Emma Dickson

My Place | Stockport

The arrival of a coherent regeneration framework and a raft of exciting independent retailers indicates that Stockport is a town on the up, writes Emma Dickson of Turley.

The first thing I notice about a new place is the smell. I know it sounds strange, but fresh coffee wafting through the air from the new independents and the smell of hops from the micro-breweries popping up in and around the market place say to me that the tide is turning in Stockport.

I moved to Heaton Moor, a suburb of Stockport, about four years ago from the bars and boutiques in West Didsbury. I was excited about moving to the place where I would put down my own family roots.

For a long time, Stockport was associated with the trains passing above on the viaduct and the iconic Pyramid below. Being honest, I was drawn to Stockport because of the liveable suburbs, excellent schools and transport links to Manchester, London and beyond. But for many people, Stockport was seen as a place to pass through rather than an area to spend time in.

However, in physical terms, the town centre is a special blend. The heritage is rich, including the grade two-listed Plaza and Town Hall and it has a population that can drive a strong economy. Despite these positive attributes, the town centre had struggled to compete and retain trade over recent years.

Fast forward to the present day and it’s fantastic to see the frogs have landed in Stockport this summer. The council is leading the charge with ambitious plans, branded as ‘Stockport. Change here’. This town-wide regeneration strategy seeks to deliver a £1bn programme of investment, presenting a once in a generation opportunity.

The public consultation on Stockport’s Town Centre West Strategic Regeneration Framework, under Andy Burnham’s Mayor’s Town Challenge, is further evidence of progress, demonstrating the potential for a new urban village comprising 3,500 new homes with 100,000 sq metres of employment space and the social infrastructure required to support a significant increase in the residential population.

The plan, the first time the Mayoral powers have been used in Greater Manchester and the first in the country to focus on a town centre, puts Stockport on the verge of something unique.

It’s also encouraging to see signs of private investment quick on the heels of public investment. This includes the residential-led transformation of the former Royal Mail Sorting Office on the A6 and the opening of foodie establishments including chef Sam Buckley’s Where the Light Gets In, and the ‘Produce Hall.

Stockport is primed for further investment with projects planned for Stockport Central, Merseyway Shopping Centre and the bus station. The ingredients are there for a vibrant mixed-use town centre.

However, regeneration is not just about new buildings and spaces but about people and their experience of places. People love to be entertained, inspired and excited, and a safe, healthy and clean town centre is the perfect host. Place management is also important, as well as events that entice us into the town centre. This offer must be carefully considered to provide for everyone.

Today, Stockport town centre has become a place destination rather than a place to simply pass through. With a focus and energy on its future, more people will look to the town both for their every-day needs and for their next ‘Instagram moment’.

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Interesting. I have a real soft spot for Stockport’s town centre. It’s unique with it’s two levels and huge viaduct and it seems crazy that it’s been having problems recently – waht with so many opportunities. But I suspect that some of that is due to poor connections – despite the main train station having a short 7 minute journey to the city centre. It needs connectivity to Metrolink and that means also back to Didsbury and out to other parts of GM, not to mention the suburban tracks on the mainline joining up with Metrolink via tram/train services. But hopefully that will happen in my lifetime. One thing, I find it sort of amusing in this article is that Heaton Moor is considered a suburb of Stockport. Granted, it’s in Stockport’s borough, but from many definitions, a suburb is sub to the core city at an urban area level, not secondary LGAs. I suspect most Heatonians commute to the city centre (aka Manchester) than to Stockport’s town centre.
Great article

By EOD

Stockport has a ring of relatively wealthy outer suburbs from Marple through to Gatley but the established housing nearest the town centre is either social housing or at the very cheapest end of the buy to let market – which has seen massive growth in the last decade. I have yet to view the re-planning of the town centre but I do hope that Stockport Council will stand firm on quality homes with appeal to all ages, otherwise those living in the outer ring will continue to see the town only as the place they pay council tax to and continue to bypass its centre on their way to Manchester or Cheshire for leisure and shopping.

By JAM

Stockport needs the tram to be truly connected to the rest of the city.

By Unimpressed

One of the great selling points of Stockport town centre is it’s proximity to the airport but try getting there by public transport. There is no direct train link, no tram and a bus journey which takes forever it goes without saying that major investment in public transport is needed.

By Anonymous

Stockport’s Old Town is a fantastically rich environment which is finally coming into its own as derelict buildings are CPO or demolished. If some of those spaces were re-wilded or given to residents to create green space, there would be a true transformation. Sometimes, bureaucracy just needs to get out of the way and trust others to deliver.

By E Morrison

Great read Emma.
The Light cinema – great place to enjoy a film and drink but a shocking building at a ‘gateway’ position adjacent to the M60. Carbuncle of the year can and should have been avoided whatever cladding budget was available to the team.

The market area really is where the potential and growth is happening. Independents are really driving the area and the food and drink offer is great. The jury is out on the new produce hall – food seems disappointing compared to the likes of Oxford Hatch and Alty’s market but the surrounding independents are great.

The t/c resi market really has a chance to capitalise on the unaffordable rents emerging in Man city centre – for young grads Stockport should and will be a great choice.

