Manchester town centres project launched

David McCourt

Town centres in Greater Manchester are working together on a plan to earn new investment and achieve the greatest possible success.

The eight principal centres all recognised they are facing challenges from online shopping and out-of-town developments at a planning and housing commission meeting last Monday.

Council chiefs across the region are now combining forces in an attempt to ensure the principal towns complement each other and develop in their own style.

The proposed town centre action plan will be developed as a single, sequenced programme.

The plan is due to be considered by Greater Manchester's Combined Authority at its meeting later this month.

Investment could come from the creation of a recyclable funding framework that supports both local and Greater Manchester investment.

Returns from investments will then be available to fund subsequent town centre projects across the region.

This could mean that investment can be recycled to support wider investment across town centres as part of a single programme.

Experts in the public and private sectors have worked together to analyse the character and potential for development in each of Altrincham, Ashton, Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport and Wigan.

The first stage of the plan includes themes such as new-build offices and commercial developments, new residential developments and broadening the leisure and nighttime economy.

Further opportunities include education, new workspaces, investing in public realm, growing independent businesses and using vacant buildings.

Cllr Sue Derbyshire, chairman of Greater Manchester's planning and housing commission, said: "The retail sector is going through a revolution and our town centres need to adapt. We need to ensure they stay as a focus for jobs, local communities, amenities and quality of life.

"We have a golden opportunity to act now before the full impact of online shopping, and we must seize this chance."

The report gives strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for each of the eight town centres.

Cllr Eamonn Boylan, lead chief executive on the planning and housing commission, said: "We must look at what will drive footfall and bring new customers, visitors and investment so that town centres retain their economic role.

"Local authorities must be increasingly pro-active and create confidence in the town centre through a strong vision or long-term direction of change.

"They must lead partners, coordinating different activities or decisions to maintain progress and they must directly intervene to create the right conditions for investment."

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