I suppose I ought to make a full disclosure: l am on the record as preferring the demolition of the Mall and pretty much most of King Street apart from the former Post Office.
I felt the old town centre was turned in on itself and didn’t even attempt to capture passing walking trade coming from the Metrolink or bus connections. I overwhelmingly lost that argument. The majority wanted to retain and improve salvageable assets in the then-existing layout. I get that and I’m happy to support the regeneration of the town centre via the retention of parts of the Mall that have had the roof removed.
Generally, I think there’s a consensus that the centre should be smaller and that the night-time economy; restaurants, entertainment and bars should play an increasing role. There’s a general acceptance the space created in reducing the Mall can be used for housing. Nevertheless, it’s vital that the town centre continues its day job of performing as a place for routine shopping and services. I sense that the scale of retail is still not settled.
We know that King Street is the retail heart of the centre and that links via King St Square to Quality Save and Little King Street next to the multi-storey car park.
What I don’t know is what is going on around that new ‘central park’ just below the multi-storey. If those blocks are purely residential I think we have a problem. On the other hand, if the ground floors are taken up by prime retail like Marks and Spencer, or similar then that changes everything.
This image below hints at shop fronts surrounding the central park. I wish they were more explicit as it makes all the difference to my thoughts on the Central Park in the consultation below.
The latest consultation covers three aspects. It covers:
- the maximum heights of apartment blocks,
- the realignment of the central park strip of green space.
- a revision in car-parking to retain surface parking for Aldi,
The architecture is important. The consultation is on a desire to increase the height of blocks close to the centre to 12 storeys. This is still 3 storeys shy of Circle Court at Lostock Circle, so it’s hardly massive. And while Circle Court became hard to update, it was never the scale that was the problem. It was a very popular block with tenants.
Judging by public submissions, however, not to mention social media, these medium-sized towers do seem incredibly unpopular with Stretford residents. My problem is that they’re hidden away. I really want Stretford to have active frontages facing on Kingsway and Chester Road. The interior elements of the centre should be peeping out and enticing me to shop. The apartments should work with the retail elements to put people and movement in at ground level.
It doesn’t look at this stage that the residential is integrated with the retail elements very much at all. As a whole, the development looks to be zoned. I don’t mind the heights so much as the fact residential elements are not working with the retail elements as much as I had anticipated.
I’m hoping the computer-generated images are just illustrative. There are many examples of really good integration between retail and residential. It’s nothing new, Paris managed this more than 100 years ago.
Reorientation of Central Park
We were discussing this on Facebook. I think we came to the conclusion that it would work better as a paved square area. I wonder if the aspiration for green space is working against good design. It does deserve to be the prime area in the whole development with the best retail units.
Aldi retail surface car park
I hate this proposal. It cuts Aldi off leaving no interplay with the town centre. The ‘left-turn in, left-turn out’ proposal is awful, putting more traffic onto the roads, looking for somewhere to do a U-turn. Lastly, the car park itself works as barrier for those walking from the Sevenways direction.
On the whole, this is still exciting. I’m not sure the consultation has helped. It’s not easy to consult on heights of buildings without understanding how the buildings interact with the centre. All the focus has been on King Street and Little King Street. The town centre is so much more than this. I can’t pretend to like the arrangement with Aldi but there are hints there are contractual obligations that have to be met. I’d love to see Central Park become a town square with good quality retail on four sides. I’m still hopeful.