A NEW man is in charge of bringing more into and getting more out of Stalybridge – and he believes it is possible.
Councillor Sam Gosling is now chairman of the Stalybridge Advisory Group, which is a key part of the Town Centre Challenge, launched by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham in 2018.
And he has revealed what he wants, as well as addressed two of the key topics that dominate much conversation – whether the Civic Hall should be turned into an Altrincham-style food market and the housing shortage.
In an exclusive interview with The Correspondent, he also told of his desire to broaden representation on the group among the town’s business community.
Cllr Gosling said: “The Town Challenge has done great things.
“It’s brought things into Stalybridge like the Street Feast but I think it’s an opportunity to add some new ideas into the project.
“I want to get more local people and businesses involved and see what they want for Stalybridge.
“The Town Challenge was all shiny and new when it came in. It went to consultation and everyone put forward their ideas of what they wanted in Stalybridge, then Covid-19 slowed things down.
“The key for me is to get more people into Stalybridge. More housing brings more people and more investment into the town.
“That’s got to be the focus, also the culture offering. I think we’ve got such an opportunity to make Stalybridge the cultural capital of Tameside.
“We had the theatre initiative a couple of years ago and we’ve got mountain biking opportunities with all the hills around us.
“The future is very bright for Stalybridge. People need to have some patience.”
One major issue is what happens to the Civic Hall. Already much talk surrounded the revelation roof repairs will cost £1 million more than was first thought but that money has been found, rather than the building just go to rack and ruin.
A popular idea is converting it into what has been done at Altrincham’s market hall and Manchester’s Mackie Mayor.However, Cllr Gosling believes ideas should walk before they run, citing the Street Feast as the platform to build on.
He added: “What we’ve done with the once a month event is right and working.
“The more that grows, the better it will be but it has to be organic. You can’t just go crashing in.
“It’s all about footfall and people. If you’ve not got the people to do a seven-day market, you can’t do a seven-day market.”
Talk of more housing may be criticised by some. However, more homes may be a necessary evil for the good of the town centre.
When asked, ‘What would you say to opponents?’ Cllr Gosling countered with: “I’d tell them to look at the figures for homelessness and people without housing, people living in Houses of Multiple Occupation.
“There’s not enough housing. There’s a housing crisis in this country.
“I’m not saying it will solve everything but in Stalybridge, there’s a train station right there. We could be attracting professionals using us as a town and working in Manchester.
“I don’t see why that’s not a good thing. The more people you get, the more investment you get. It’s just basic.”
Cllr Gosling is rebuilding the group following the resignation of chairman Cllr Adrian Pearce and another member, Cllr Doreen Dickinson.
Expect new non-political faces to come on board to advise Tameside Council on the direction it needs to take.
He said: “Cllr Pearce did a great job and what we’ve got now is a tribute to that but I think there’s now an opportunity to add some fresh people, get new ideas and continue the work.
“Cllrs Brenda Warrington and Oliver Ryan have given me a lot of trust and a great opportunity here but it’s a case of getting ideas from different people and different backgrounds and finding out where we want to be.
“It is an advisory group at the end of the day, a collection of people with ideas we can take to the people who are making the decisions financially.
“It‘s a great opportunity but people can’t think, ‘I’ve got a great idea and it’ll happen next week.’ People have to be patient.”