Ever since the completion of the M60 a decade ago, Tameside has been seen as the next area likely to transform itself into a fashionable destination for residents and businesses – but for one reason or another it just hasn't happened, writes Rob Henderson.
Historically seen as a periphery area, development has struggled to generate any form of momentum with pockets of regeneration failing to offer an attractive and viable alternative for businesses relocating from the city centre.
A few exceptions have bucked the trend including Ask Developments' St Petersfield which recently started a 10,000 sq ft innovation and incubation centre for Tameside College which will offer entrepreneurs the opportunity to create and sustain jobs within Tameside and beyond.
The Incubation Centre will builds on the successes of the 120-acre Ashton Moss development which, along with Ikea, delivered substantial improvements to job prospects and visitor numbers leading Tameside Council to announce over 600 construction sector jobs in the borough being created or secured.
Development outside Ashton has also begun to generate momentum with work continuing at Droylsden Canal Basin, the success of Crown Point Retail Park in Denton and the £35m retail and community development in Hattersley which is anchored by Tesco.
However, what was really needed was the infrastructure to set Tameside apart from other fringe areas and this has come in the form of the £170m investment in the Metrolink extension which will extend into the heart of Tameside by the end of 2013, start of 2014.
An extension running from Piccadilly to Ashton will open up the borough to a whole new demographic of upwardly mobile commuters but it is not the physical links that offer so much hope but the virtual ones that offer real opportunities for regeneration.
The laying of 1GB superfast broadband will extend the city centre digital loop and deliver state-of-the-art communication to the entire area. When combined with Tameside's unique physical accessibility and lower commercial rents the borough becomes a very real option for businesses put off by city centre rents and especially in the creative and media sectors who are considering how they can best support Media City.
Developers are already ramping up the delivery of commercial, industrial and retail space to meet the needs of a new generation of inhabitants who will demand the quality services and quality spaces that as yet are unavailable.
Business and residents plugging into the physical and virtual links offered by Tameside will result in a new face to the East of Manchester and Jennings Design Associates are looking forward to being a central player in this exciting future for Tameside. As architects in the borough we believe that Tameside's turn to reinvent itself has finally arrived after seeing a marked improvement in workload across the board in 2011.
- Rob Henderson is a director of Jennings Design Associates , based in Denton.