A masterplan has been produced for Stockport Council with recommendations for public realm and wayfinding around the A6 Wellington Road corridor.
WSP, BDP, Ekosgen and Roger Hannah & Co were commissioned by the local authority to advise on the most effective way to improve the area to build the town’s appeal and economic pulling power.
The A6, currently at the centre of Town Centre Access Plan highway works that have seen around £80m invested in transport infrastructure, is the key route through Stockport, but historically has cut off the town centre from its railway station and surrounding commercial developments and is characterised by generally low-standard retail stock.
The council is keen to create better linkages between new development such as Muse’s Stockport Exchange, by the station, and Redrock, in the town centre, along with other key areas such as the transport interchange, the station itself, and the Stockport College site, which is due for redevelopment.
The report states: “Wellington Road is fundamental to the success of these developments as a strategic corridor which enables residents, visitors and employees to access the town centre’s employment, residential, retail and leisure offer. The quality of Wellington Road, both in terms of connections and experience, will have a major impact on the way in which people interact with Stockport town centre as a place.
“Inevitably, this will influence decisions around investment, whether to live in a location and the attractiveness of the area as a business, retail or leisure destination. Furthermore, the quality of the Wellington Road experience will impact on footfall, levels of spend and dwell time, which in turn have direct consequences for business performance and jobs, productivity and the overall performance of the Stockport economy.”
The report looks at four distinct options: targeted intervention along the lines of “urban acupuncture” which uses small-scale interventions; “core activity area” which makes a defined area a pilot scheme; “character areas” with each hub developed in a manner distinct to its area; and “the Stockport Mile,” an overarching design umbrella with linear design elements creating a common identity for the route. The preferred option is a hybrid of the character areas scheme and the Stockport Mile.
This will see the project tackled in phases, starting at each end – the northern and southern gateways, with the aim of establishing clear gateways and for one example, improving the quality of space around the Town Hall, described as an under-exploited asset.
Later stages, which could require the reallocation of road space, with wider footpaths and a central corridor of trees and lighting, would follow, with the core areas of the Exchange gateway, Mersey Square and a cultural quarter around the Garrick Theatre and Hat Museum the last but most important projects to be taken on.
The works, it is suggested, could be funded through existing capital budgets, along with funding from the Key Route Networks Transport for Greater Manchester budget and contributions, for lower level schemes, from Business Improvement District contributions.