On 15 January 2021, Trafford Council and Bruntwood Works published the latest consultation for Stretford Town Centre and Stretford Mall, on the back of the recent fantastic news of £17.6m being awarded to the town from the government’s Future High Streets Fund.
This is the latest in a long line of masterplans and consultations for Stretford town centre, going back to the ill-fated UA92 proposals and the revised Stretford Masterplan and beyond.
Back in October 2019, Trafford Council announced that they’d formed a join venture with Bruntwood Works to purchase Stretford Mall and redevelop the town centre.
Since then, the joint venture has organised drop-in events and consultations, where more details have been shared and opinions sought. With each event and consultation, the level of detail in the proposals has gradually increased to what we see in this latest consultation.
Following that news of the joint venture, I put together a post detailing my 10 steps to revitalising Stretford town centre. This was back in December 2019, before the joint venture had shared any real detail about what they were thinking.
In this post, I proposed selective demolition of some of Stretford Mall, keeping areas that work and renovating the bits that don’t. This included reinstating King Street, creating new public squares and traffic-free routes through the middle of the town centre.
I was deliberately pragmatic with my 10 steps, aware there wasn’t necessarily the money available to be as radical as I’d like. So much of the focus was on what could be repurposed, rather than wholesale demolition.
I also proposed increasing the amount of residential accommodation (currently zero) and improving walking and cycling links and dealing with probably the town centre’s biggest issue, the A56.
Well, they do say imitation is the best form of flattery! Whether or not my 10 steps had an impact or not on these proposals, it’s great to see they share many of the same aims and solutions.
If you want to see the proposals in detail, head over to the consultation website. Though, I’ve also collated the details into a PDF document, as Trafford Council’s proposals have a tendency to disappear, after the fact.
According to the website, the joint venture aims to deliver the following:
- A new heart of Stretford, with shops, leisure opportunities, employment and new homes
- Planting of lots of new trees and other landscaping
- Brand new, beautifully-designed and ‘green’ public squares, including a new ‘central park’ for Stretford
- New waterfront development, which will open up the canal to the public
Even the most ardent Facebook keyboard warrior would struggle to find anything there to disagree with. I think if you’d ask most people here what they want, they’d say something along those lines.
The achieve this, they are proposing to deliver the following:
- Reinstatement of King Street to provide an appropriate amount of new retail space. Aldi will remain in the same place
- New public squares and open spaces, including a new Library Square
- A ‘Central Park’ which provides a green biodiversity corridor for public enjoyment
- Retention and repurposing of the multi-storey car park to provide both car parking and new, flexible event space
- Updating Arndale House to provide modern office and commercial space
- Creation of ‘Makers Yard’ – a place for independent small businesses and evening economy
- Development of Lacy Street car park and opening up access to the canal
- Provision of up to 800 homes, including affordable housing.
I’ll come onto these in more detail below. But as I’ve said already, there’s definitely a few similarities with my 10 steps, which is clearly a positive in my book. Arguably, these proposals are more ambitious than mine, going further with the demolition of Stretford Mall than I was proposing.
King Street, square and multistorey car park
Removal of the rather drab covered section of Stretford Mall and the reinstatement of King Street is something these proposals share with my 10 steps. Though they stop at the multistorey car park, while I was proposing to continue further. Given what’s planned for the car park, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The work that’s been done on King Street has already started to breathe life back into the town centre, so it makes sense to keep what little remains of the old Stretford and extend it further. I’m hoping this includes keeping the old Arndale House building (currently buried in the mall) as a bit of Stretford history. Though I may be alone in wanting that.
A new square at the end of King Street is included in the proposals, rather unimaginatively titled King Street Square. This would be a good use of this space, though I’d be interested to see how it then links to Kingsway.
As I mentioned, I proposed to demolish the multistorey car park, as it’s a rather out of date, rundown and unloved part of the town centre. It also creates an awful first impression for anyone approaching on Kingsway.
