A town centre guru who is advising the government on the future of the High Street has praised the borough’s approach to recovery at a celebration to mark the second anniversary of the High Street Foundation.
Lisa Durkin, the North West town team and Portas Pilot Advisor,for the Association of Town and City Management spoke on key findings of the ‘Town Centre Futures 2020 Experian Report Speaking at the event at Hopwood Hall College, she praised the establishment of thriving town teams in Heywood and Middleton, a key recommendation of the 2011 Portas review.
She said: “The structure of the town teams in Heywood and Middleton, where the retailers and community take the lead role with support from the council, are among the best I’ve seen and it’s a model I recommend to other towns across the North West.
“When I last addressed the High Street Foundation last year, they were just ready to set up the town teams, so it’s great to come back and see that they’re not only here, but really well established and achieving great things.”
Adam Torevell, from the Middleton town team, reflected on the last 12 months which has seen them organise the hugely successful Oktoberfest which attracted 1,500 people into the town centre for a weekend of music and food.
The team also set up a pop up shop, cited by many retail experts as an important move to help revive high streets, in the Arndale. The unit, which now operates as a pop up apprentice shop, sold I love Middleton merchandise and allowed small business to come in and test trade. It also offered health checks and business start-up advice.
Frontline workers in Middleton town centre, including staff at the Arndale, have also become town centre ambassadors. They have been trained up in all things Middleton, including the importance of its historic buildings, and are on hand to offer visitors a friendly face and the lowdown on great things to do in the town.
The team has even bigger plans for the next 12 months, with Middleton arena set to start showing films and sporting events on a big screen. The launch of a teenage market is also in the offing for Easter.
And Heywood town team has also been busy, producing a promotional directory for business looking to come to the town with details of vacant units and rates payable.
The team have also installed decorative lighting in the Heywood memorial gardens.
But best is yet to come in Heywood. A key recommendation from high street studies they will be taking forward over the next 12 months is window dressing with a difference. The team have identified empty shops and are examining a number of innovative options to spruce them up. One of these is a sound board, a vinyl sheet covering the shop front which looks like a recording studio and carries a QR code which will allow people to download free music from local bands.
Over in Rochdale, moves to regenerate the town centre, with the official start of demolitions just around the corner, are being bolstered by a 25 per cent reduction in car parking permits. A free shuttle bus has also recently been launched to help people move around the rapidly changing town centre.
A packed programme for the next 12 months includes the launch of incredible edibles, a community planting project which will see public areas turned into vegetable plots, allowing people to pick and grow their own healthy food.
Councillor Peter WiIliams, Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Rochdale Borough Council, said: “It’s great that we have so many large scale regeneration projects in the offing, but they are for the future and it’s important is that we focus on regenerating our high streets now.
“It’s gratifying to see our businesses and residents pushing forward so many innovative ideas which have all been identified by the experts as crucial to the future of the high street. I’m looking forward to seeing them implement more of their fantastic ideas in the coming months.”
For more information on any of these projects, please visit the High Street Foundation blog at www.highstreetfoundation.blogspot.com
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