What to expect from Stockport’s new leader
A potential rethink over the proposed closure of Stockport Central Library and a growing focus on development outside the town centre were highlighted as key priorities by the council’s newly elected Lib Dem leader Mark Hunter.
Hunter, a 64-year-old former member of parliament and a councillor in Cheadle Hulme South, was elected to replace Labour’s Elise Wilson following a vote by all 63 councillors last night.
The vote sees the Lib Dems lead Stockport Council for the first time since 2016 and brings to an end Wilson’s three-year tenure.
Hunter spoke with Place North West about his key priorities moving forward.
Central Library rethink
Hunter revealed he would try to overturn Labour’s decision to relocate the town’s library services from Central Library on Wellington Road to Merseyway shopping centre.
Hunter claims Labour “ploughed ahead” with the relocation plan despite vocal opposition from residents and councillors.
“We intend to revisit it and are looking at that as a matter of priority,” he said.
The new leader said that pushing ahead with Stockport’s local plan is also high up on his to-do list.
“The key thing is getting the boosters under the local plan. We are keen to look at how many homes we can deliver without encroaching into the Green Belt,” Hunter said.
He hopes that there may be some wiggle room in terms of housing delivery targets. At present Stockport will have to deliver around 18,000 homes between now and 2035, having pulled out of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.
However, Hunter says Whitehall is giving indications that its housing targets are not “hard and fast”.
Maintaining MDC momentum
Stockport has seen a great deal of investment in the town centre in recent years. Hunter told Place this will continue under his leadership through the town’s mayoral development corporation, which benefits from cross-party support.
“The MDC gives certainty to people looking to invest in Stockport,” he said. “We are all committed to the MDC and the potential for transformational change.”
Earlier this week, the MDC unveiled Stockport 8, the next phase of the 130-acre Town Centre West masterplan.
Hunter believes not enough has been done in recent years to support areas away from the borough’s largest town.
He suggested areas like Marple and Romiley could be in line to benefit under his leadership.
“We need to put the boosters on our regeneration efforts in district centres
“Stockport is a borough that is greater than the sum of its parts. We have to be conscious that we have several successful district centres that need to be supported more.”
Hunter is also giving his full backing to plans for a new town centre hospital to replace the ageing Stepping Hill in Hazel Grove.
The council’s proposals to create a hospital on the former Debenhams site are with the government for consideration.
“Anyone who has been to Stepping Hill recently will know that the fabric of the building is no longer suitable,” he said.