These proposals take a very different approach of keeping the multistorey car park, while removing the surface car parks. This actually makes a lot of sense, as it means the huge amount of space given over to car parking can be put to much better use, for buildings or green space. It would also help connect the town centre with the surrounding areas, by removing the dead space inbetween.
The proposals include the removal of the rather ugly ramp to the multistorey car park, which I guess would mean you’d enter the car park at ground level. Does that mean the ground floor becomes car parking? Currently, it’s shops.
I’m not entirely sure where cars would actually enter the car park, directly from Kingsway? That kind of detail is missing right now, though it could have a significant impact to the proposals for Kingsway itself.
Library Square and the surrounding development goes beyond what I included in my 10 steps. This makes use of the space freed up by the removal of the surface car parks and helps to connect the town centre to the library on the other side of Kingsway and the surrounding area.
I like this, but I do wonder how well it would actually connect to the library, with Kingsway in the middle. A lot depends on how well the traffic is reduced and calmed on Kingsway, which I’m not sure about. More on that later.
Central Park and St Matthew’s area
In my 10 steps, I proposed creating new frontages on the south of Stretford Mall, which currently has service entrances and secondary car parking. This side of Stretford town centre is very much dead space and crying out for redevelopment.
With the demolition of this section of Stretford Mall, these proposals go much further than I had, with the newly acquired space being turned into Central Park, a new green space in the centre of Stretford. I think this would be a fantastic addition and give both residents and visitors a pleasant place to linger.
When the southern corner of Stretford Mall was demolished, it was clear this area would be earmarked for residential development. In addition to residential development now being proposed, there are plans to improve the space around the church, making more of a feature of it.
It’s not completely clear what the scale or density of the residential development will be. The visualisation appears to show reasonably high density, but quite low rise. This is just a visualisation though after all, and isn’t necessarily what will be built.
The visualisation also shows traffic-free streets, similar to what’s proposed in the Former Kellogg’s Site Masterplan, though the FAQs say “car parking for housing will be conveniently located close to housing”. What’s classed as close to housing? Is that the multistorey car park or will there additional parking spaces nearby?
The Makers Yard is an interesting addition to the proposals. It puts to use the dead space between the units fronting the A56 and the rear of units in Stretford Mall. I’ve wondered previously whether this service yard could be put to better use. In particular, to provide an outdoor space for the bars that have opened along here.
This looks like quite a good solution for the units facing onto the A56, which would otherwise not be able to have any outdoor space. I mean, if there was space available on the front, who’d actually want to sit out on the A56, even if the number of lanes are reduced, which is a big if right now.
While there will be some collateral damage, in the loss of some units on the A56 side, the permeability of the town centre will be increased, with an additional route in from that side. Will there be easy access from the other side of the A56 though or do you have to walk up to the Edge Lane junction?
The scale and layout of The Makers Yard could make it quite a pleasant space to be in, with the right landscaping and places to sit and enjoy. It’s definitely a welcome addition.
God, I hate badly produced, misleading visualisations. The one below, I dislike in particular. As a regular user of the Bridgewater Canal path, I know if the Lacy street site ended up like that, it’d be an absolute disaster to users of the canal path. I appreciate it’s not intended to be accurate, but people read way too much into visualisations like that.
In the rest of the proposals, the waterfront area looks bigger and the bars and cafes don’t spill directly out onto the canal path, so hopefully that’ll be what we’ll actually see. There isn’t really any more detail around what’s proposed for the Lacy Street site. Hopefully, we won’t see a return to the tower blocks in the UA92 proposals, for the huge numbers of students that never materialised.
The success of the Lacy Street site, like with the Stretford Public Hall and Essoldo sites, is largely dependent on how well it links to the rest of the town centre. It currently takes up to 5 minutes to cross the A56/Edge Lane junction as a pedestrian, since the subways were removed. This has a massive impact in deterring people from crossing from the town centre to the other side.
There’s nothing in the proposals to say how this will be addressed, just some vague lines and arrows across the road in the drawings. This doesn’t really inspire confidence.
