Council leader's column: A look back at the past 12 months

Date published: 23 March 2024

Neil Emmott is the leader of Rochdale Council and a councillor for West Middleton.

This month he dedicates his column to the past twelve months.

As we prepare for this year’s local elections, I want to reflect on the last 12 months of delivery that has once again moved our borough forward, through innovative services that showcase our pioneering spirit at its very best.

I am proud of our many achievements, proud to be leading a council that is transforming services and proud that Rochdale’s bedrock of cooperation, the very foundations on which our community was built, continues to shine brightly.

The last 12 months has maintained our decade of delivery, through high-quality regeneration projects and investment in frontline services.

We have seen the opening of a new 146-room Hampton by Hilton hotel in Rochdale town centre. Bringing a huge global name like Hampton by Hilton to Rochdale for the first time is another major step forward in our ongoing regeneration programme and demonstrates the level of high-quality development that is being created in our borough.

The hotel is a really strong addition to Rochdale’s rapidly changing town centre, underlining demonstrating that we mean business. The new hotel is part of the £65m Upperbanks development, which includes 242 new high-quality rental apartments.

As leader of the council, I have always been a vocal campaigner for local spend, so I was particularly pleased that this project has engaged more than 1,300 young people in Rochdale borough and created 390 weeks of apprenticeships. In total, 50 per cent of the project spend was invested with businesses based within 20 miles of the site. That is a record to be proud of.

In a further boost to our growth, it has been a landmark moment with the reopening of Rochdale Town Hall. Already thousands of people from the borough and beyond have visited our magnificently restored Grade 1 building. I can’t speak highly enough of this project and the positive coverage has shined a light on everything that is positive about our community.

The last 12 months also saw us sweep the board again at the North West in Bloom awards, gaining a very impressive 25 gold awards - five more than the previous year. It was wonderful to see Middleton, Heywood, Rochdale and Pennines townships all winning gold awards across various categories.

In addition, it was great to see Rochdale town centre selected as one of the best in the North West and is now competing for a win in the 2024 Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Britain in Bloom UK Finals. It’s a credit to everyone involved, working cooperatively with the volunteers of the Rochdale in Bloom committee, who have tirelessly laid the ground work to create another opportunity to showcase our borough in all its glory.

In a further boost, I am delighted that our state-of-the-art extra care housing project in Middleton, that will provide affordable apartments for residents aged 55 and over, has opened. The development at Keswick Gardens at Langley has 88 high-quality one and two bedroom apartments, along with ten bungalows, for people aged 55 and over. This is a really innovative adult care scheme, in the heart of my West Middleton ward, that is investing in housing opportunities, creating new jobs and delivering important investment for the area. It is exactly the kind of development I want to see, helping to drive forward our ambitious regeneration plans, supporting older and vulnerable residents and ensuring people can live independently in accommodation of their choice. A real boost for the community.

Those are just some of the many highlights. As I go round the borough, chatting with residents, visiting organisations, I see at first-hand how amazing our services are. The clean streets, our award winning parks, our green environment, innovative regeneration schemes, housing adaptations, care schemes, public health services, bin collections, our 16 brilliant library branches, which we have kept open, our pioneering Armed Forces offer, services for young people, support for our older residents, reducing health inequalities and so much more.

Those success stories, the delivery of the bread and butter day to day services, are all down to an outstanding team of council staff, our fabulous volunteers, community groups, local businesses, the care sector, charities and many others. They are all part of team Rochdale, that is delivering for our borough, transforming our towns and investing in the future. We are making great strides forward, the journey continues. To stand still is to go backwards. There is so much, as leader of the council, that I am proud about. We are investing in the future, so let’s continue working together, with that pioneering spirit at the heart of everything we, to make our community an even better place to live in, work in and grow up in over the coming months and years.

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