I thought it would be worth an update on the work that’s been achieved and planned in Stockport Town Centre. Some of this has come directly through the Town Team and Portas Pilot, others from elsewhere (mostly the Council).
Market and Underbanks
The Portas Pilot bid focussed on Stockport’s historic market and Underbanks – a fantastic environment that’s underperformed. Three events were funded in the run up to Christmas – two from Portas money and one direct from the Council. The events were very different to each other and all three brought people many people to the market area who hadn’t been before: What the Dickens, Winter Wassale and the Market traders’ event with ice rink and donkey rides.
Several new shops have opened up in the Underbanks. The Council is taking a proactive approach to the buildings around the marketplace, working with a number of partners to get new users in over the next 12-18 months. We’ve also employed a markets expert on a short-term contract who’s looking at how the market can be improved, with new ownership options following.
The special events in the marketplace – not just in the run up to Christmas, but regulars like Vintage Village – have been very successful and we’d like to see more.
The Council introduced RingGo – allowing people to pay for parking by web, text, phone or smartphone app in addition to putting change in the meter. In the run up to Christmas, the Town Team Committee worked closely with the Council on how to best offer free parking. As a result of that positive result, we’re holding the first Town Team meeting to specifically look at car parking next Tuesday. The good news is that more people have been parking in Stockport over the last year, so we’re heading in the right direction.
A multi-million pound project to improve Merseyway car park is currently underway – a lot that goes to maintaining the structure, but there’ll be visible improvements too, making the car park brighter, safer and more pleasant to park in.
Town Team projects
The Town Team has invited everyone to come forward with projects to help the town. In addition to the pre-Christmas events, a digital projector at the Plaza has got the go-ahead. A number of other projects are being worked on – for example to build up business plans. The Town Team is currently procuring a website for the town, and we’ve been looking at what different groups can offer. Do you have a project that Town Team funding might help with? Get in touch.
Stockport’s got a lot to offer with some fantastic shops, cafes, restaurants, museums, heritage, events and more. We want to get the message out there. That’s included promoting events online, working with newspapers, TV and radio stations – there’s a feature in this month’s Cheshire Life on Stockport, for example.
Through 2013 the Council will be rolling out improved signing to better guide visitors whether on foot, bike or car. One thing we want to achieve is to remind people visiting Merseyway (a busy and successful shopping centre with nearly 10 million visitors a year) that the Underbanks and Marketplace are just a few yards away and well worth a visit too. The Council also fund the MetroShuttle – a free bus taking people to key locations around the Town Centre and running every 12 minutes.
The Council is taking an active approach to developing Stockport. The Bridgefield development (on the current surface car parks parallel to Princes Street) aims to bring a cinema, restaurants, hotel and larger retail units to the heart of the town, complementing Merseyway). The Council owns the freehold to the Debenhams building and improvements to that are planned. As part of the Bridgefield development, improvements to Princes Street are proposed, including taking out some properties to turn narrow roads into high quality public realm. More immediately, the work at Grand Central is underway with construction of a new 1,000 place multi-storey car park and cycle park due to start around the end of February.
Getting around in Stockport
I mentioned the free Metroshuttle bus and the new signing before. There’s more!
We’re working with Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to develop a new Transport Interchange to replace our ageing bus station – including improved links from there to the railway station.
We’re also developing a plan to take through traffic away from the Town Centre – we want the A6 and other local roads to be for people coming to Stockport, and to offer better alternatives to those just wanting to pass through.
Finally, we’ve implemented Greater Manchester’s first Quality Bus Corridor along the A6 and we’re working with TfGM to improve cycle parking right across the centre.
All these are dependant on funding from TfGM and by no means guaranteed, I should add.
Not everything here is certain – we work hard to get developments right, but they sometimes don’t come off when private sector partners pull out, for example. We also can’t guarantee external funding, though again we’re doing everything we can to secure it.
But even with that uncertainty, there’s plenty of good news.
When the Portas Pilot launched just a few months ago I talked about creating a buzz around Stockport. That’s happening: we’re getting more events, more shops and more visitors. There’s a great deal more to do (it’s one of those tasks that’ll never end, and that’s as it should be). The Council’s proactive approach, not waiting for developers to come to our door, but buying up key property and seeking partners to work with, is paying off too – as we’re seeing at Grand Central already.
There’s lots to get involved in – if you would like to contribute, please get in touch.