MP Jonathan Reynolds has made wide-ranging suggestions on how to improve Hyde town centre.
It comes in the wake of Tameside Council launching its own consultation earlier this year.
Mr Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, has collated the views of constituents and sent them to Councillor Oliver Ryan, Tameside Council executive member for finance and economic growth, explaining he hopes they can contribute to the recovery plans.
He said: “Most of the submissions from constituents commented on the relatively large footprint of Hyde town centre.
“We still have a large number of businesses operating in the town centre, which is great, but they are spread out from the beginning of Manchester Road to the end of Market Street, and from Asda behind the town hall to Morrisons on Mottram Road.
“At the same time our major public transport hubs, the train station and the bus station, as well as major attractions like Hyde Leisure Pool, are located on the periphery rather than the centre of the town.
“People understand that online shopping and supermarkets have changed traditional market towns and what people want from them, but there is overwhelmingly support for town centres to remain key places for leisure, retail and housing.
“Personally, I feel our distinct town centres are essential to maintaining the individual character of each town in the borough.”
Mr Reynolds’ suggestions in his own words are:
• Former library on Union Street
The plan for the local NHS to adapt the old library as a hub for all the GPs in Hyde was exciting but the lack of progress to date is of real concern.
If this plan is not viable an alternative should be found that can commence quickly. Any option that retains the historic façade and history whilst bringing the building back in to use would be better than it being vacant.
• A Business Improvement District (BID)
Business Improvement Districts are business led partnerships which are created through a ballot process to deliver additional services to local businesses.
The Government guidance says: ‘They can be a powerful tool for directly involving local businesses in local activities and allow the business community and local authorities to work together to improve the local trading environment’.
Whilst we do not have any BIDs in Tameside to date, several businesses and councillors in Oldham have told me the BID that used to operate in their town centre made a significant contribution. Because we still have many businesses in the town centre, an additional levy of even one per cent on business rates would make a difference.
These funds would be under the control of the local businesses and spent exclusively on town centre amenities. Perhaps an early stage could be to consult local businesses on how they would feel about a proposal like this?
• Greater residential development
It is generally accepted that town centres will need to offer more residential and less retail than has traditionally been the case. We have seen this begin in Stalybridge, but not yet in Hyde.
There is a recognised need for the planning guidance for the town centre to become more focused, and future residential development should be concentrated on a specific area.
For some time both I and the PCS Union have been asking the Government to maintain the Benefits Processing Centre in the offices above the Jobcentre beyond the length of the lease they currently have.
However, at present the Government have not agreed to this. If this office were to close then we will need to engage with the landlord to ensure there is a clear plan for this building.
• Post by-pass considerations
We are closer to beginning the Longdendale by-pass than ever before. This would also have a major benefit for Hyde, because the M67 will no longer be a traffic jam at the Mottram/Hattersley roundabout and local traffic for Stalybridge and Mossley will not have to come off at Hyde to use Matley Lane or Cheetham Hill Road. This should be factored into local plans.
In addition, for the first time there will be a real gateway on the eastern side of Greater Manchester.
There is land adjacent to the M67, particularly the ABC Wax site, which is available for housing but has not been developed because of the relatively high cost of remediation.
If housing development looks unlikely, an imaginative solution such as the creation of new public space or a civic art installation should be considered.
The former Hyde Library was the subject of a council row over whether landmark buildings in the borough are being ‘left to rot’.
At a meeting of the full council, Labour and Tory members clashed about the state of some of the borough’s high street icons, and whether selling them off was the right step.
It came after Conservative group leader Cllr Doreen Dickinson criticised the council for not drawing up a policy on its land assets for two-and-a-half years.
This would list what assets the council owns and if it would dispose of them if they became surplus to requirements.
“Instead buildings are being left to rot like Hyde Library, Tameside Hippodrome and Ashton Town Hall,” she said.
“Excluding Ashton town hall, which hopefully will never be for sale, the rest are in such bad condition that they wouldn’t bring anything like their original value.”
Cllr Ryan revealed a policy on land disposals was being compiled, denying they had been left to rot.
He explained: “What we want to avoid is a fire sale of assets.
“You’ve listed buildings like the Hippodrome and Hyde Library and these are buildings that are really important to their communities. It’s right that we take the time to work out what’s best for them to serve their communities.
“I don’t think selling them off at all would necessarily have been the best option for those sites, I think we were right to take the time that we have done to assess them.”