The rapidly changing
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.
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