Frodsham shouldn’t be okay with just being okay: let’s start with making something special out of the Goods Shed, write Pete Swift of Planit-IE and Nicky Hughes of Active Profile.
Pete: I was schooled in Liverpool, and it was always the case that those who came on the coach from Frodsham were a ‘cut above’ – especially if they lived on Fluin Lane, which incidentally at its junction with the high street I am told has the worst air quality readings in Cheshire West & Chester.
I moved to Frodsham 15 years ago and settled by Castle Park, designed by the great English landscape architect Edward Kemp, he who went on to design Liverpool’s Stanley Park, of which we had the privilege to restore, but a growing family and a chance plot-find whilst out cycling, took my family up the hill, to the fringe of Delamere forest.
Nicky: I’m proud to be a Runcorn girl. I lived in old Runcorn, near the hills for 40 years before moving to Frodsham and therefore waving my free right of passage across the Mersey Gateway!
I think Runcorn really struggled, and still does. Housing developments are going up but there’s no infrastructure to support them. The commuters are definitely catered for with two hour trips to London but where do they do if they want to go out for a drink or a meal?
I now live in Frodsham, just up the hill, which compared to Runcorn feels like a village, although I’m told it’s not.
We both engage in Frodsham life, mainly via coffee drinking in the lovely Brew and Tucker or through visits to the myriad of well provided public services.
Frodsham’s main street is unique in Cheshire, the start and end of the Sandstone Trail, and with pavements wide enough to host a bustling market on Thursdays.
Most of the shops are independent, but working, as we both do, across a very rapidly changing region, there are a few things missing and a few challenges ahead.
Despite new links via the Halton Curve straight into Liverpool by train; Chester two stops the other way, and regular links to Manchester, we would both prefer not to travel for fine food and drink.
We are limited by three establishments at present; live music venue Kash22, Frodsham’s outpost of the Wirral’s Whitmore & White – deli, booze, coffee and great condiments – and the hidden gem that is Next Door, the best restaurant for miles, run by the daughter of the local butcher and her chef husband. A new tapas bar has also popped up in the old Hunters estate agency premises; it’s very small but it looks good.
But that’s it, no chains, a couple of okay Indian restaurants; a street and a village centre that could take on much more.
We have the opportunities, three vacated banks and perhaps closest to what Altrincham or Liverpool has, an amazing rail shed ‘the Goods Shed’, in which we could easily house a communal food and drink establishment to rival Altrincham Market or Mackie Mayor, but the council seem to be hell bent on demolishing it to afford a few more parking spaces: ridiculous.
Locals have tried, most notably our architect-in-residence Clive Panter of Lewis & Hickey, who’s outlined a scheme and helped set up a Community Land Trust. Perhaps we need to speak to Irlam?
Then, there’s the tricky subject of housing. The town is pretty much encircled by the green belt and there’s not much brownfield of any scale. There’s a cracking plot right next to AFL Architects-designed health centre, the balance of the former school site where Deloitte’s John Cooper was educated, that could take a brilliantly designed high-density exemplar but there are no for sale signs anywhere.
We have two unique Stephenson Studio houses next to Castle Park, but generally, contemporary architecture is thin on the ground, unless, oddly, you go inland to Kelsall, which seems to be becoming a one-off rural house study trip destination.
So, come on developers and architects, let’s find some sites and lobby Cheshire West & Chester Council not to demolish the Goods Shed. This represents a real opportunity in our town to move forward, like Altrincham, to make it special and watch it grow organically. We love our town but so much more could be done to make it an amazing destination.