Stockport is always considered to have this huge affluent belt in the south, which I guess is true but I’d say this shouldn’t detract from our need for investment. We’ve been let down badly by TfGM – to still be ignored by Metrolink completely after all these years is shocking.

Final point – Robbies brewery tour is an absolute gem. Would recommend it to all and sundry followed by a couple of night caps around the market.

By CN

Excellent article Emma, sums up the current scene in Stockport. I have lived in various districts of the town and am now happily retired in Heaton Moor. The market place and Underbank used to be the destination for a good night out, stretching up Hillgate to great pubs like The Red Bull. Looks as though there is a welcome revival now in the town centre, which will be helped by more residential property development.

By Reg Williams

Some great comments on here, however after 40 years of no investment in Stockport and total mismanagement by either conservative or labour councils Stockport has had to wake up or die, but the planning has a lot to be desired, yes they will build homes, but how many will be affordable? We have a good historic train station but it needs bringing into the 21st century, , on a personal note the redrock is without doubt the worst building I’ve ever seen in my 60 years of living, the architect propablay has never ever set foot in Stockport and doesn’t no it’s heritage, shocking waste of money, and a complete eyesore,As for Stockport markets I remember many years ago it was packed, apart from the foodie Fridays it’s dead, another policy from the council’s over the years, no incentive for stall holders to pitch there! ,As for the trams yes, we need them but we should have had them 10 years ago, every council we have had in the last 20 years no matter what flavour you are has had no vision whatsoever, complete failure!! , Stockport is a great place let’s hope the planners and architects from London who have never been here don’t ruin it any more

By Tony

Thing is those who live in affluent towns like Bramhall claim to be from Cheshire and distance themselves from Stockport as much as possible, they would never dream of going into town.

By Gee

Loads of people boycott Stockport because if you park at one end then need to go to other end to pick some shopping up you have to pay again why can’t they use same tickets for all car parks rip off Stockport.

By Tony doughty

I have lived in Stockport for sixty years and now I am on the brink of moving out. Stockport town has gone down and down. The market used to be vibrant now it doesn’t happen at all. Car parking is far too expensive and since the Council removed the free 300 bus from running round the town it’s too difficult to walk up to the indoor market or to get out as far as Tesco. Money has been foolishly spent on the vile RedRock without thinking through what the town really needs. A good transport system around the town, the tram running in to the town, more shops, cheaper car parking and a good scrub up would bring people to visit.

By Mary Jane

The market has really gone downhill, hardly anything left

By Liv

I would like to know what plans is there for the river mersey around bus station as there are rats roaming freely and the river smells awful. It not a good to way attract people to come and live and work in Stockport
Many thanks
Alan

By Alan vesty

There’s only so much polishing you can do on a turd!!!

By Dave Evans

Whilst Redrock’s façade is unappealing to the eye, I think the Light Cinema and its surrounding ground floor restaurant uses are a great addition to the town centre. I know many people who travel to Stockport from other boroughs, even those outside of Greater Manchester, just to visit Redrock as an alternative to Ashton Moss. More of the same please (just maybe with more consideration given to design…).

By Anon

“The Avenues of Stockport” – Times are a changing
As a child I used to work in Little Underbank – a bustling busy place led to by historic steps and cobbled streets from the market place to the area where all the Banks and Tudor buildings lay – Underbank and Little Underbank was the place to be – full of pedestrians and amazing shops… where Robinson’s used to bring out the barrels on the horses daily through their Arches – and this was only 30 yrs ago. For too long now this area has been neglected I believe a consequence of the area regenerated many years ago just past Asda all the way to the motorway roundabout ! full of your usual “chain stores” ! Now it is wonderful to see this historic area of church / market – side streets and steps (still not sign posted to Merseyway) leading to Little Underbank / Underbank being regenerated and becoming the new Urban area with shops / restaurants etc with their own individual “new era style” and sporting Vintage along the way … reminding me of “ The Avenues of Brighton” let’s hope it becomes “The Avenues of Stockport” with all its tiny cobbled side streets and the help of the council !

By MSAJ

I grew up in Stockport with its amazing history and vibrancy. I witnessed the gradual decline as the council began waging its war on the motorist (which still continues) and parking became difficult and expensive. The road system suffers from a combination of industrial legacy and planning stupidity which render the streets a maze of unpredictable one way systems and poorly thought out traffic lights. The addition of the Redrock Centre, which won the carbuncle cup in 2018, situated in pride of place at the side of the M60 confirms the aesthetic blindness of a planning system flailing around desperately trying to inject modernity into a town leaving a rich history to be reduced to the fringes. Yes, we have the Hat Museum, the Air Raid Shelter tours and a market area that is slowly showing signs of recovery owing to an increase in the sensitive use of local buildings to increase evening trade but all this cannot hide the years of neglect suffered by the town centre whilst shopping centres on the periphery like The Peel Centre continue to alienate the motorist by handing parking management to rapacious private companies intent on screwing every last penny out of visitors. It’s such a shame to see so many empty shops in the centre become victims of a government drive to inflate business rates while greedy landlords cut their own throats in bids to charge as much as possible for their premises. They all seem not to notice the online threat posed by the Internet and will no doubt continue with their heads in the sand until the last council committee has wrung its hands in despair whilst doing little to change things.

By Gordon

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