ASHTON Market’s latest redevelopment can help change an area that ‘lacks vibrancy’ and has several other problems, according to Tameside Council.
And the authority admits it has been asked by people why it is looking to spend almost £11 million on something that was altered eight years ago.
A successful bid of almost £20 million from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund has put remodelling the more than 700-year-old facility at the top of priority lists.
And a report did not sugar coat where the marketplace, last renovated in 2015, has been failing.
It states: “Market Square lacks vibrancy, is unappealing and unattractive for visitors to the area and the space has remained a poor state for a number of years.
“There are few opportunities for dwell and a lack of greenery that would encourage people to spend more time in the area.
“In addition, ground levels are uneven making access for visitors through Market Square, particularly those in wheelchairs and with other mobility problems difficult.
“Market Square has experienced a number of anti-social behaviour incidents in recent years. Complaints related to intoxicated individuals consuming alcohol and other substances and causing a nuisance.
“Vacant market stalls provide weather protection and cover for these individuals making the area less desirable to visit throughout the day and night.”
Draft proposals of the £10.8 million project, which includes the removal of all of kiosks and market stalls and replacing them with the construction of a large canopy, including one attached to the market hall, have been revealed.
With construction set to start early next year, the report adds it is ‘centred on a vision where Ashton Market is the beating heart of the town. A modern market for everyone, a destination attracting locals and visitors, hosting a range of entertaining events.”
That will see a large canopy – of which different designs have been put forward – under which stalls and kiosks are likely to be housed, along with seating, an event space, an informal play area and other improvements.
Proposals also incorporating public art to benefit both that and surrounding areas and even coming up with a marketing logo as documents state: “The redevelopment of the Market Square presents an opportunity to create better-connected, better looking public spaces that build on Ashton’s proud history and heritage, and provide a sense of consistency across the town centre.
“The Market Square will be a space to host flexible events through the year.
“Proposals should include heritage interpretation, wayfinding and signage which is unique to Ashton.
“Following the consultation process and comments from different stakeholders, there is potential to introduce attractive tree planting to create permeable wind breaks, and to create amenity through planted areas for seasonal interest which can further incorporate informal areas for seating and play.
“Ashton Market Square is currently lacking branding and identity. There is potential to create an iconic logo and branding for the market and wider town centre which reflects the history of Ashton, that will give potential to create a market that is a destination venue.
“And engaging with both artists and the community early in the planning process for public spaces is crucial to developing successful public art.
“There is an opportunity to build community cohesion and create a sense of community ownership. Art and sculpture can help to develop a positive visual identity for Ashton, creating enriching experiences and sensory stimulation.
“Historical artworks, including sculptures, statues and other public art could help create sense of arrival into the Market Square.
“Exploration of neglected streets such as Market Avenue and Clarendon Sixth Form College Walk suffer from low footfall and a poor pedestrian experience, should be encouraged through the use of public art.”
Consultation exercises have already taken place and, again, Tameside Council was told of four main concerns – chiefly losing Ashton’s traditional outdoor market and why the Council is seeking to redevelop the outdoor market when a new market provision was delivered in the last eight years.
Other comments included the play area location is not the preferred one given the proximity of the taxi rank, pub spill-out, servicing and attracting antisocial behaviour, fixed structures such as a cinema or music stand could quickly look obsolete as tastes change, obstruct eye lines and might lead to vandalism, proposals being out of step with the culture and economics around shopping and leisure with e-shopping and out-of-town retail and the general state of neglect across the town.
Technical survey work is ongoing before the planning process starts between May and August.
Work may actually start on removing redundant stalls this year before the main construction, which is scheduled for February 2024 to March 2025.
Once the market square is complete, other areas of Ashton are targeted for regeneration, including Stamford Street Central, Old Street and St Michael’s Square.
Proposals for Wellington Road and extending to Katherine Street, Penny Meadow and Oldham Road are also planned.
But top of the list is the market square and the council’s report emphasised its importance.
It says: “The interventions are critical to unlocking the comprehensive redevelopment of the town centre.
“The enabling works will act as a catalyst for significantly accelerating delivery of the comprehensive transformation of the town centre and unlock its full potential.
“It will be important that Ashton town centre has a clear vision and plan in place in order to respond positively to future funding initiatives as and when they emerge in order to deliver these later phases of works.
“In order to build on the vision of a modern market square that future-proofs Ashton’s traditional market offer, the large canopy installed will incorporate new kiosk facilities and market stalls to futureproof Ashton’s outdoor market for future generations.
“Given the large size of Market Square, it has been vital for the design team to consider what features will be installed to create a vibrant space at all times of the day and week.
“Whether it is a modern or traditional market, a diverse offer, events, culture, art, play, greenery or any other feature of a market square, there are competing demands from those who visit and utilise Market Square which must be balanced to ensure the successful delivery of a public square that is unique to Ashton, now and for generations to come.”