Salford Quays especially represents the starkest transformation of Greater Manchester’s journey to becoming the capital of the Northern Powerhouse. Within the last 20 years the entire area is barely recognisable. Large glass buildings now dominate the skyline to the backdrop of the industrial hub of Trafford Park and the world famous Old Trafford football ground.
In terms of Greater Manchester’s success it now seems that the river is flowing downward and outward into the outer boroughs with the likes of Rochdale, Oldham, Bolton and Tameside all undergoing largescale investment and revitalisation. Perhaps the most impressive of all of the Greater Manchester Metropolitan Boroughs is Stockport, currently undergoing over £1bn worth of investment.
The train station and brand new Red Rock retail park are potentially the most eye catching examples of a new era for an area that, outside London, has the highest gap between rich and poor. First recorded as ‘Stokeport’ back in 1170, the town’s name comes from the Old English for market town. Having been predominantly a rope and hemp town, it rapidly expanded during the industrial revolution, hosting the first mechanised silk factory in the UK. Throughout the 18th, 19th and early 20th century Stockport became a world leader in the manufacture of cotton, silk and hats.
Its famous hats were exported all over the world, at one point manufacturing six million hats per year, giving birth to the nickname for their local football team Stockport County as the hatters.
Whilst the town’s industrial history is still there in its architecture (the hat works are now apartments) its economy has long since evolved from the days of soot filled factories. The town’s biggest employers are Sky, who operate a service centre from the town, whilst the famous landmark Pyramid building is home to the Co-operative bank.
Following a period of economic stagnation through the late 80’s and early 90’s, the town has seen a remarkable recovery of late, and the local council should be commended in their efforts to kick-start the economy.
The projects currently under construction or completed include Red Rock, with a ten screen cinema, which cost £45m, and also includes restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and a 1,200-space car park. Not too far from the Red Rock development is the enormous Stockport Exchange project, one of the most expensive in the town’s entire history. Two of the eight planned phases of the development have so far been completed, with a 1,000-space multi-storey car park, a cafe, a Sainsbury’s store, 40,000sq ft. of offices in a five-storey building, a 115-bed Holiday Inn Express hotel and public open space. The other phases are currently being approved by planning and include a 60,000sqft office block with shops and more open public space.
The council have also invested £73m with government assistance with the aim of easing congestion around the town centre making it easy for people to travel for work and leisure. Some of the roads around the town are chronically congested but the multi-million pound improvements should be completed by 2020, with the aim of attracting more business into the area.
Stockport’s ailing bus station is also set to undergo a huge renovation with the council planning to erect a large canopy over the area with cafes, restaurants, retail space and even houses planned for the surrounding area. The total cost of the development will top £40m but with the station residing smack bang in the middle of the town, it would make little sense to ignore it.
The council have also purchased the Mersey Way shopping precinct from private owners for an undisclosed fee as it was felt that the centre’s prestige was slipping with headline retailers leaving the area in droves. With planned investment and development big names such as Topman and New Look tempted to stay and others tempted to move in.
The historic marketplace and underbank areas of the town are also set for investment with the council’s vision for a boutique specialist shopping area already underway with the renovation of a centuries old pub which is going to be a restaurant with apartments overhead.
Stockport is another example of the overall buzz around Manchester right now, with property investors alike looking to invest further in the exciting area.
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