Proposals for the improvement of Marple Town Centre will be a central component of our Neighbourhood Plan and it may well be the issue on which the success of the overall Plan will be judged.
Marple Town Centre is looking tired and out-dated and has had little new investment since the Ridgedale Centre was developed 25 years ago. The scheme by Kirkland Developments to develop a 25,000 sq ft food store on the Trinity Street car park, which obtained full planning permission in 2013, would have been a catalyst for the renewal of the town centre. The scheme failed to get off the ground, despite attracting widespread support from local residents.
Shopping in the Town Centre is adversely impacted by traffic congestion, parking and access issues and the poor condition of highways and pavements. However, there is plenty of vacant and under-used land within the Town Centre (including the Royal Mail Sorting Office site)which could potentially be brought into more productive use as part of our Plan.
The Work Programme
The first task of the Town Centre and Retail Topic Group will be to assemble and review the evidence that has been gathered from previous studies, including those carried out by Marple Vision Partnership, Stockport Council, ASDA (in support of their planning applications), the Civic Society and the Independent Urban Design Study .
Further consultations with retail professionals, local residents,shoppers and shopkeepers will then be needed to build on the evidence previously gathered, in order to develop realistic options for the regeneration of the Town Centre capable of attracting investment by developers / retailers.
The Town Centre and Retail Topic Group will need to work closely with the Getting Around Topic Group on highways and access issues and with the Employment Topic Group on the employment aspects of the Plan.
It is envisaged that detailed public consultation will be carried out on a number of options for the Town Centre (including an option to do nothing) once the initial research has been completed.
In order to fairly represent the views of local residents and stakeholders in the Town Centre, it is essential that the Forum maintains its impartiality and provides the means for every-one involved to fully understand the issues and have the means to put forward their views on the various options.
It should be stressed that the timetable for the proposed closure of the Royal Mail Sorting Office and the NatWest Bank may present challenges / opportunities for development within the Town Centre which may need to be addressed prior to the completion of the Plan.