Friday, 17 November 2017

Red elephant?

Anyone who hasn’t visited Stockport for a couple of years will be surprised, to say the least, to see the new Redrock leisure complex rising up on the site of the former car park between the M60 and Princes Street. It takes its name from the red sandstone of the cliffs opposite, and is due to open on Friday 24 November, a week today. It will include a cinema, a gym and new shops and restaurants.

The intention, obviously, is to revitalise the town centre and attract more visitors, and it has to be said that much of it is in need of a shot in the arm. The former BHS store on Merseyway is still unlet over a year after the chain fell into bankruptcy, and the area of Little Underbank and Lower Hillgate, which could be a cornucopia of independent shops, is very tatty and rundown, with as many vacant units as live businesses. One clear benefit it will bring is introducing smart chain restaurants including Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Pizza Express and Zizzi, as currently there is a serious dearth of decent places to eat.

Having said this, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Redrock falls into the category of “Something must be done. This is something. Let’s do it, then.” It’s unsightly, it’s out of scale with its surroundings, and, although there is a kind of piazza linking it to Princes Street, it’s poorly integrated with the rest of the town centre.

One point that immediately sprang to mind is how the new cinema could hope to compete with those a few miles along the M60 in each direction at Ashton and the Trafford Centre, if people were expected to pay for parking. I have since learned that parking will be free for cinema and gym customers, but how many of them will go on to spend money elsewhere in the town centre? Wouldn’t a better way of revitalising the night-time economy be to allow entirely free parking after 6 pm?

Better parking isn’t an instant panacea for town centres, but making it more inconvenient and expensive is a sure-fire recipe for undermining their viability. Too many councils have treated it as a cash cow and ended up killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. And the fact that the council have introduced free parking after 3 pm and all day Sunday in their central car parks in the run-up to Christmas indicates that they recognise it is a problem.

I don’t claim to be an expert in urban regeneration, and if there was an obvious formula then many towns would have adopted it. I hope it does prove successful in drumming up more business, but I can’t help having some reservations. And it certainly is a singularly ugly set of buildings! it does, however, for those who like such things, feature a rare spiral multi-storey car park ramp.

12 comments:

  1. What cinema chain is it? If it's Cineworld or Odeon I suppose it might attract film buffs who've subscribed to Unlimited or Limitless.

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    1. It's The Light. Don't know what that means to film buffs, as the last film I saw at the cinema was Lord of the Rings Part 1 in 2002.

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    2. Possibly not aimed at you then, hence your reaction. There's plenty of others on the Stockport memories Facebook group who'll give you a hug and reassure you things were better in t'olden days

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    3. Maybe you ought to read what I actually wrote, rather than what you think I wrote, before having a go.

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  2. It'll grow on you.

    There's a kid today that in 50 years will be campaigning to stop it being knocked down

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    1. Modern buildings like that aren't built to last - it's designed to be replaced by something else in twenty years' time.

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    2. In that case we better get cracking now with the "Save the Redrock" campaign, if it's already crumbling.

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  3. Slightly O/T but here's a prime example for your 'ignoring the neon purple cockatrice in the room' file:

    http://www.edp24.co.uk/business/last-pub-standing-on-norwich-s-king-street-opens-to-punters-1-5285485

    love the way the 1904 Act is blamed but not the slightly more recent 2007 thing 'that dare not speak its name'.

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  4. We suffer from excessive car-parking charges in this little corner of the kingdom; although Tonbridge does offer free parking after 6pm and all day on Sunday.

    Tunbridge Wells, on the other hand, charges shopper even on Sundays, and upmarket Sevenoaks charges shoppers until 9pm!

    What a relief then to visit towns in East Anglia where, apart from Norwich (which suffers from appalling traffic congestion anyway), municipal car parks are normally free. Dereham, for example, offers free parking, as does Ely - which is surprising given its obvious tourist appeal.

    At home, if I need to take the car into town, I make a point of doing so either on a Sunday, or after 6pm in the evening. I am certain many other Tonbridge residents do the same. I pay more than enough in Council Tax, without some greedy, grasping council trying to take more of my hard-earned cash.

    Fleecing motorists tends to keep them away, or sends them to out of town retail parks, where there are no charges. Dimwitted councilors, seem unable to grasp the connection between a dying town centre and excessive car parking charges, so it will be interesting to see what happens with this new development in Stockport.

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  5. As a Stockport resident, I can't wait ( not ) for this to open. Nothing in this development appeals to me , and I very much doubt if it will bring in many people from the wealthier suburbs that surround Stockport either. Like the Grand Central development of 20 years ago just another palce for the middle class kids to get mugged. The car parking comments are entirely justified. Stockport council have had many opportunities to provide free car parking fpor potential visitors that they have missed. Witness the Peel Centre opposite teh Railway that remains closed at night.

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    1. I suppose as Redrock doesn't include a nightclub or a yoof bar there isn't the same potential for trouble as there was with Grand Central, but one of my main critcisims is its poor integration with the rest of the town centre.

      On the subject of parking, it's beyond belief that Stockport Council have recently spent a lot of money replacing all their P&D machines, but the new ones still don't have any facility for card payments. So much for moving towards a cashless society...

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  6. It turns out that, now it's open, free parking is permitted after 6 pm, as I suggested. Might go some way towards revitalising Stockport's night-time economy.

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