pilot bid here – it’s worth a look and won’t take you long (honest!).
Here’s an update on some of the projects referred to in the bid:
National market day & special market events
When BBC North West came along to film in the market a couple of weeks ago, I was glad to see it was busy – despite being a weekday lunchtime. Thanks to the hard work of market traders and the market team, that’s becoming a regular occurrence. On national market day, Stockport’s market was heaving and packed out.
MMU art graduates
Manchester Metropolitan University are currently refitting marketplace premises for their art graduates to set up shop in. Come October, MMU grads will move into studios on the upper floors with the ground floor open as exhibition space. The building is owned by the Council and being leased to MMU for a peppercorn rent, giving new graduates a great chance to build businesses and bringing something new and exciting to our historic marketplace.
Nearly 600 tickets have already been sold for Stockport’s first German-style beer festival on 29th and 30th September. See http://bit.ly/Kt6Nbe for the details and get your ticket now.
Stockport Plaza is currently trialling a digital projector, with Portas money available to help buy a permanent one. The Plaza continues to host excellent events – just one example is the Olympic Be Inspired event where hundreds of local schoolchildren had the opportunity to meet olympic athletes past and present.
Hatworks Hot Heads exhibition
Stockport Hatworks museum hosted some of the top milliners from across the country at the launch of the Hot Heads contemporary millinery exhibition, running to next January. Work is in progress to improve all the town centre tourist attractions (Hatworks, Air-Raid Shelters and Staircase House) to bring more people in.
Seven Miles Out arts festival and Teenage Market
The end of July saw a busy weekend at Stockport Market, with a food and craft fair on the Saturday and the Seven Miles Out Arts Festival and Teenage Market on the Sunday: successful events that brought more people in the historical market area.
Now a regular fixture in the calendar attracting people from across the region and beyond, Stockport’s monthly Vintage Village at the marketplace is building a strong reputation.
Car parking improvements
Within the next week or two, visitors to Stockport will be able to pay by mobile phone when parking in the Council car parks or on-street. The ability to pay with coins will remain, but this gives another option, and means people can easily extend their stay and don’t have to worry about having the right change for the car parks. Much-needed repair work to the Merseyway car park is starting shortly.
Developing Stockport’s evening economy is a key part of the Portas Pilot plan, and the Council is now consulting on plans to build a cinema, restaurants, shops and a hotel on the surface car parks by Bridgefield Street (between Princes Street and the motorway). This is a challenging project, but could see thousands more people coming into Stockport in the daytime and evenings, bringing benefits to the whole Town Centre.
New independent shops
A number of vacant shops have recently become occupied. These include units on Little Underbank, Mealhouse Brow, Wellington Street and in the Market Place. Most of these would not have progressed without support through the Vacant Shop Grant initiatives.
New homes in the Town Centre
Boosting the Town Centre is about more than just shops and markets – another important element is getting more people living there. New houses are springing up at Hopes Carr and on the site of Peaches Nightclub with more in the pipeline.
With the bowling alley and Heaven & Hell nightclub demolished, Grand Central is already looking very different. A new 1000-place multi-storey car park is to be built by the station, with offices and hotels then being build on Grand Central. That means more people working in, visiting and spending money in Stockport.
Signing the Town Centre
Stockport is not the easiest town to find your way around, whether by car, bike or on foot. Work is underway to improve that and I hope the Town Team will get involved.
The “Town Team” that submitted the winning Portas Pilot bid was Stockport’s Business and Retail Forum. That body has now become the Stockport Town Team, open to anyone and everyone to join and get involved. Stockport Town Team – with over 120 members – is in charge of delivering the priorities in the Portas Pilot Bid.
A smaller Town Team committee has been appointed to run things on a day-to-day basis (the Town Team may want to use a different method of choosing the committee in future, but members voted to appoint the board this time round and it gets things up and running more quickly).
We’ll soon be setting up online forums for discussion and ideas, as well as more physical meetings for the Stockport Town Team and for the committee.
I’m aware the way the Town Team has been set up has attracted criticism from certain quarters. My own feeling is that the criticism is unfair: the Council has worked closely with the Business & Retail Forum to get the Town Team up and running quickly, in an open and transparent way.
There’s a lot to do, both in carrying forward the existing projects and developing the new ideas we’re going to need if Stockport is going to become the success we all want it to be.
Cllr Iain Roberts
Executive Member for Economic Development & Regeneration, Stockport Council