A POTENTIAL future mayor of Greater Manchester admits the area needs ‘a bit more love’.
And Laura Evans believes regenerating Stalybridge’s town centre and its market hall could spark a real retail renaissance.The Conservative Party candidate, who will take on current mayor Andy Burnham, visited Tameside as preparations for the election battle continue.
And the former councillor on the Trafford authority quickly realised just how much potential could be unlocked.
She said: “The area is beautiful and has so many features between its greenery and its hills. I love the fact it has its canal locks and some of the historic buildings are absolutely amazing.
“I think it could do with a bit more love. If you look at the high street now, there’s a lot of work to be done to bring it back into a thriving high street.
“Covid-19 hasn’t helped but one of its advantages is it has a lot of individual shops.
“So if you can make it so there’s a reason to come here – say in developing the amazing market hall – that could ignite lots of different things from that.
“Then people will come, enjoy the space and shop in the high street. That in turn could bring restaurants.“There’s a whole movement. There’s nothing around here that people wouldn’t want to come and see. It’s just got to be ignited.”
Laura, who wants to become the first female elected mayor in the UK, heard about frustrations over the market hall, which has proved a real source of contention.
Stalybridge South councillor Liam Billington believes it should be redeveloped into something along the lines of Altrincham Market and Mackie Mayor in Manchester.
And frustration over a perceived lack of progress on the Stalybridge Town Centre Challenge has also divided opinion.
Chris Middleton, a commercial surveyor with Bruntwood, a retail and leisure company reported to be worth £1.4 billion, believed more ought to have been done to make the dream of regenerating the town centre become a reality.
But board chairman Cllr Adrian Pearce pointed to a number of developments and successes that have taken off as a result of this important initiative.
On her tour of the area, Laura also visited Hyde and she believes she would connect with bigger businesses to help create what she called ‘real jobs’ for people.
She added: “In Hyde, the town hall is beautiful and they’ve got an open market. Again it was quite quiet, that concerns me greatly.“There are job opportunities in retail but there are no major players to offer what you would call real jobs.
“There are also some transport issues in terms of getting in and out of the town centre, so I’d like to think we could reach out to manufacturers, developers and all up and coming industries and say, ‘We’ve got a really good workforce here. We just need some real work and jobs for them to do.”