COMMENT | M60 towns must adapt to succeed

At the Place North West conference I gave a short presentation, which debated the development potential of the towns which circulate around the M60 motorway, writes Dan Mitchell of Barton Willmore. These are the places like Salford West, Ashton, Oldham, Rochdale, Bury, Bolton, Altrincham and Stockport, part of the Greater Manchester conurbation, but which are also standalone centres in their own right.

Unlike recent property breakfast meetings and conferences which celebrate the success of Manchester city centre and focus on the ubiquitous growth of PRS, this event focused around an acknowledgement and common understanding between delegates that the M60 towns around Greater Manchester face different issues. With challenging socio-economics, the common theme in the room was that they are in need of a bit of an ‘oomph’.

The facts are clear. Whilst Manchester’s central area has thrived over the last 10 years, a trend which is seemingly endless, the M60 towns have had to adapt. Often struggling to compete with out-of-centre retail schemes around the M60 and in some cases actually competing with each other over the same occupiers, development has been a bit stop-start. Coupled with this is the fact that many of the M60 towns have large, public sector employment bases which have felt the impact of deep cuts. Despite the challenges, dogged determination and flexible approaches has meant that these locations are changing, and with it they offer savvy investors and developers great returns.

All of the M60 towns benefits from ever improving connectivity. At the conference, Transport for Greater Manchester outlined the significant investments being made to Metrolink improvements new rail-station hubs and, for the first time, a joined up infrastructure strategy which will create multi-modal transport hubs offering choice. The Northern Powerhouse gels together this work, bringing together transport operating companies under one roof and providing an Oyster-type card which will create a free flow of movement.

Many of the town centre projects have now evolved and it was great to hear how Rochdale and Stockport have managed to continue to attract new anchors into their town centres, while in Trafford, Altrincham Market and the Market House food hub has transformed trading in the town.

Perhaps the next challenge is for the M60 towns to look towards improving the new residential offer. The M60 towns can be the new neighbourhoods of Greater Manchester, providing aspirational and family housing and great schools all within commuting distance of the city’s core jobs market.

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There is a huge difference between these towns and this is apparent when driving around the M60.Investment is very heavy around the Trafford centre and there is hardly anything around Oldham. Greater Manchester has a North/South divide to rival England and this Devolution agenda must not increase this further.A recent survey said that Altrincham and Sale contributes £515 million a year to the Treasury in taxes,the biggest amount outside the South East(This constituency contributes 10% of all Greater Manchester’s income tax) and Ashton Under Lyne only £90 million. What will Devolution do to redress this balance? A start would be to utilise the M60 more. Hi-Tech businesses can be located anywhere on this Ring Road,as access to any of these towns within the conurbation is relatively easy. What we must avoid are these heavy clusters and then gaps of nothing in certain places. There is far too much investment in leafy Trafford,the city centre and Salford Quays and the Airport. What about Bolton and Wigan?

By Elephant

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