STALYBRIDGE will have to wait longer for its much-heralded heritage walkway.
And councillors from both sides of the political divide have criticised what has been done so far.
Delays in sourcing materials mean work on the route along Market Street has been paused, leaving an unsightly mix of bins piled high with rubbish and an incomplete project.
Supply issues will see the scheme’s completion date put back to the summer.
In an update obtained by The Correspondent, Caroline Lindsay – Stalybridge’s high street heritage action zone officer – spelled out the problems.
She wrote: “Work started in November to re-lay the northern footway on Market Street, including the introduction of additional ducting to allow for future services to be laid.
“Despite the delays caused by the constant very low temperatures in December, this first stage of works has now been completed.
“Following the completion of this first stage it has now become necessary to pause work on site.
“This is due to a c (circa) 12-week delay in the supply of materials required for stage two caused by factors outside of the council’s control.
“Whilst work to deliver the Heritage Walk is paused, the site compound will be removed. Once materials are received the work to deliver the whole scheme will be recommenced later in 2023.”
Much has been made of the project since a £1.1 million budget, with £610,000 coming from Historic England, was announced.
Tameside Council believes it may bring up to £2.5 million of investment and custom into Stalybridge town centre.
It would be one of 68 high streets to benefit from a share of a £95 million fund over a four-year programme run in conjunction with Historic England and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
The overall work will include a heritage walk from the railway station to a newly-created heritage quarter and improvements to the street scenery, while also improving heritage and cultural assets in the town centre, including looking at alternative use options for the Civic Hall.
News of the delay was met with dismay by Stalybridge South councillor Doreen Dickinson and business owners on Market Street.
Conservative colleague Liam Billington and Labour’s Adrian Pearce have also slammed what is showing.
In an e-mail, Cllr Pearce also voices his concern over accessibility.
He says: “My concern about the work so far is that the paving does seem uneven and the dropped kerbs too high.
“On the southern side of the street, posts have been placed in the middle of the pavement which are a hazard to blind and visually impaired people and prevent people pushing prams or using wheelchairs accessing the street easily.
“I would welcome a meeting on site to discuss this and consider how you have taken into account access for disabled people more generally in the scheme.”
Cllr Billington adds: “The works carried out have been embarrassing to say the least. Considering the budget for the scheme was £2.5 million, you could hardly tell the difference.
“Given the fact Stalybridge has been awarded £20 million from the Levelling Up Fund, how confident are we that this fund will actually make a difference?
“This was a great opportunity for Market Street that has been squandered. Our town deserves better than this.”