Jonathan Schofield takes a look around Greater Manchester at what's happening on the ground

Wow. £12bn brand new rail link between Manchester and Liverpool

Manchester Piccadilly and Liverpool Lime Street are to get a £12bn rail link via Warrington Bank Quay and Manchester Airport. 

Henri Murison, the indefatigable chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, is reported in Place North West as saying: “This is a major step forward for the Northern Powerhouse’s flagship infrastructure project.

“It will allow important legislative work on the tunnel link into Manchester to continue, ultimately giving people in Leeds and Bradford access to the North’s long-haul hub at Manchester Airport and improving connectivity between Liverpool, Hull and the North East.”

Rail times from Manchester to Liverpool will drop from 50 minutes to 35 minutes which is about the time trains take presently from Manchester Victoria to Liverpool. Of course, this is all about capacity and connectivity and in turn modernity, after all it’s about time lines in the north started to equal those in other parts of the world.

Transport secretary Mark Harper, said: “Transforming east-west connectivity across the North of England is vital for building a larger, more investable labour market that can counterbalance that of London and the South East and drive higher productivity for the whole of the UK.”

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, while welcoming the development, hopes this opens the door for a revival of the underground station idea at Piccadilly which he’s “confident represents the best railway solution and also preserves precious land for wider economic regeneration, unlocking higher productivity for the region.”

Either way, it appears the General Election expected later this year is concentrating minds in a Conservative government desperate to shore up it’s 2019 Red Wall successes.

There's no indication of when work will start and when it might complete. The world's first intercity rail system between Liverpool and Manchester opened in 1830. It took just three and bit years to build. chance. 

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The existing line into Manchester Image: Confidentials

Chotto Matte is imagining a 'city prism' 

New images have been released of what Chotto Matte restaurant will look like when it opens. The upmarket Japanese-Peruvian restaurant is part of the £140m St Michael’s project designed by Hodder+Partners. The scheme comes from Relentless Developments fronted by ex-footie player Gary Neville.

This is going to be a big restaurant occupying 20,000 sq ft and featuring, to quote the press release, ‘Chotto Matte’s signature design elements such as an open sushi counter, robata grill, table-side torched sushi, lava stone features, and graffiti-inspired artwork.’   

The rooftop restaurant will be designed Andy Martin of Superfutures who has collaborated with Chotto Matte since its inception in 2013. Martin is attempting to create a ‘city prism…(evoking) a dynamic interplay of angles and colour, mirroring the vibrant urban landscape and taking reference from the powerful sub-culture of music and dance within Manchester.’ 

Sounds like it’s going to be loud in there. Chotto Matte means ‘wait a minute’ according to Google Translate but we’ll have to wait until early 2025 to enter the prism. 

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Rooftop wonderland Images: St Michael's
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Taking it indoors for table-torched sushi Images: St Michael's

Park and the bus: more Stockport news

Viaduct Park has opened in Stockport together with the new £140m interchange. The 2 acre park features green space, play equipment, history boards, cycling, festoon lighting and an events’ pavilion. It’s in the shape of a squashed polo mint complete with a hole in the middle. This will be a bus spotters delight as people can gaze down on buses dancing into their stands.

The designer of the park was Gillespies landscape designers. The interchange’s overall design was by the Harris Partnership, the adjacent 14-storey block next to the park will which open later this year with 196 apartments was designed by Leach Rhodes Walker.

Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of Stockport Council, said: “Our £1bn town centre regeneration programme – one of the largest nationally – is reinventing and spectacularly transforming the heart of our borough now and for the future. The Interchange and Viaduct Park are the real heartbeat of Stockport’s transformation and this is only the start for our borough.”

A dramatic spiralling cycle and walking ramp will connect the new park with the River Mersey and the Trans Pennine Trail, giving people easy access between the park and on into the town centre on cycle or foot. A new stretch of the banks of the Mersey will be opened up, creating a riverside space. To the south the park and interchange connects with Stockport train station along another walking and a cycling route.  

Stockport Council say: ‘The new interchange features 18 bus stands which will allow for 164 departures an hour, making it an integral part of the Bee Network – Greater Manchester’s vision for an integrated, London-style transport system. The Interchange has been designed with future Metrolink integration in mind and TfGM is continuing to work with Stockport Council to develop proposals to bring trams to the town.' 

