DON'T be fooled at first by its slightly-rundown appearance. Stretford, or ‘St. Retford’ as it’s been lovingly dubbed by new-age locals, is slowly but surely becoming a bustling town with plenty to offer on the outskirts of the city centre.

8 minute read

“Stretford is coming into its own. Over the past 10 years I’ve definitely noticed more young people about - even more so over the last couple [of years] as there’s more for them to do now.”

Michael Hansbury, supervisor at Stretford Food Hall has lived in the town for his entire life - or is “Stretford, born-and-bred” as he likes to put it. 

“It’s becoming a popular place for families and young people looking for cheaper alternatives to city centre living.” continued Michael when quizzed about the developments his hometown is undergoing.

“The new Chorlton, but with its own thing going on.”

Stretdford Sign
The gateway to Stretford (if you come on the Metrolink...) Credit: Confidentials

Michael noted that as a teenager he’d never even dream of spending an evening with his mates in Stretford and would always opt for places such as Urmston, Chorlton and Altrincham instead. But, following the recent developments, he’s noticed a lot more young people enjoying what Stretford has to offer. He expects it will only continue to grow as more money goes into developing the area.

Luckily for people like Michael, there are plans to transform humble Stretford into a culture hub for Mancunians and tourists alike.

Big plans. Millions-of-pounds-worth of plans, in fact.

Property development company, Bruntwood have teamed up with Trafford Council to transform Stretford Mall and King Street into a food, drink and shopping haven for visitors and locals, giving the shopping centre a £13 million makeover to launch it into the 21st Century, complete with space for market stalls and events as well as a modernised, more secure multi-storey car park.

Andrea George, town centre and consumer brands director at Bruntwood, said: “Transforming the heart of Stretford and creating a community hub that promotes collaboration is our main driving focus for the re-development of King Street.”

“The high street is an integral part of any town and we want to revitalise King Street to give the people of Stretford a town centre that provides for their needs while also creating a dynamic and inspiring environment. Now we have the green light we can start the transformation process and begin working with national, regional and independent operators and retailers to build a new community in Stretford.”

Plans For Stretford Centre
An artist interpretation of what Stretford Town Centre could look like in the near future - also pictured in the header image above. Credit: Bruntwood/Trafford Council

This first phase of developments will help develop Stretford into a thriving town, and Bruntwood are “very excited to be kickstarting development soon and look forward to completion in summer 2024.”

But what do locals think this new lease of life for Stretford could look like?

“[Stretford] is the new Chorlton but it has its own thing going on,” says Michael with a smile from behind the till of the Food Hall counter. “It’s great there’s now somewhere local to stop for a bevvy and some good food without forking out for city centre prices. People have realised they don’t need to waste their money on taxis to go into town as much - they can stay in Stretford and still have as good a night out.” 

Whilst it’s not on the level of its trendier neighbours just yet (I’m looking at you, Chorlton, Sale and Altrincham) Stretford is definitely creeping towards becoming a strong contender for one of the cooler, more contemporary parts of Greater Manchester.

Stretford Food Hall
Stretford Food Hall has become a popular eating and drinking spot, located right at the front of Stretford Mall. Credit: Confidentails

Maybe, as an honorary Stretfordian who’s only lived in the area for a fortnight and already fallen for its unorthodox charm, I’m biased. But, if you squint hard enough, look beyond the boarded-up takeaways of yesteryear and manage to overcome the mishmash of crossings that join up at Chester road, you can really see the beauty beyond the brutalist facades. 

Aside from cricket, football, and cornflakes, Stretford has so much to offer. This Trafford town is surrounded by waterways and scenic canal routes. Situated snugly between the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal, just a mere four tram stops from Deansgate Castlefield station, Stretford is a perfect midpoint location for transport links into and around the city limits.

Stretford’s town centre has an abundance of independent bars coming into their own, complete with regular quiz nights and live entertainment.

Stretford Town Centre Sign
The Bridgewater canal runs through Stretford. Walk along it to reach Altrincham or Manchester City Centre. Credit: Confidentials

Meanwhile Stretford is littered with parks and landscaped gardens, all carefully curated by ‘friends of’ groups. These are local green-thumbed volunteers who strive to keep these tranquil spaces pleasant for all. 

Along with the fast-food staples you’ll find anywhere else, Stretford has its own food hall that pays homage to food vendor paradises such as Mackie Mayor and Altrincham Market. There’s a selection of rotating vendors offering street food from independent restaurants all across the city. Located in Stretford Mall, this eatery connects to one of the ever-expanding list of General Stores in Manchester. There’s a plant shop too so you can fill up on foliage as well as food.

