Good news for Rochdale with a proper town centre plan

I am getting confused about how many lockdowns, semi-lockdowns and so on have been imposed upon us since March, but during the first one I went to Rochdale and filmed a video for the town.

Rochdale is my birthplace. I’m proud of the town and it’s tradition of liberalism and free thought - just don’t mention Cyril Smith. I’m also proud of the fact that its Esplanade is the finest centrepiece of any town in the UK.

The more of these developments at scale, 200 homes here, the merrier

One of the closing strands of the recent BBC Manctopia (reviewed here) featured Tim Heatley of property development company Capital & Centric striding through Rochdale. I was trying to identify which part of town he was talking about. I thought I recognised the area near the station and then lo! a press release dropped into my inbox sealing the deal. 

That position is key, because the main line station for the town is some distance from the main buildings and shopping area, and the walk can seem troubling to some given the decay of Drake Street (we suggest a different route in our previous article). Of course people can take the tram down into the centre but either way the site of former retail park between the station and the traditional town centre is strategically important. 

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The grandest esplanade in the UK

Here’s the press release with some of the adjectives removed:

Rochdale Borough Council, in partnership with Rochdale Development Agency, has agreed a deal to bring developer Capital & Centric to the town, with a vision to redevelop the former Central Retail Park site into a new community.

The brownfield site will be the first in the UK to deliver Capital & Centric new housing concept ‘Neighbourhood’.

Neighbourhood Rochdale will include over 200 suburban homes for rent, including a mix of modern, spacious and low carbon homes. Designed by Shedkm to be a sustainable exemplar, it will also include a linear park, running track, gym and community hub alongside community space such as café-bars and delis.

The site is a short walk from both the train station, which offers an easy commute into Manchester city centre, and Rochdale town centre. The site, which has been vacant for nearly a decade, was previously occupied by Wynsors, Focus and MFI. The plans are part of the transformation of Rochdale town centre, which is in the middle of a £400m regeneration programme.

Councillor John Blundell, cabinet member for regeneration, business, skills and employment at Rochdale Borough Council, and board member at the Rochdale Development Agency and chair of the Rochdale Stations Alliance, said: “With millions already invested into Rochdale town centre, we’ve set the bar very high in terms of want to achieve here and this type of high quality housing is the perfect fit. To see the first large scheme come forward from Rochdale’s Rail Corridor strategy is a major milestone and shows the commitment to the strategy.

“The work we’re doing to create a high quality retail and leisure offer and a reimagined public realm, makes Rochdale a really attractive place to live and I know that these will be the first of many new homes to be built in Rochdale.”

(John Blundell is an occasional contributor to Manchester Confidential. Read his last article here.)

Adam Higgins, co-founder of Capital & Centric said: “Many Greater Manchester towns have been hit hard by the declining high street but there’s a huge opportunity for places like Rochdale to reinvent themselves with town centre living. The Council have a really ambitious vision to transform the town centre and we’re working with them to create an aspirational community with super energy efficient homes, game changing architecture and all the amenities that will attract people to town centre living.”

Designed to breathe life back into struggling town centres, the Neighbourhood concept could be rolled out across the UK.

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How the development may look

That’s the press release and we say good news indeed. As we have stated before, the development of the city centre is happening before our eyes. It has a momentum that can only be stopped by Covid-19 fear.

So it’s now time to turn attention to the town centres around Manchester. These mixed-use developments on brownfield sites close to those town centres are just what the doctor ordered and what Greater Manchester’s Combined Authority and Mayor Andy Burnham have been pushing for.

All we need now is more of them and quickly. Although we are struggling with the phrase ‘sustainable exemplar’ from that press release above the more of these developments at scale, 200 homes here, the merrier. 

Read again - Is Rochdale back on the rise?

Also read - Bombay Brew, Rochdale, reviewed