SAS Daniels: Stockport should follow Northern Quarter path

Stockport should look to the successful regeneration of Manchester's Northern Quarter to bring its high street back to life, claims the commercial real estate team at local law firm SAS Daniels.

The town was named this week as having one of the highest shop vacancy rates in the country, with 25.9% of units currently standing vacant, according to the Local Data Company. The data also revealed there are one in five shops in the North now empty, compared to one in 10 in the South.

James Clarke, partner at SAS Daniels LLP, said: "This data paints a pretty grim picture of the high street in Stockport and the North West on the whole but there's a lot of good work being done to help improve our local town centre."

Clarke continued: "Although there are already plans in place to regenerate Stockport we believe that more needs to be done to create a strong customer base by encouraging residential development in the town centre and this needs to include affordable housing.

"We've seen this work particularly well in Manchester as areas like the Northern Quarter have aligned residential developments with leisure, making it an attractive location to live and for hotels and independent retailers to base themselves."

Clarke said business rate concessions and lower rents or incentives from landlords would encourage entrepreneurs and independent retailers to start to fill some of the empty properties.

He added: "The council should look at old offices and brown field sites in Stockport for residential development to provide a customer base which will support our shops and encourage growth and introduce plans to diversify the high street to create a destination experience. The success of the Northern Quarter is a great example of how this can be done.

"Stockport has loads going for it; it's a historic market town with a rich history, excellent transport links, countryside on the doorstep and lower living costs than Manchester. But it needs to make the town centre more attractive to increase footfall and provide an alternative to out of town/retail park shopping, rather than trying to compete with it.

"It's important that Stockport becomes a key destination again and we need to encourage diversity in the high street with more independent shops, cafes and restaurants to encourage shoppers to visit."

SAS Daniels employs 70 fee earners, including 23 partners, in Stockport, Macclesfield, Chester and Congleton.

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The problem with Stockport is that it is ugly as sin, dominated by roads and has little character – all characteristics that do not afflict the Northern Quater. Make it an attractive place for people to spend time and you might have a chance of filling those units.

By Realist

The first secret of successful regen is to recognise your assets and make the most of them. Realist is blind. I came down from Lancs for the monthly vintage event around the market hall, and was astonished by the loveliness of the underbridge and market area of the old town. But does the world know about it? I don’t think so…

By Nick Hunt

Totally agree with Nick. I only moved to Stockport (Heaton Norris) 7 months ago. I had no idea about Stockport’s old town. My perception of Stockport was what I could see from the pendolino, which I expect is realist’s current experience of the town. The retail core (Merseyway) is 60s, but no more or less than any of the other Manchester satellites. There are too many vacancies in terms of shops and pubs, but I’d be pretty confident about Stockport’s chances – its accessibility to Manchester and London means it’s already ahead of Rochdale, Bury, Bolton, Oldham etc. reasons to be cheerful as well as realistic.

By Pint Half Full

Thanks for the comments. Trying to sum up the problems facing the high street is really difficult in one article as there are so many factors that contribute to it. The Hillgate, Underbank and Market areas of Stockport are lovely and have the potential to be fantastic shopping/leisure destinations. Ten years ago you might have said that the Northern Quarter had no redeeming features and you wouldn’t have ventured much further than Oldham Street; but the redevelopment of the old fish market in the Northern Quarter arguably provided a catalyst for the rest the area to grow. I’m not expecting Hillgate to become Thomas Street but it’s a good analogy for what can be done with planning and a collective will.

By James Clarke

Maybe I do have a one sided view of the place but can you blame me? The nice bits are mere fragments whereas the dominant features in the landscape, apart from the viaduct, are busy wide roads, vast retail sheds and low value unloved terraces. It lacks decent public realm, landmark buildings and a legible street network, all things that would make it pleasant to wander around on foot. It is also not helped by its unusual topography.

By Realist

Stockport is changing slowly for the better. 10 years ago there was very little resi in the town centre. Today new developments are springing up right along the A6. To create a vibrant core you need a willing Council prepared to take risks, young professionals living and spending in the town, and entrepreneurs with new and interesting businesses to cater for them. All three are present to some degree. Drop the ridiculous parking charges for Merseyway and a few more shoppers might visit too!

By Steve

Stockport’s retail centre has been ‘snookered’ by not being adjacent to the Motorway junction. This is evidenced by the prolific development of the Peel Centre and the Mega Tesco ‘Extrabuilding’, both of which provide sufficient parking, not easily available near Mersey Way. Stockport has the potential to develop into a unique centre, as described above, but needs to attract housing development as well as retail and commercial. The Town needs a masterplan that can successfully cater for access from the motorway, to large scale units fronting a more domestic scaled Hillgate ‘Quarter’. Stockport has access to a mainline railway station, is on one of the busiest bus routes in Europe, and has a motoway on it’s doorstep. The question is, how has it managed to fail so far?


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