Rochdale shortlisted to win Great British high street prize
Date published: 14 August 2019
The former post office on The Esplanade in Rochdale town centre
Rochdale town centre has beaten stiff competition to be shortlisted in the Government’s Great British High Street Awards, putting it in the running for up to £15,000.
After a rigorous selection process led by a panel of independent judges, the area has been shortlisted for the Rising Star category, which celebrates high streets which are taking the lead to adapt and diversify.
It is one of only 28 high streets across the country in the category, and the only one in Greater Manchester, which celebrates up and coming local communities who are transforming their future.
The shortlisted bid highlighted all the work taking place in the town centre, which is the middle of a £400m transformation programme.
These include high profile developments, like retail and leisure scheme, Rochdale Riverside, which has already signed Next, M&S, JD Sports, Boots and River Island and the six screen Reel Cinema. The development, which has just added H&M and Hollywood Bowl’s new mini golf concept, Puttstars, is due to open to the public in spring next year.
The submission, which was organised by Rochdale’s new Business Improvement District (BID), also highlighted the packed events calendar in Rochdale.
Major town centre events, like the Feel Good festival, regularly bring around 10,000 people into the town centre, alongside regular favourites like Street Eat and the Rochdale Literature and Ideas festival. Later this month, a major street art festival, supported by the council, will take place for the first time, with international mural artists painting walls across the town centre and holding art workshops for the public over Bank Holiday weekend.
A number of new independent businesses have also popped up in recent years, supported by the council’s business rates sale and small business start-up grant, including bar and restaurant, the Medicine Tap, coffee bar and lunch venue, Roasted and Toasted, café and coffee shop, Petit Café, and high quality men’s outfitter, Buckley Menswear, which has been shortlisted for a Drapers award for best new retailer 2019.
Other projects highlighted in the bid include the £16m restoration of Rochdale Town Hall and Town Hall Square and the Heritage Action Zone project to restore the historic buildings around the Drake Street area.
Lorenzo O’Reilly, Rochdale BID Chair, said: “I’m really proud that the town centre has been shortlisted for this prestigious award run by the Great British High Street. It reflects how the town centre has progressed in a few short years.
“We are showing that by partners collaborating, sharing ideas and adopting a progressive attitude, this is making the town an improved place to visit, shop and work. Initiatives like the business support scheme, the pop-up shop and holding additional events like the Time Machine have made a huge difference. But we realise there is still plenty of work to do and that’s why we are relentless in exploring ways of improving what the town centre has to offer.
“A scheme currently being developed is 'Virtual Rochdale' which will involve using the next generation technology to showcase the town, its attractions, businesses and retail offering and development opportunities.
“I hope as many people as possible will vote for Rochdale so we can get the recognition the town thoroughly deserves.”
Phil Buckley, owner of Buckley Menswear, said: “My experience since opening earlier this year in Rochdale town centre has been nothing but positive. A lot of people who have visited my shop have not been to Rochdale for a number of years and they are always really impressed by how it’s changed. I have lots of repeat customers, but every week I’m also seeing new faces, who then come back, so it’s really building and footfall is definitely increasing.
“The kind of kudos that comes with national recognition like this will encourage even more people to come to Rochdale see how much it has improved.”
Rochdale MP, Tony Lloyd, said: "I’m incredibly proud that we’ve received this recognition for Rochdale town centre, particularly considering what a difficult time it is for high streets up and down the country. Although the council can’t control what happens on the high street, here in Rochdale, the council, working with RDA and the BID, has used the power it does have to effect positive change where it can, be it through the business rates sale or the ever expanding events calendar. Although an awful lot has already been done in Rochdale, there are lots more changes to come and I look forward to seeing our high street get better and better.”
Rochdale is one of the 28 high streets which have been shortlisted for the Rising Star category, identifying high streets which are taking the lead to adapt and diversify. 12 high streets have been shortlisted in the Champion High Street category, which recognises the UK’s best high streets.
High Streets Minister Jake Berry MP said: “Congratulations to Rochdale for being shortlisted for the Rising Star Award for this year’s Great British High Street Awards. There’s been some brilliant work to provide start up grants to independent retailers in the town, as well as a programme to renovate old buildings.
“Rochdale is a superb example of how our high streets should be promoting both their historical roots and new, creative endeavours.
“High streets like this one define the spirit of ambition and innovation shared by towns across the Northern Powerhouse which are helping give new energy to their local economies.”
“High streets make people happier, and people want to see their hard-earned cash support local businesses. That is why we are celebrating those that go above and beyond to keep their high streets thriving for generations to come.”
All 40 high streets are now in the running to win a prize of up to £15,000 to be dedicated to a local high street initiative.
Research commissioned by Visa in April 2019 demonstrates the positive impact that the local high street has on communities.
The research found that seven out of ten (68%) consumers in the North West of England say that shopping locally makes them feel happy, with half (51%) citing supporting local shops and knowing where their money is going as the main reason.
Spending time with friends and family (17%) and offering a sense of community (18%) were other reasons cited for why high streets make people feel happier.
The research also reveals that over half of consumers (54%) feel that their high street gives them a sense of pride in their local community.
People can vote for their favourite finalist, with the public vote accounting for 20 percent of the final scoring. The shortlisted high streets will then have the chance to impress an expert judging panel as they seek to be crowned the UK’s Champion and Rising Star.
For more information about the Great British High Street Awards 2019 terms and conditions and details on how to vote, visit: thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk/high-street-of-the-year-awards/rising-star-award-finalists
Voting ends at midnight on 7 October. The winner will be announced in a ceremony in London in November.
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