Place10: Back to reality

In February 2007, a £500m agreement was signed for the reinvention of Stockport’s inside-out town centre in line with BDP’s Future Stockport masterplan, writes Neil Tague.

While others threw their lot in with Wilson Bowden or Modus, Stockport securing a global powerhouse like Lendlease seemed smart.

Looking at the press cuttings, the most telling line is from Matt Illingworth, then of Donaldsons, who said “this will not happen overnight – it will be a 10-year project”. Lendlease bailed in 2010 and the plan re-emerged with scaled-down ambitions in 2013, with the council at the helm.

Work started in April 2016 on the £45m Redrock, made up of 360 NCP spaces, 75,000 sq ft of leisure and retail: Pizza Express, Zizzi and The Light cinema are on board.

In the same month, the council bought Merseyway shopping centre from administrators, having gone bust in 2009, and announced a £40m refurb.

The way Stockport has become more proactive with its property approach is in keeping with chief executive of Eamonn Boylan, chief executive from 2010 to 2017 and a man of the Bernstein school.

Boylan’s arrival also smoothed things at a Greater Manchester level, Stockport’s then-leader, Liberal Democrat firebrand Cllr Dave Goddard was a highly vocal opponent of Bernstein’s 2008 congestion-charging plan.

The big Stockport headache has been making the route between the railway station and town centre more appealing than the current Grand Central leisure scheme. In February 2008 Targetfollow won consent for a £100m scheme, but exited stage left in 2010, the council buying the site from administrators that December.

A year later, Muse beat off Orbit with plans for the £145m Stockport Exchange office-led project next to the station. Muse has done as Muse does; a car park, hotel, and a chunky office block which has let well.

This is the best new space in town since BAM rode in, developed St Peter’s Square and let half of it to BSkyB in the blink of a 2010 eye. With some swanky competition, Orbit has upped its game too, refurbing Regent House to secure both a Travelodge and an office deal with Capita Travel this year.

Retail remains an issue, but noises around the Market Hall area are encouraging. The council’s had to do most of the heavy lifting in the past decade, but in 2017 Stockport looks more solid.

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