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Space but no culture for Stockport

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November 16 2005

The master plan for Stockport is still failing to deal with cultural issues. This is the tacit admission of officials, following the latest release of details of the master plan by Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council. The Council announced the creation of over 1,200 new flats, based around St Peter’s Square and Hillgate in the town centre over the next five years. Although, construction work or planning proceedings have already started on more than ten developments, there has been no response to previous criticisms as to the lack of focus on cultural issues in the master plan, created and developed for the town by BDP.

Last year, the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive organised a Stockport Expert Session with experts from LiRa, the international network of light rail cities. Experts from Belgium and the Netherlands looked at the transport network in relation to a number of proposals including The Stockport town centre master plan. Although they commented positively on the “overall strategy for the entire town centre” and “the position of Stockport MBC as major land owner in the core development zone.” However they criticised the scheme for “the lack of public funding, leading to one-dimensional focus on retail and relatively low attention for culture.”

The panel of experts including Paul van de Lande from Buck Consultants International criticised “the limited area available for open spaces”. The council has recently announced schemes for St. Peter’s Square and Mersey Square. “The St Petersgate and St Peter’s Square project is fundamental to the success of the whole vision and will provide a setting for cafés, bars and restaurants to be enjoyed by workers, shoppers and visitors to the town. Well designed open spaces, which give priority to people over vehicles, are part of what people expect from a town centre – a green, vibrant space in which to relax and enjoy the outdoors,” said Sandy Penfold, master plan project director.
The focus has instead been on bolstering town centre, residency levels.

“You need a resident population to stimulate an area; a town centre without people living in it is dead,” said Penfold. Council officials believe that this will create a draw of over 2,000, mainly young adults into the area. Retail activity has declined dramatically since the opening of the Trafford Centre in 1998. The Council is currently appointing a preferred developer to begin work on a major retail scheme in Knightsbridge - a 3.3 hectare area alongside the M60.

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