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Stockport Town Centre update

by Iain Roberts on 12 January, 2013

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.

Car parking
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.

Promoting Stockport
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.

Signing Stockport
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.

Developing Stockport
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.

Where next?
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.


10 Responses

  1. Jennifer says:

    I can’t believe that Stockport is going to close the car parks adjacent & parallel to Princes Street. They are always busy, where are all those cars going to be parked in future? Why do we need another cinema etc when there is a perfectly good one already? The hotel would be better sited near the station ( if one is actually needed ) There are already plenty of empty shops in the town centre, why do we need more shops? The new car park at Grand central is too far away from the town centre, especially for elderly shoppers. Who thinks up these schemes and what a waste of money in these straitened times?

  2. Garry says:

    I have to agree with Jennifer. To close car parks in the centre and move them up a hill which in places is quite steep seems a misguided move. It certainly isn’t disabled or elderly friendly. I understand the idea of bringing people into the heart of the town but people won’t traipse all that way. Places like the complex and east Didsbury are popular because of the proximity of the car park. In an ideal world a deck would go over the motorway and multi story car park would go there.

  3. Iain Roberts says:

    No car parks are being closed – the development will include new roof-top car parks. I absolutely agree that if were suggesting for a moment that people should park up the hill and walk all the way down it would have been a terrible idea.

    Because of the development plans for Grand Central, the cinema there is scheduled to close down in 2015 so we want to move it to a better location.

    As for the retail units (it’s only a small number), we’ve been out and asked retailers what they want. Merseyway is a full and busy shopping centre, but having some larger units adjacent should be a positive addition.

    I should also add that there are also plans for a hotel by the station – and we’ve just given planning permission for a hotel by the Pyramid too.

  4. Paula Isherwood says:

    The ‘bus journey to Stockport is depressing and the ‘buses unpredictable, so I’ve started taking the train to Manchester ( a quick, pleasant trip and you know exactly when the trains are due). Then a quick trip on the free ‘bus from the station, do your shopping and, if you’ve checked on your train times, a hassle free return journey. I’ve said goodbye to Stockport for good. Sorry Stockport!

  5. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for that Iain. You didn’t make it clear in the original article about the car parking.

  6. Frederick Kenny says:

    I have to agree with Paula. Also given the air conditioned and very pleasant Trafford Centre, with free parking why go to Stockport at all? Its actually quicker for us to get to the TC as well. Further Manchester City Centre has a much nicer set of shops , and Wilmslow/Altrincham are also much more pleasant and quick to reach.

    I am concerned that efforts to create a more prosperous town centre may lead to heavy debts and push up Council Tax even further.

    In my view most people these days have little or no loyalty or interest in the administrative convenience that is Stockport.

  7. Iain Roberts says:

    I’d certainly like a train from Gatley to Stockport – it’s on the list of TfGM projects, but realistically some years ahead if we get it at all.

    I also agree that the Trafford Centre – where the shops cover the cost of customer parking – is of course a massive competitor to Stockport.

    I wouldn’t agree about Wilmslow and Altrincham, but that’s just personal, I guess – if areas happen to have shops you like then you’re more likely to go there.

  8. Paula Isherwood says:

    I am sure that the unpredictability of the ‘buses,the fact that the last No.11 ‘bus from Stockport leaves at before 7.30 pm, the narrow walkway, too many buggies, etc. local newspapers strewn on floors and seats, bottles rolling around the floor, all make a journey by public transport to Stockport unpleasant and the train journey to Manchester in comparison a bonus. Until something is done about the Stockport ‘bus service I for one will not be visiting the shops there.

  9. Denise says:

    I agree about the 11 bus, it is dirty. Stockport needs to be cleaner and brighter. Lots of fresh paint and more lighting would help. Plus what about those ladies toilets at the bus station? I know you have looked at this problem before but nothing was done about them. They are a disgrace and would I’m sure win the prize for the worst toilets in Britain

  10. Nilika says:

    Just a thought, would more people come to Stockport if there was
    1. free parking (probably not realistic)
    2. better advertisement of the unique places/ things to do?

    I’m sort of new to Stockport and generally don’t visit the town centre because I don’t know whats available there different to another town (incentive). Shopping is not the only reason to visit a town centre. Lately I’ve heard about the cafe at the plaza, himalaya tea tasting..things that happen during the day making me prefer S’port over Trafford centre or M’cr.
    Didsbury, Mcr and TC seems to do a better Whats on/trip advisor/timeout guide. Just a thought.

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