DEVELOPING Ashton Moss into a centre of science and innovation could bring ‘unprecedented benefits,’ Tameside Council believes.
The area that straddles the M60 motorway, off Lord Sheldon Way in Ashton-under-Lyne, has been earmarked as the location for a huge development, if most of it is taken out of the Green Belt.
Thousands of new jobs would be created if what has been titled Ashton Moss Innovation Park goes ahead.
And Cllr Jack Naylor, the council’s executive member for inclusive growth, business and employment, is in no doubt it will boost the borough – both in terms of employment and housing.
The detailed proposal, produced for the meeting of Tameside’s executive cabinet on Wednesday, November 22, says: “Ashton Moss will offer a benchmark in modern industry. A beacon of digital and health manufacturing, Ashton Moss will be a place where things are made.”
And Cllr Naylor adds: “Ashton Moss presents us with a fantastic opportunity to build on our strengths and heritage in the manufacturing industry and develop an employment site that would bring unprecedented benefits to the local economy by creating jobs and attracting talent, cutting straight to the heart of our ambition for inclusive growth across the borough.
“We need to find new ways to gain higher skilled jobs for our existing and future residents and provide growth space for the manufacturing and engineering sectors.
“It will join up our plans to regenerate our town centres with mixed use sites and create more homes and places for people to visit to help attract new residents to Tameside as well retain existing ones. “The development framework is a step in the right direction and I am really excited to see the story of Ashton Moss unfold over the next months and years and move forward a new chapter for Tameside.”
At that meeting, he stated: “The development’s framework is vital to ensure opportunities are driven forward and to realise the site’s potential.
“This framework is a significant step forward.”
Director of place Julian Jackson added: “It sets out a strategic direction for what is a key site for us.” Leader of the council, Cllr Ged Cooney, responded: “It’s the right site, it’s been there for a long, long time and I welcome this initiative, it’s about time.
“I’m pleased for the borough. It gives us that innovative business area we needed. Ashton Moss covers Ashton, Audenshaw and Droylsden but it’s to the benefit of all of Tameside.
“Don’t just think it’s an Ashton initiative. It’s an employment area for the whole of Tameside.”
A number of options have been drawn up for what Ashton Moss Innovation Park could look like, with a new train station being built in the Littlemoss area of Droylsden mentioned.
Ashton Moss West – by far the largest area which runs from the Audenshaw/Ashton-under-Lyne border to the Droylsden/Ashton border, alongside the M60 – would have to be removed from the Green Belt.
Ashton Moss East lies on the other side of the motorway, between Lord Sheldon Way and the railway line to Manchester Victoria.
An ecology park is planned, no matter the layout – one of which includes a Metrolink depot being sited there.
And the case for building it has been strengthened by stark statistics, including: “The local area presents a greater proportion of 25-34 year olds.
“Over the next five years there is expected to be a 14 per cent increase in 5-19 year olds and a 16.5 per cent in 35-44 year olds.
“This is positive as the area immediately surrounding the site has a growing working age population. This also highlights the importance of bringing Ashton Moss Innovation Park forward.
“Tameside is ranked 23rd most deprived Local Authorities in the Index of Multiple Deprivation (2019). Its position has worsened since 2015 when it was ranked 34th.
“Many areas immediately surrounding the site is characterised as a deprived catchment, are within the top 10 per cent most deprived, particularly for health and life expectancy.
“A report suggests Ashton contains a significantly above average proportion of adults of working age categorised within the least affluent D and E social groups.
“In contrast, the most affluent AB social group is particularly under-represented within the Ashton area.
“Tameside has a relatively weak local economy, having grown by eight per cent between 1999 and 2016, compared to 24 per cent in Rochdale and 54 per cent in Salford.
“There has been a decrease in the proportion of jobs within knowledge economy sectors which include digital and creative, health, clean growth, and advanced manufacturing.
“An eight per cent decrease was evident between 2013 and 2018, compared to a 14 per cent growth in England and Greater Manchester.
“This presents a significant challenge and at the same time an opportunity to increase the share of knowledge economy jobs in Tameside, including in advanced manufacturing.”
In practical terms, getting Ashton Moss West out of the Green Belt is followed by discussions with the 10 landowners, then dealing with peat deposits in the area.
The vast majority of western plot is owned by Stayley Development, with Arqiva the second most and the most substantial at Ashton Moss East.
And the report, which states an 18-month plan of action, adds: “Critical will be the need for the council to continue to engage with the landowners across the site and formulate an approach to delivery of the major infrastructure enabling works.
“Further work is now required to establish in more detail the ground conditions, infrastructure design, site levels, drainage and the remediation requirements to determine the technical delivery of the site.”
However, it continues: “Local connectivity and access to a key talent pool within an hour’s commute of the site solidifies its attractiveness as a key employment location.
“The area is at the forefront of the 5G rollout. Ashton is home to a powerful data centre, located at the nearby Ashton Old Baths, which provides secure and high-speed connectivity to the whole of Tameside.
“This makes Tameside the best digitally connected borough in Greater Manchester and within the top 15 within the UK.”