Chester Road and Kingsway
When you get to the proposals for Chester Road, it becomes pretty clear where responsibilities lie for the two partners of the joint venture, Bruntwood Works and Trafford Council. The majority of the proposals have the hallmarks of Bruntwood Works, being bold and ambitious in transforming a rather tired set of buildings. When we get to the roads, everything becomes vague and aspirational. Unfortunately, just what we’ve come to expect from Trafford Council.
There’s very little in here to say what’s actually being proposed for the A56. In most of the materials, it’s just a sea of blue with some trees dotted around the road. A visualisation of the road layout is included, which was from the last consultation, and appears to show the number of general traffic lanes reduced. But is this going to happen? It just says “There is an opportunity to push forward the greening of Chester Road”. What does that mean exactly?
It’s been said many times by many people that the A56 traffic sewer is probably the most significant barrier to regenerating the town centre and making it a place you want to spend time in. It also has illegal levels of air pollution and effectively dissects the town in two.
The pop-up cycle lanes and reduction in general traffic lanes in 2020 demonstrated that by reducing the capacity for cars, you can create more space for people walking and cycling, while reducing speeding and air pollution. Sadly, Trafford council have now decided to give in to a vocal minority and reinstate all of the motor traffic lanes, returning the A56 to how it was.
While there is a bit more detail, the vagueness continues with the proposals for Kingsway. They appear to show the road reduced to two general traffic lanes, with new cycleways added and more space for walking. It also talks about improving links to the Victoria Park neighbourhood, which are currently pretty awful.
Trafford Council have been talking about making these changes for some time now, going back to the ill-fated Stretford public realm proposals back in 2015 that led to the removal of the subways and the awful A56/Edge Lane crossings.
While I’d certainly be pleased to see more space given to walking and cycling on Kingsway, the council are still no further in actually coming out with the details. Also, it’s amazing how visualisations like the one above never actually show any cars, isn’t it?
While there’s ambition to make Kingsway more people friendly, it’s still a key route between Urmston and Chorlton. What will happen if you reduce it down to two lanes? The likelihood is the alternative routes, Barton Road, Davyhulme Road East and Derbyshire Lane become busier.
None of these alternative routes are designed to carry the levels of traffic they already have. Traffic is often at a standstill on Barton Road, with really awful air quality. Davyhulme Road East has significant problems with speeding and dangerous driving, right outside two primary schools. Derbyshire Lane is a dangerous rat run, with speed bumps that achieve nothing. It should have been closed to through traffic a long time ago.
So we end up in a situation where the council are proposing to divert traffic from Kingsway, a road designed specifically to carry motor traffic through the town, onto local residential roads that aren’t designed to carry the traffic they already have. If the changes are going to happen on Kingsway, there needs to be measures to limit the traffic on those other routes, otherwise things are just going to get worse.
There’s a big question mark around whether we’ll actually see any road or junction improvements around the town centre, given how poorly the council has managed the recent A56 pop-up cycle lanes and Active Travel Fund schemes. Without political leadership from the council exec, support of local councillors and the ability to run a consultation that actually promotes the benefits of the changes, I predict little will change on the roads around the town centre.
There’s a lot to like here, and overall I’m supportive of what’s being proposed in the latest consultation. The reuse of some of the existing elements of the town centre, complementing them with new development and public spaces all makes sense. As does the residential development, which should help to stop the area feeling like a ghost town.
The proposed phasing also makes sense (see below), with work starting on the King Street area and multistorey car park first, before moving onto the other parts of the scheme.
- Phase 1: A new King Street
- Phase 2: Opening up the canal, new housing and public spaces
- Phase 3: Creating a new leisure and employment area
- Phase 4: Stretford’s new Central Park
- Phase 5: A new ‘Library Square’
It is still early days though, we don’t yet have enough detail to really comment on the individual elements of the scheme. I look forward to seeing this becoming available as the first phase progresses this year.
While I every confidence in Bruntwood Works’ capabilities to deliver the elements within the town centre, I can’t say the same for Trafford Council’s abilities to deliver the road and junction improvements Stretford needs. We need the council to prioritise walking and cycling access to the town centre, while reducing the dominance of motor traffic in the town, but I don’t see any evidence to say they understand that.
