Town centre declared ‘not fit for purpose’

ASHTON’S town centre has been declared ‘no longer fit for purpose’ – by the council whose headquarters are located in it.

And the admission by officers at the Tameside authority should be the start of ripping up previous plans and starting again, says one councillor.

Over the last few years, the town has seen its landmark Marks and Spencer store disappear, along with several other businesses.

Its outdoor market has also suffered after a remodelling, with several stalls remaining empty and the historic town hall off limits.

Cllr Mike Glover described it as ‘being a building site for the last 10 years.’

The slide used in a recent meeting regarding Ashton Town Centre not being ‘fit for purpose’

Now despite landing a near £20 million Government grant in the Levelling Up Fund, which will be spent on revamping the building, the summation has been laid out to councillors in black and white.

As shutters remain down at a number of units, the slide presented to the council’s North Strategic Neighbourhood Forum said: “Once a leading destination for both local and out-of-town shoppers, the town centre is no longer fit for purpose, with a large number of shop closures and footfall has continued to decline.”

And Ashton Hurst councillor and Ashton Town Team member Dan Costello believes it is now time to start afresh.

He said: “That was the first time I’d seen it admitted but it’s something the Town Team had been talking about.

Cllr Mike Glover stated the town centre as being a building site for the last 10 years

“Business owners have been saying this for ages but I’m surprised at the ‘not fit for purpose’ comment.

“Decades of mismanagement have caused it, that’s the feeling we get from the business owners.

There’s a lot of upset at the way the outdoor market was redesigned, they’re adamant that had a negative impact on footfall.

“And seeing a building site isn’t something that makes a town centre good or attractive to walk around.

“Local businesses keep telling us they’re suffering and all we want to do is make sure they’re supported and that we have a good town centre.

Ashton outdoor market has been remodelled

“As a Town Team, we’re always making suggestions to Tameside Council but I’ve not seen anything taken on. I’ve not seen anything implemented.

“One thing we talked about was proactively sourcing traders for the market. It’s honest, I agree with it and it’s good there’s that recognition.

“I’d like to see everything starting from scratch again, in terms of, ‘Let’s start with a blank sheet of paper and think about what we want the town centre to be.’

“If it’s no longer fit for purpose, what has been happening has failed.”

The historic Town Hall has been closed for years

Gregg Stott, the authority’s assistant director of investment, development and housing, countered that statement by saying: “The town centre has undergone improvement and had significant investment over recent years.

“Clearly, we have Vision Tameside through Tameside One as it is better known but also the new transport interchange that is now fully open and is a fantastic asset, not just in terms of access into Ashton but into Manchester and beyond as well.

“And there is that further opportunity to restore the historic Ashton Town Hall, so lots of investment has gone on and a considerable amount more will be planned.”

“The town centre has undergone improvement and had significant investment over recent years”

But he admitted: “We need to repurpose the town centre, which means looking at more residential development, more mixed use.” Cllr Glover quizzed Mr Stott on the future of the ‘building site’ that lies next to the new Ashton bus station – the third incarnation in 40 years.

He was told that was part of the bid for funding and the council is working with Transport for Greater Manchester on contractual matters as it is a ‘priority area for future development.’

Plans are afoot for it to be turned into a temporary town centre car park before Christmas but Cllr Warren Bray said: “Unfortunately, TfGM are playing hardball.”

Ashton succeeded in getting £19.9 million for investing into its town centre, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak name checking it during his Budget speech.Tameside Council will work with the owners of the Arcades and Ladysmith Shopping Centres and it is designated as ‘growth location.’

Part of that is the Ashton Moss area and plans are in place to develop it further, with up to 200,000 sq m of space creating as many as 4,500 jobs.

Mr Stott added: “That’s known as Ashton Innovation Corridor, containing Ashton town centre, St Petersfield and Ashton Moss. We want to keep that momentum going, particularly with Ashton Moss.

“Hopefully it will be taken to the next level, when we can realise what is the major strategic site.”

Building, not restarting, the aim for council

TAMESIDE Council insists it is not a case of ‘rip it up and start again’ when it comes to Ashton town centre.

But it does plan to address what it has heard from its voters – it does not meet their needs.

Arguments will rage on about what should be done, what has not been done and how new life can be injected into the area.

