Along with Stockport Town Team members, I met Mary Portas today on her first visit to Stockport. We became a Portas Pilot town last May and since then have been working to improve the Town Centre – focussing on the Market/Underbanks area.
After meeting Mary and her team at the station, we went to the Plaza for lunch and a round-table discussion. That was very useful – Mary had some challenges for us and there are certainly things the Town Team can be doing better. For example, Mary made the point that the Town Team can’t construct a vision on the basis of getting 259 members to agree – that’s never going to happen, and it needs a small group to lead and create that vision and plan. She also suggested that the Town Teams to achieve most have been very focussed: better to do one thing and do it well than try to do everything. That’s certainly a lesson we can take on board – our aspirations for Stockport Town Team have probably been too high and more focus is needed.
Thanks for the Plaza for being superb hosts, as ever, and putting on a delicious lunch.
Mary then went for a walk along the Underbanks and into the Market, meeting lots of shopkeepers and stallholders on the way, giving useful advice and seeing what Stockport has to offer.
Walking down Little Underbank I was struck by just how many shops we have there now – all independents and all sorts of businesses. It’s easy not to notice when you visit every week, but thinking back to how it was 12-18 months ago the transformation is impressive – very few empty units and a real sense of community among the traders.
The market, too, seems to have a very different feel to a year ago. There’s more going on in it and around it. Mary did two circuits of the marketplace, speaking to traders and was presented with a Stockport hamper to remember the visit.
Stockport is on a journey to re-invent its town centre, to attract people across the region and give a real reason for coming to the town that’s competing against Manchester and the Trafford Centre. We’re making good progress – as figures on footfall and new shops shows – but there’s still a long way to go and Mary’s help and advice will certainly be valuable in getting us there.