Another doubt is whether there will be the money available beyond the initial £17.6m coming from the Future High Streets Fund, to deliver the subsequent phases. Given the current economic climate, with the pandemic and impact of Brexit, will there still be the demand for housing, which I assume is being used to fund the development? I hope so, but time will tell.
3 thoughts on “Stretford Mall Public Consultation 2021”
I wish they would de prioritise Chester road through all of Stretford, the pollution levels are appalling.
Ideally they could encourage more use of the metrolink park and rides at the water park and in trafford park.
Also, direct people to use Park Way and Village way in trafford park, its dual carriage way.
And other than that bit at the bottom of Village it has no houses adjacent to it, so pollution levels wouldn’t be soo much of an issue.
With the traffic diverted, traffic calming measures could be introduced to slow it all down, reduce traffic to a single lane, put in dedicated bus lanes in and out of the city and wide cycle lanes.
As there would be less traffic, then its easier to make the bit between the mall and lacy street more permeable to pedestrians.
I’d also stop lorries turning off the motorway, except for access to the shops, perhaps limit them to out of hours only.
Doing that and reducing commuters, would mean that the funny parking for house owners on park road could be removed and wider pavements/cycle lanes added along there too.
But it would take a big bold move from the council…
“Library Square”suggests Bruntwood don’t expect much change for the A56 and think development should be balanced to include the remaining original shops around Barton Road. That makes sense to me.
I’m wholly in favour of the proposals especially Kingsway. I have argued as part of each proposal that Chester Rd should be no more than 2 lanes each side rather than the ridiculous 10 lanes in total you have to use now (Food Hall to Edge Lane)
I lived in Didsbury for 23 years and even Kingsway was less than this at it’s busiest point. Talking of which, the village is generally only one lane each direction and this is the main route from Cheadle / Heatons end to Withington / Chorlton and vice-versa so I can see no argument reducing Kingsway down to two either.
With the new businesses (Foodhall / Hive etc) opening on the front, it’s still not an attractive place and reducing the lanes would create the extra space needed for out door seating (ala Chorton) and make this a much more attractive place to visit.
Interesting suggestion about the multi-story. I agree, it’s ugly and outdated but I fear this maybe take a chunk of the funds away from the improvements if this was demolished. If the ideas to make the upper levels into an event space don’t happen for whatever reason, they should certainly look towards reducing this down to first and second levels at a maximum.
Whilst bemoaning to my other half years ago about the lack of evening choices, I did say to her that all surface level car parking should be be removed and new leisure units built similar to Urmston but looking at the plans, the proposals go far past this with the opening up / demolishing further parts of the mall.
I like your idea of retail units and residential on the new ‘wasteland’ which would shield the area from Chester Road.
My only train of thought now in relation to the masterplan is The Robin Hood. It was supposed to be flats (not sure if they still are going to be?) but nothing seems to have moved on that for a long time now. I’d suggest, if this was practical, would be to move the library into the Robin Hood with a much reduced car park and grass the rest complete with a cafe maybe? making it a pleasant area to visit and read outdoors in the summer. The existing library could be snapped up for flats.
I live on Urmston Lane and I have to be honest, I don’t travel further than the Mall unless by car due to the constant ‘taking my life into my own hands’ every time I think about crossing Chester Road. Same goes for Barton Road and to some extent Kingsway..the latter two are usually home to speeding cars and last minute lane jumpers and I am surprised that there aren’t more accidents. There is no reason why the traffic from Trafford Park to Sale etc cannot be routed down Village way ,onto Parkway and then the M60 (coming off at J8 is my directions are correct) which are designed to carry much more traffic.
Stretford can be a great place but not without something being done with the roads which I have to agree with you on, I think Trafford Council will get cold feet under pressure from the motorists and all the improvements will be wasted money.
I am sure you have seen this but this is something I always bring up during my feedback on the Masterplan to the Council
I am sure that something like this could be implemented for the Edge Lane / Chester Road junction but I doubt that the Council have the guts to go this far.
Excellent site by the way