The Hard Hat Hi-Vis tour: Stockport

Stockport Interchange

Where are we? Stockport town centre

Ah, the New Berlin? Indeed, or Brooklyn to Manchester’s Manhattan. Or just Greater Manchester’s Town of Culture for 2023.

What’s the plan? Slightly awkwardly Stockport doesn’t have one, officially. Since its politically volatile council opted to withdraw from the plan formerly known as the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, the officers have been paddling hard to deliver a planning framework for homes and employment in the borough that the politicians can sign off. It has a clear Borough vision – the One Stockport, One Future plan.

Is this a barrier to building stuff? Well, no, as you are about to see.

Who are we with? Paul Richards, chief executive of the Stockport Mayoral Development Corporation and the most senior property and regeneration officer in the authority, famed amongst the property and civic community in Greater Manchester for the “Paul Richards tour”.

Where are we starting? Stockport Exchange, right outside the train station, a short walk from Platform Zero, it’s now up to Phase 4, comprising 375,000sq ft of office space and 28,000sq ft of commercial retail and leisure amenities. The scheme is already home to brands such as Stagecoach, musicMagpie, Holiday Inn and BASF. The site was acquired by the Council and speculatively built out by Muse delivering firstly a decent station car park and then the first of the office buildings sometimes called Stockport’s Spinningfields.

Who by? Not sure, but probably not the same person that called it the New Berlin.

Or the person that created Platform Zero? No comment.

Stockport Exchange

Who’s in? 1 Stockport Exchange houses Music Magpie and Stagecoach as the first tenants paying £18.50 a square foot. Private equity backed lawyers ONP are in 2, alongside BASF, and accountancy firm Hurst are taking 11,000sq ft at 3 Stockport Exchange, which is still under construction and is due to open next year, taking a 10-year lease to occupy the whole of the fifth floor.

For £18.50 a square foot? Ahem, probably not. Market rate is nearer £27 but no-one would confirm that. 

What’s good about it? All told it’s a 64,000sq ft Grade A office building with a communal roof terrace. It is being built by Galliford Try. It will have 38 cycle racks, showers, lockers and a drying room, high-speed passenger lifts, high-speed fibre infrastructure provided by BT Openreach and Virgin Media, and a BREEAM excellent rating. There will also be a 399-space multi-storey car park with 26 charging points for electric vehicles, solar photovoltaics and a green ‘living’ wall. Eventually Phase 5 will take the whole development to the A6 and opposite the wedding cake, as Stockport’s Town Hall is known.

By who? Everyone. Moving it on.

What’s this? The transport interchange isn’t just a bus station but is said to be “Metrolink ready” and has a park nestled on top of the new and wide walkways, and ramps linking it all to the train station. Some people are already saying this could be Stockport’s Piccadilly Gardens, and not in a good way. 

Who? Edgeley Councillor Matt Wynne, an ex copper and someone who just wants to keep the place safe. 

Topping out of Weir Mill

Will it? The main difference is that there will be 196 homes built right by it, with the self policing and vigilance that comes from a community in residence, then just through the iconic viaduct is Weir Mill, where Capital and Centric are on site at their £60m development, with the concrete frame of the 14-storey new apartment block building now at its highest point, nestled under the arches of Stockport’s viaduct, to create a buzzing new neighbourhood. 

When will that be done? Once complete in 2024, £60m Weir Mill project will deliver 253 design-led apartments, new green outdoor space, independent bars, restaurants and shops; plenty of lush greenery; a new public space looking out across the River Mersey; the old cast iron columns of Weavers Shed are being retained to create a vibrant new outdoor space for riverside street markets, DJ sets, live music events and performing arts.

To be fair, that does sound quite a bit Berlin. It’s actually part of Stockport’s Town Centre West masterplan – a 130-acre regeneration district being driven by Stockport MDC, which will see the delivery of 4,000 new homes, alongside local amenities, green spaces, new workspace and radical transport improvements. Capital&Centric are planning to kick-start the hunt for indie operators to call the site home early in the new year.

Lord Bob Kerslake

What’s Bob Kerslake’s legacy? The former head of the UK civil service who died recently is really sadly missed from his time as chairman of the MDC. He brought the board drive and direction, a focus on what really mattered in delivering the transformational regeneration of Town Centre West and an ability to steer a course which was inclusive, collaborative, and brought the best out of those around him. He cared about Stockport as a place and wanted to ensure that his work with the MDC capitalised on the wider benefits it could deliver for current and future residents.

“He was thoughtful, kind, brilliant and humble in equal measures and Stockport has lost a true friend and ally but we are more grateful than we can ever say for everything he has begun. Building consensus and cross-party working, which have been key to the MDC success, will be part of Bob’s many lasting legacies,” says Richards.

Never mind New Berlin and New Spinningfields, they should name that park after him. Yep, they really should.

Where next?  Merseyway shopping centre, which the Council acquired in April 2016 has over 330,000 sq ft of retail space. Lots of big retail has left town, but as it’s council owned, the management of units has been strategically deployed to bring in civic amenities and non big box retail – a commercial offices developed by Glenbrook, the Merseyway Innovation Centre offering flexible accommodation from coworking space, to shared offices and individual units from 100 sq ft up to 570 sq ft plus a 1,000 sq ft business lounge.

And how much did they get awarded to be town of culture? £50,000.

£50,000!!!? It’s been catalysing, rather than commissioning, says Richards, and people have risen to the challenge.

Such as? A series of pop-up events around the town centre in the run up to Christmas. In November Stockport’s Spectacular Sunday event marked the start of the festive season and celebrated Stockport’s Town of Culture status with an increase in footfall of 56% across the town, making it the town’s busiest Sunday on record since 2019. The artists at Grit Studios animating large concrete walls close to the centre.

Very Berlin? Actually five renowned Argentine artists from the La Boca barrio in Buenos Aires are working with Stockport communities in the Hopes Carr area in the town with the biggest mural in the north, in a project called La Boca to La Stocka.

And Graham Gouldman from 10cc was back in town recently as one of the first financial investors in Stockport’s Strawberry Recording Studios in 1968, the first time that a member of 10CC has performed in Stockport since the original line up split up in 1976. At the sold-out event, Graham performed 10cc hits Bus Stop, No Milk Today and I’m Not in Love. He discussed his long and varied career with Dr Peter Wadsworth, but in particular the time he spent recording in Stockport.

The Abbey Road of the North? Stop, enough.

Sign goes up at Bohemian in Stockport (Instagram)

And the Underbanks and Marketplace, Stockport’s Soho? Another transformation. A massive work in steady progress. Tom Ogden, lead singer and musician with Stockport’s Mercury Prize nominees Blossoms opened the Bohemian Arts Club on a cobbled back streets of Cooper’s Brow in Stockport’s Underbanks, above a salon created by his enterprising wife Katie Ogden. Other Blossoms band members and their families have also invested in businesses in the town, including Top of the Town Vintage opposite the Bohemian salon and club.

So what do we reckon, New Berlin, it’s own Spinningfields, Soho and Piccadilly Gardens? The centre of Stockport is forging its own identity that brings together work, homes and a different kind of retail and leisure. It’s not happening overnight, but neither has any of it happened by accident.  


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