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The new park and interchange Image: Stockport Council

Bramall Hall roof slated for repair

Glorious Bramall Hall in Stockport has been given £1.6m to restore its roof.

The Grade 1 listed house which draws in 36,000 visitors a year and is one of the best timber framed houses in the country will now face a secure future. The building, which has origins dating back to the Middle Ages, is principally a Tudor manor house set in a 60-acre park. It retains many original features including rare 16th century wall paintings regarded as some of the most important in the country depicting birds, animals, people, flowers and demons. There’s also some lovely and later Arts & Crafts work from George Faulkner Armitage.

Work on the roof will start this winter and will take two years. The good news is the council intends to keep the hall open and involve the public in the renovation works. There will also be a new programme of events and activities. 

Funding came from Arts Council England’s Museum Estates and Development Fund and Stockport Council.

Bramall Hall Stockport
Bramall Hall Image: Confidentials

Rochdale rebound

The messy area in front of Rochdale train station looks set for improvement now plans have progressed through the town’s cabinet. This will tidy up the road layout, add better paving and planted areas. The unfortunate siting of the tram station, a barrier between Fireground museum and St John’s RC Church, doesn’t help and makes this a more difficult job than it should be but this scheme is desperately needed. The introduction to Rochdale at present detracts from the good work taking place in and around the reopened town hall.

In the fullness of time attention will need to be given to Drake Street which is the main route from the station to the centre. At present the street is mainly a derelict wreck. The 1,700 homes being built at the top of the street on the site of the old Rochdale canal basin and nearby will help animate the area it's hoped. 

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Proposed Station Square in Rochdale Image: Rochdale Development Corporation

Rochdale Town Hall now open

One of the most spectacular civic buildings in the country has reopened. Rochdale Town Hall completed in 1871 was designed by the colourful William Henry Crosland. It should become a huge cultural asset for Greater Manchester. Donald Insall Associates were the architects who worked on the restoration while Gillespies did the landscaping in Town Hall Square. Both designers have done superb jobs. 

The exterior, the Exchange, the Grand Staircase and the Great Hall are all exceptional examples of Victorian Gothic art. The latter contains a curiosity with 36 monarchs in stained glass or rather 35 plus Oliver Cromwell. Rochdale council was dominated by a non-conformist middle-class and for them Cromwell was a hero who had stood up to tyranny in the English Civil Wars. Rochdale’s Irish population and the Royal family were less enamoured of his depiction in the brand new Town Hall. Is this the only place in Britain where grand images of Charles I and his nemesis stand side by side? 

Opening times at Rochdale Town Hall are Monday to Sunday 10am-4pm. Guests can visit between those hours. 

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Rochdale Town Hall, the parish church and the new landscaping Image: Andy Mallins, commissioned by the Rochdale Bid team

Mr Vawblsh is deceased 

We're a little upset about this spelling correction. Mr Vawblsh has gone from the Opera House on Quay Street. Sir John Vanburgh is back.

The Opera House began life as the New Theatre in 1912. It has a grand Classical style facade with details including a splendid bas-relief of god-like figures, horses and a chariot which was called ‘The Dawn of the Heroic Age’ by John Tanner & Sons.

On two altar-like motifs, the names of famous dramatists or actors are displayed. The one on the western side mentions William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson. There’s Christopher Marlowe as well, their contemporary, and Richard Sheridan, the author of The Rivals, the first play performed at the Royal Exchange.

But who was the other person...ah, yes Mr Vawblsh. What did he write? Nothing sadly, but until a couple of weeks ago It seemed the person who'd repainted these names a couple of decades ago didn’t know his drama so instead of the 18th century playwright Sir John Vanbrugh, we got the never ever written a play or even existed gent, Mr Vawblsh.

Probably the original characters had deteriorated and our decorator just took a guess. That's now been corrected with Vanburgh spelt with a 'v' in the old Classical style.

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Mr Vawblsh is present and correct Image: Confidentials
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Sir Vanbugh now present and correct Image: Confidentials

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