Town centre masterplan unveiled

Date published: 11 September 2009

Rochdale council has unveiled a bold new vision for the future of Rochdale town centre.

Documents reveal ambitious plans including the creation of the largest public square in England (around the Town Hall), a new world-class water feature to trace the length of the river beneath, and new creative, learning and cultural quarters.

Council leader Alan Taylor said the masterplan is a blue print for an exciting future: “It’s bold, it’s ambitious – and we make no apologies for this.

"Residents and businesses have told us they want us to use the best bits of the town as the basis for a new future. We’ve listened very carefully to this feedback and the masterplan gives us a great opportunity to build on our proud heritage and our existing assets, but with a modern twist.

"The plan is deliberately bold and challenging, but it is also deliverable. If we’re not ambitious for the town, who will be?”

Within the masterplan there are seven key themes:

A new, pedestrianised Town Hall Square – designed to be the largest public square in England, comparable to the outdoor space you find in European cities. This has the potential to be used for large, high quality events and will be designed with specialist lighting, a bespoke water feature and high-quality paving and rest areas.

A learning and cultural quarter – building on the existing proximity of the Town Hall, Touchstones and Hopwood Hall, new buildings will be introduced to strengthen the cultural offer. Connections between existing and new buildings will be improved by creating safe and pleasant crossings and spaces between them and by transforming the area behind the Town Hall, removing overgrown trees to showcase Packer Spout, St Chad’s Church and to provide a route between Hopwood Hall College and the Town Hall.

Town Centre East – Multi-million pound redevelopment to create a new retail heart along with leisure facilities and car parking. These plans are already underway with work due to start in 2012.

A circular boulevard – described as the ‘front door’, the boulevard provides a circular edge to the town centre. It will be improved with better use of trees, crossing points and design features. A new street will be created to connect Drake Street to Wood Street and the whole of the boulevard will provide definition for the different areas of the town centre.

Green Valley – A garden city for the 21st century. The idea is to permeate the town with green spaces, combining rural and urban landscape to provide a connected network of green spaces for people to enjoy. Greenery will also be used to define the circular boulevard, with trees planted to reflect and enhance the natural characteristics of the landscape.

Pioneer’s route – Celebrating the pioneering spirit that enabled Rochdale to flourish, a new route will be created through the town centre, linking events and destinations connected to the town's pioneering heritage. The route links Hopwood Hall and Central Leisure through the Town Hall, new Town Centre East development and new municipal offices. References to the pioneers will be made at different points on the route, weaving the pioneering spirit of old into the fabric of the new.

Place for People – this theme is about defining different parts of the town centre that make up the cohesive whole. It breaks the town centre into a series of diverse zones, each of which contributes to the unique offering that Rochdale has overall.

Chief Executive of Rochdale’s Town Centre Management Company, Debbie O’Brien, said: “The masterplan will breathe new life into the town centre. For the first time, businesses and residents can see how the existing plans for the town fit alongside each other to create a really exceptional and unique offering that is ambitious, but achievable. The council is right to be bold with its plans. Local people deserve no less – and together we have a great opportunity to make the town a great place for people to live, work and visit.”

Members of the Rochdale Township Committee were asked to comment on the masterplan draft at this week's meeting. It will go out to public consultation in October before a final decision is made.

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