For those looking for a sense of community, you’ll find it at Stretford Public Hall; a community-owned building that has a jam-packed roster of activities week in, week out thanks to Friends of Stretford Public Hall who took over the building in 2015. From yoga Wednesdays to fish & chip Fridays as well as art therapy sessions and everything in between, this beautiful Grade-II listed building is one of six community hubs operating across Trafford, providing support, services and activities for locals.

Stretford Public Hall 3
Stretford Public Hall, standing strong since 1879. Credit: Confidentials

What’s more, any profit made from activities gets reinvested into the restoration of the hall, keeping it functional and safe for future generations. 

Currently housed at Stretford Town Hall is an immersive exhibition titled "From Stretford With Love". The installation consists of a year-long series of Polaroid images taken by the folk of Stretford, offering a 'love letter' to the town from those that reside there. 

The project has been curated by artist, Simon Buckley of Not Quite Light and was organised by Bruntwood, Stretford Town Centre and Trafford Council.

Aiming to showcase the community's strong sense of spirit whilst acknowledging and embracing the exciting changes that will work to transform the area, “From Stretford With Love” is free to view and will eventually have a permanent home in locations across Stretford Town Centre. 

Simon Buckley said that the project: "encapsulates a moment in time, creating a unique view of everyday life through both images and sounds. Stretford has an extraordinary community spirit and this is very evident when you see the work, and the enthusiasm with which it was created."                                      

From Stretford With Love Project
You can scan the QR code to find out more about the exhibition. Credit: Confidentials

Bill Mather, local cultural historian, volunteer at Stretford Public Hall, and the brains behind the wonderful fish & chip Friday event explained why he created the bi-weekly lunch gathering for the people of Stretford. 

“It’s kind of inspired by my dad.” explained Bill, speaking with a smile as he thought fondly of his late father. “It started off low-key. We only had about 10 people at first but we’ve got about 50 people this time. If you include the volunteers, it’s more again.” 

The idea originally started as a way of keeping pensioners warm and fed during the winter months, as well as providing them with a chance to spark a conversation with regulars who attend. However, Bill says the Friday event has become popular and he’s noticed folk from across Stretford are attending for a chance to socialise over a truly Northern chippy tea.

“It’s interesting that people have made these little alliances.” continued Bill.

Stretford Island Discs
Bill Mather interviewing with Stretford Island Discs, a local podcast station. Credit: Stretford Public Hall/Stretford Island Discs

Funding comes from the Trafford Living Rooms, a campaign set up by Trafford Council, as the Public Hall agrees to offer a warm space to sit and relax with refreshments.

Bill is a local celebrity around these parts. He and his family have lived on the same road in Stretford for over 100 years and, though Bill’s old career working on oil rigs took him far and wide around the world, he’s always returned back to his old stomping grounds.

Bill can regularly be found expressing his fondness for his hometown and the stamp it’s made on him, as on local podcast ‘Stretford Island Discs’ where he quipped:  “You can’t really get any more Stretford than me, to be honest.” and described the changes that he’s seen over the years as ‘remarkable’.

Along with a major face-lift for the centre of Stretford come imminent plans for up to 800 new homes, more green spaces and a trendy new neighbourhood by the canalside developed by Gecko Homes.

A spokesperson from Gecko Homes said that the development will consist of 40 canalside properties; 16 one-bed and 24 two-bedroom apartments. The works have been given an estimated completion date of December 2023.

Stretford Developments By Gecko Homes
The new canalside developments by Gecko Homes are currently underway. Credit: Confidentials

Describing the partnership between Trafford council and Bruntwood aiming to transform Stretford, Cllr Andrew Western, Leader of Trafford Council, said: “This first phase of development is another milestone in the redevelopment of Stretford for the local community. It’s brilliant to work closely with Bruntwood towards a shared goal, and equally so to have the community involved in the decision-making process.”

“The extensive development of King Street and the wider Stretford area will significantly increase connectivity by introducing green and open spaces where people can come together and interact. With King Street playing a large role in the plans, the wider masterplan will enhance the quality of life for Stretford residents while injecting a surge of businesses into the community to boost the local ecosystem.”

The town’s cash injection is expected to attract independent businesses looking to invest in the area and will create a thriving high street to be enjoyed by businesses, locals and visitors alike. This long-awaited investment could see rough diamond Stretford regain its lustre.

Follow Harley Young on Twitter - @Harley__Young

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