Stockport by Matthew Corrigan

June 14, 2013

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Stockport ViaductIt could be so much more. It boasts some of the most interesting topography in the county. It sits at the confluence of the rivers Tame and Goyt, from where the mighty Mersey begins its journey to the sea. It is steeped in the rich history of the Industrial Revolution. Its transport links are second to none – both the M60 motorway and West Coast mainline pass right through the heart of the town – yet for Stockport, something has gone dreadfully wrong.

What must first time visitors think as they approach town – looking down from the viaduct on the wasteland of Merseyway, glancing the shabby rear ends of the Princes Street shop buildings from the motorway, or walking through the desolate remains of the former Grand Central site?

There is presently a Facebook page doing the rounds, a collection of photos depicting Stockport in bygone times. It’s heartbreaking to compare the bustling, lively town of the seventies and eighties with a walk through the centre today. Of all the old stores, only Marks and Spencer remains, pluckily standing its ground against a rising tide of identikit retail outlets. Pound shops abound, as do gaming establishments and charity shops. The two main shopping streets look awful; careworn and unappealing. Of course, Stockport can’t be blamed for the ill economic wind that has blown through the high street in general, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to give up.

Reasons for the collapse of the high street are many and have been debated endlessly: the rise of the internet, out-of-town shopping, changes in lifestyle etc. but where is Stockport’s fight back? Why has it just accepted its fate and laid quietly down to die? Where is the diversification? Why are new shops not rising up in place of the old? Where are the smart, and just as importantly, safe restaurants and bars that would kickstart the night-time economy so lacking in the town?

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the rot began to set in but the situation is now critical. Merseyway, as it stands, is dead. Whether or not a phoenix can rise from its ashes remains to be seen. What Stockport needs is radical. Successive councils have tinkered around the edge of the problem for at least the last fifteen years. They have all failed the town.

With the clarity of hindsight, covering the river was a terrible mistake. The Mersey is now a clean, living waterway but the council has failed to exploit this. There are still riverside tracts of land but they have been completely neglected. The walkways are carpeted with litter and broken glass. Other towns manage to make a feature of their rivers; why not here?

It’s easy to knock Stockport, to pour scorn on its efforts while passing it by on the way to Manchester or the Trafford Centre but does it really need to be this way? With foresight and investment Stockport town centre could succeed once again. It could be so much more.

Osprey the new novel from Matthew Corrigan is out now as an ebook on Amazon here

www.ospreyskypower.com

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ian Admin June 15, 2013 at 8:15 am

Some interesting observations there Matt.
Apparently, Mary Portas tried to turn around Stockport town centre, but gave it up as a bad job.
One of the participants of her scheme was asked what one thing could help local businesses to survive and without hesitation they replied “Free parking”.
So there you are Stockport council if you ever read this – Top tip – make some free car parking available.

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