The rapidly chang­ing

Rochdale Observer - - SPECIAL REPORT -

ANY­ONE who has set foot in Rochdale town cen­tre in re­cent months will know that big changes are afoot.

The steel frame of what will be­come the Rochdale River­side de­vel­op­ment’s new Reel Cin­ema now looms above the Smith Street Metrolink stop.

Foun­da­tions for the new Marks and Spencer build­ing are in place.

The town’s new in­door mar­ket has opened in the for­mer San­tander build­ing, while out­door mar­ket stalls have moved to The Butts from their tem­po­rary home in York­shire Street, fol­low­ing the open­ing of the River Roch.

In re­cent years, Rochdale coun­cil’s Num­ber One River­side of­fices, as well as a new trans­port in­ter­change and Metrolink ex­ten­sion thanks to a £250m in­vest­ment in the town cen­tre have come to fruition.

A fur­ther £150m in­vest­ment is yet to come.

But it’s not all about the cen­tre. Town hall chiefs have an am­bi­tious vi­sion of a trans­formed bor­ough pow­ered by new hous­ing, un­ri­valled trans­port links and boom­ing em­ploy­ment sites.

The com­ing 12 months will see progress on a num­ber of key schemes.

●●Rochdale River­side

These are dif­fi­cult times for the high street.

But work on this £80m re­tail and leisure de­vel­op­ment is al­ready well un­der­way - bol­stered by Marks and Spencer’s de­ci­sion to recom­mit to the pro­ject.

Bosses be­lieve that lur­ing big name re­tail­ers such as Next, River Is­land, Boots and com­bin­ing them with a Reel cin­ema and a range of cafes and res­tau­rants, will bring suc­cess to the heart of Rochdale.

Build­ing more town cen­tre homes and cap­i­tal­is­ing on Rochdale’s strong trans­port links with Manch­ester, Leeds and fur­ther afield are all part of the plan to trans­form the town into one of Greater Manch­ester’s ma­jor play­ers.

John Searle, Rochdale coun­cil’s head of econ­omy, says this de­vel­op­ment shows the scale of the au­thor­ity’s vi­sion.

“That’s where the coun­cil has been re­ally am­bi­tious,” he adds.

“There’s a re­tail and leisure scheme of over 200 square foot. It’s about bring­ing high street brands to the town - and it’s pri­mar­ily about bring­ing high street brands that aren’t here al­ready.”

“Next is a good ex­am­ple of that. They wanted modern dou­ble-height mez­za­nine space, that’s what the scheme is all about, de­liv­er­ing that space to re­tail­ers, cafes and leisure op­er­a­tors.”

Coun­cil­lor John Blun­dell, cabi­net mem­ber for re­gen­er­a­tion, busi­ness, skills and em­ploy­ment, is bullish about Rochdale’s fu­ture pros­per­ity.

“In some ar­eas, re­tail is de­clin­ing, but that doesn’t mean it’s go­ing to de­cline ev­ery­where - we shouldn’t be afraid of stick­ing our neck out,” he says.

“It’s not just about re­tail - you have to re­mem­ber there’s a lot of leisure go­ing in there.

“Be­cause, if you want more peo­ple liv­ing in the town cen­tre you have to have those fa­cil­i­ties and ameni­ties for peo­ple to use.”

It is hoped that the first phase of the de­vel­op­ment will be com­pleted by sum­mer 2020.

The coun­cil is cur­rently work­ing up plans for a sec­ond phase which will fea­ture of­fices, a 120-bed ho­tel and 230 res­i­den­tial apart­ments.

●●Rochdale Town Hall re­fur­bish­ment

Rochdale is not short of what coun­cil bosses re­fer to as ‘her­itage as­sets’. But they have not been put to the best use.

The bor­ough’s ‘jewel in the crown’ - its stun­ning Gothic-re­vival style town hall - is in need of a makeover.

A re­fur­bish­ment of the Vic­to­rian-era build­ing, which is un­doubt­edly the town fo­cal point, is planned.

Coun­cil bosses have se­cured ini­tial ap­proval for £8.9m fund­ing for Her­itage Lot­tery fund­ing.

Bosses be­lieve the town is ill-served by hav­ing the Grade I-listed his­toric ●●Greater Manch­ester Fire Ser­vice Mu­seum, at the old Ma­clure Road fire sta­tion, is be­ing ex­panded with a £1.7m Her­itage Lot­tery Fund grant build­ing sur­rounded by a car park.

Plans for a town hall square in­clude ‘dra­mat­i­cally im­prov­ing’ the area around the build­ing and cre­at­ing a ‘high qual­ity link’ with the Me­mo­rial Gar­dens.

A land­scape ar­chi­tect is set to be ap­pointed im­mi­nently and the ‘town hall square’ is ex­pected to be fin­ished some time in 2020. Pro­posed in­ter­nal im­prove­ments could take longer.

Mr Searle says that it is vi­tal the coun­cil gets plans for the town hall ‘ab­so­lutely right’.

Coun Blun­dell be­lieves Rochdale is like no other town in the north of Eng­land. “The town cen­tre is full of her­itage as­sets and I think there has been a re­al­i­sa­tion we need to use them bet­ter,” he adds.

“I chal­lenge any­one to find a town cen­tre with as many ob­vi­ous her­itage as­sets.

“The gen­eral build­ings are quite nice, we just haven’t used them prop­erly in the past.”

●●Drake Street Her­itage Ac­tion Zone

The only area in the north west to be granted Her­itage Ac­tion Zone sta­tus, bosses say this scheme is putting Rochdale on the map.

Once the town’s premier shop­ping area,

●●The steel frame of what will be­come the Reel cin­ema at Rochdale’s new River­side de­vel­op­ment

●●Rochdale Town Hall is be­ing re­fur­bished and the area around it re­vamped

●●How the com­pleted Rochdale River­side de­vel­op­ment will look

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