Stockport Council has chosen restaurateur Steve Pilling as the preferred tenant for its Produce Hall and Market Place, paving the way for a major food destination in the town, despite opposition from local traders.
Pilling, who has run restaurants including Dockyard, Roost, and Sam’s Chop House, has begun formal lease negotiations with the council after its cabinet gave their full support to his plans for the two buildings, with the listed properties to be converted into a food market akin to Altrincham Market and Manchester’s Mackie Mayor.
Pilling beat two other bidders to the deal, and the council now hopes to have the food halls operational by summer 2018.
The decision has been criticised by the team behind Foodie Friday, a monthly street food event held in the town. In a statement, the team said it was “incredibly disappointed” the council had not supported its plans for a market in the Produce Hall.
The team had planned to open a casual dining, community and events space.
“In making this decision, it is quite clear [the council] has prioritised the corporate desire of council executives over the needs of the local community,” read the statement.
“They have also rejected the chance to support the development of our delivery partners, who are all Stockport-based independent food and drink traders, in favour of Steve Pilling, an individual businessman from outside the town centre who wants to capitalise on all the success that we have achieved through Foodie Friday.”
The Foodie Friday team’s plans had been backed by around 4,000 local people.
The council said it was hoping to work with the other applicants “to try to find them a place for their proposed offer” in the town.
The council added Pilling’s bid was “built upon a strong financial foundation and a wealth of proven success”, and said it hoped the plans would be “financially sustainable for the future”.
The grade two-listed hall offers 3,300 sq ft at ground floor level and a 900 sq ft mezzanine, while the Blackshaws building at 28-29 Market Place totals 1,400 sq ft. The cabinet delegated authority to the corporate director for place management and regeneration and the deputy chief executive to run the selection process.
Cllr Kate Butler, cabinet member for economy and regeneration, stated: “We’ve been working hard to ensure the Market Place is a key feature of our plans for town centre regeneration.
“We are serious about unlocking the potential of the whole area to see it thrive and become a must-visit destination both locally and from further afield.
“Offering long-term leases on the Produce Hall and 28/29 Market Place is central to our ambitions and will allow these much loved, council-owned premises to play a significant role in drawing visitors in to shop, relax and enjoy the unique charm and character of Stockport’s beautiful historic core.”