Overlooking Ashton outdoor market

One thing is not on the authority’s agenda though – starting afresh.

A spokesman said: “Acknowledging there is work to do to progress this and create a town centre that is fit for purpose in the long term is not about ripping up this plan and starting again.

“We have already made great progress and shown that we are committed to investing in Ashton by bringing the tram into the town, the opening of the new interchange, the building of a new college complex and library service in the town centre and improvements to our market.

“We have a comprehensive transformation plan for Ashton town centre, as with all our town centres in Tameside.


“We will continue to implement our ambitious plans by investing and seeking further funding in the area.

“We have recently successfully bid for £20 million of levelling up funding which will accelerate our existing plan to carry out development works at the former interchange site to bring residential, retail and commercial space into the heart of the town,

“It will also go towards walking, cycling and public realm improvement and the restoration of Ashton Town Hall.

“We are confident that Ashton can continue to grow and be a thriving and successful town centre. It already has a lot to offer and we can only build on this as we move forwards.”

They also claimed: “The decline of the high street is not a situation unique to Ashton, nor is it an issue that only smaller town centres are facing.

“It is a national decline following the evolution of the way in which people use their town centres, over a decade of austerity and more recently the detrimental impact of the pandemic.

“As a council, we recognise that our town centres are in need of investment to re-design their overall offer and boost economic growth creating a thriving place to visit and work.

“Our residents tell us Ashton Town Centre is not currently meeting their needs, we plan to address this.”

29 Replies to “Town centre declared ‘not fit for purpose’”

  1. If it was not for Nats Bombay Kitchen in the indoor Market, I would hardly bother with Ashton…… unfit for purpose ? Blooming boring more to the point …..

  2. This is a meeting place for drunks and druggies.. Ashton Market needs shutters putting on their stalls so no-one can sit on them for hours.
    Fights and theives are lurking on this place and this needs to be stopped now.

  3. Let’s hope they really do listen this time . When the Market was redeveloped , Ashton market Stall holders told Town hall officials that the Market wasn’t fit for purpose . (I have the Meeting minutes )
    Guess what no one listened and the rest is history !!
    let’s hope that this time they do listen to people , we all know Ashton has great Infrastructure , soace and buildings and can be a great thriving town centre with a fantastic outdoor Market .
    It’s definitely a step in the right direction and I’m sure it’s what local folk have been asking for .

  4. It’s not “rocket science”
    Look at Bury and Altrincham and other thriving market towns and replicate it here in Ashton

  5. We need to focus on all our town Centresin Tameside, as all are equally dilapidated and are unused. Rather this than building a whole new village in Godley which will end up exactly the same. Let’s learn from Altrincham and Bury and replicate their great work

  6. Try to encourage the big shops back .make it worth coming into Ashton . Mark’s and Spencer’s was a big plus also the indoor and outdoor market. Can’t get near it now due to the road being closed . Buses Taxies can’t pull up pick up and drop off. The college buildings dominate the area.
    Encourage new traders so some variety .
    Patrol at night and day to move on vagrants drinking smoking and verbally abusing would be customers.
    Encourage people back into Ashton town centre .
    Leave the bus station alone ,

  7. We would like support from the council or Town team we don’t see or hear from no one
    I have a toy shop on fletcher street I am thinking about closing as don’t get no support
    If we had the backing and tameside council help us small shops we be ok

  8. Losing M and S was silly. The whole thing needs to be looked at properly. We have a great fish stall there and some good butchers. Focus on quality. Get some decent security and beautify it!

  9. I have lived in Ashton, Dukinfield and Audenshaw and the decline is obvious across Tameside. There has always been a focus on Ashton as the main retail centre but throwing money at just one town seems ridiculous. Improving a little bit in all areas would be money well spent instead of grand schemes that achieve nothing. Invest in small projects across Tameside and build on results.

  10. Ashton was a brilliant town many years ago Labour councillors (not mentioning the names) have made a total mess ……building colleges in the town centre why? Town centres should be full of shops and not just the £ shops, we travel to Manchester and Bury don’t bother with Ashton anymore it’ totally depressing not a nice place to go. The councillors are too busy putting together their expense sheets rather than totally revamping . Same with Stalybridge, Droylsden, Hyde.

    1. Absolutely. Tameside Council are one of the worst performing in England – sky high council tax for what???? Tameside is a mess in the past 10 years – a thorough investigation into council expenses and spending is needed!!

  11. None of the Tameside Town Centres are fit for purpose. This decline is an indication that the Council are not fit for purpose either. We should perhaps disband them and start again as well.

  12. I agree everyone has said for years a primark would definitely bring footfall and a must for our students in the town. We definitely need more patrols now as do many drunks and open use drug taking it’s awful just to walk through a once thriving time . Let’s hope the powers above listen

  13. The people of Ashton have got everything they have asked for by blindly & consistently voting Labour. TMBC don’t need to perform to get your vote, they get it anyway.

    TMBC are that colleague at work, you know the one that turns up late, leaves early, tells everyone how busy they are but spends more time surfing the net and taking more than their fair share of fag breaks, blames everyone else for them not delivering…

    They need ousting, ANY party will do.

    “Not fit for purpose?” Can’t wait for the inquiry.

  14. Ashton town centre is a shambolic disgrace if the councillors are happy with it they are blind,deaf and dumb.
    It has been a building site for far too long, town hall fenced off and boarded up sums it up, the market out side looks like a dying animal that needs putting down,the market has been there for many many years, it’s taken tameside no time at all to ruin it all in all the council has killed off Ashton town centre,well done – not!!!!!!!

  15. It really is this simple – ‘vote the same, get the same’. Hold them to account at the ballot box in May.

  16. There was no need to rebuild the outside market which had a vibrancy to it that is now totally lacking.
    Whoever designed and approved the plans for the current outside market just had not got a clue as to what makes a good market.
    If there are unlet market stalls then the rent needs reducing.

  17. They wrecked Ashton as a thriving market town when they ripped up the Old Market. The place is a haven for druggies & drunks. People don’t want to go to the town with these people loitered the area. The “council” are at fault here promise the earth deliver nothing ! Come May bin them !!

  18. I think that for Ashton to once be what it was that we need the big name shops to come back. For starters I’ve been saying for years we need a primark that will boost visits from surrounding areas like Moseley, Hyde, Denton & Droylsden. We need other food shops like Burger King and KFC in the town centre, clothes shops like footlocker to come back there is plenty of space to do this and I believe if they can start by doing this Ashton will once again be the town we once knew.

  19. It doesn’t help when you have a bypass on each side so to avoid the town and great public transport links to take you away and into the city centre.
    Then we charge through the nose if you do decide to visit.

  20. I have lived in Tameside most of my life, Ashton-Under-Lyne is now a disgrace, does not meet the needs of the people, its OK for the councillors to sit in there meetings and come up with there wacky ideas.
    ASK THE PUBLIC…. what they need, ask the shopkeepers, keep the rents responsible.
    Primark, Zara, Marks n Spencer, JD sports, Clarks shoes, and a descent market.

  21. The now Deputy Leader of the Council, and Ashton St Michael’s councillor, Bill Fairfoull, told me in his local pub in Stalybridge that the “problem” with the market was you could stand at the top of the town hall steps and not see the other side of the market. I said that was good because it showed that the market was thriving and bustling. Cllr Fairfoull got his way and this is the result!

    I’d say the Labour councillors running the show are the ones not fit for purpose. I won’t be voting Labour in the future – they’ve lost my vote!

  22. Ashton, Oldham, Rochdale all have one thing in common a Labour controlled council who over the years have destroyed these once thriving market towns. Too many councillors with their noses in the trough, no business acumen or common sense amongst them, use your vote wisely.

  23. In addition to this, closing off the through road and bus stops next to the engine room and the town hall has increased the difficulty for people to access the markets especially people who require mobility and a raised curb to alight off.
    That road should have never been closed even after the completion of the new Tameside College campus. Effectively starving the markets of potential customers

  24. A crony council that has no ambition and no wish to raise the sights of its people – a tiny main library that’s not worth visiting (closed anyway), no art gallery, no theatre, museum closed. The place is a cultural desert.

    Is persistently voting for the potty-mouthed Angela Rayner going to bring help and money to Tameside when this government is set for another ten years. No it’s not!

    Time to raise your heads from the gutter folks! Get rid of them.

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