Andy Burnham launches ambitious plans to ‘breathe new life’ into Ashton

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Plans to regenerate Ashton have taken a big step forward.

The mayor of Greater Manchester stood outside Ashton Old Baths alongside Tameside’s council bosses to mark the start of a rebirth for the town.

Andy Burnham joined council leader Coun Ged Cooney at the heritage asset to spark the start of the Ashton Mayoral Development Zone (AMDZ) – the strategy to ‘breathe new life’ into the area. A key part of this will be the  £19.8m of government cash from the levelling up fund used for the regeneration of Ashton town centre – which include works to the town hall and the public realm area around the market square.

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Although progress on the grander scale will take years to see transformative change, the GM mayor believes short-term change will come in the next few weeks through the next phase of the Bee Network.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham joins Tameside Council leader Ged Cooney and his executive team at Ashton Old Baths for AMDZ launch. Credit: LDRSGreater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham joins Tameside Council leader Ged Cooney and his executive team at Ashton Old Baths for AMDZ launch. Credit: LDRS
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham joins Tameside Council leader Ged Cooney and his executive team at Ashton Old Baths for AMDZ launch. Credit: LDRS

Speaking at the launch on March 7, Mr Burnham said: “The most immediate change is from the Bee Network. That is going to change in a fortnight as Ashton is going to get a number of Bee Network services serving the interchange. 

“You (Tameside) will have one of the best public transport systems in the country outside London.  I’m also working with Coun Ged Cooney and his colleagues at the council on brownfield funding. The way you regenerate any town, learning from Stockport, is that if you bring new footfall into these proud towns in GM, you bring new bars, restaurants, places to go. This brings life back to places.

“A part of this Mayoral Development Zone will be about affordable residential places for younger people, bringing people into these places and then all of the benefits of the breathing of new life into these towns. I mean this is a great town and it has a lot going for it already. But it’s about adding to that and taking it to the next level.”

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He went on to discuss the ambitious vision for the key aspects of the development zones, such as Ashton Moss – which is touted to become an ‘Innovation Park’ for large employment areas. When AMDZ was first tabled a few years back, bosses believed there were further opportunities for business growth, particularly in the digital and creative sectors in the borough.

Ashton Moss looks to build on the success of St Petersfield, which has delivered modern, high quality office space within an urban business quarter and established Ashton Old Baths as a hub for digital and creative businesses.

Speaking about how these changes benefit could filter out to other Tameside towns, Mr Burnham added: “The benefits of this can be felt all over the borough when people can easily reach the centre of employment. Whatever it is we work together to bring to Ashton Moss, we want to give everyone in Tameside easy and convenient reach so they can access those jobs. 

“We’ve moved away from every town having loads of employment. It won’t be coming back, let’s be honest about it. It’s about giving everyone easy access to where there is employment.

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“I look at Tameside, I see potential, I’ve said this for years. Stalybridge is absolutely going to move forward – I think it is linked to what we’re doing here because one thing leads to another. When you create new employment here (Ashton) you create new demand for residential nearby.”

The next steps for this vision will be in Ashton Market, where work is going on behind the scenes to prepare for work. A construction company has been appointed to build the new kiosks which will equip the town’s central square with the facilities needed to attract shoppers and shape it for the future. The new-look market will have a focus on food and drink while featuring a diverse range of businesses such as unique gifts, homeware, and clothing.

A CGI image of the redevelopment plans for Ashton town centre. Credit: Tameside councilA CGI image of the redevelopment plans for Ashton town centre. Credit: Tameside council
A CGI image of the redevelopment plans for Ashton town centre. Credit: Tameside council

The focal point of the square – which will include seating and a welcoming events space – will be a large canopy covering kiosks, the outdoor market, and flexible space for events and activities. The Market Square will be rejuvenated with high quality public realm, tree planting, new seating, spaces for families and lighting that will encourage activities in the evening and for events.

Coun Ged Cooney, leader of Tameside Council, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity, but this isn’t just about Ashton, it goes all the way down to Ashton Moss and further up into Stalybridge and around. What it will do is create structured jobs which will spill over into the whole of Tameside. 

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“This links into the Co-op Arena, Manchester University and much more, so I don’t want people to think this is just an Ashton thing.  In actual fact it spans all the way up and down from Stalybridge to Droylsden. We’re really pleased, pleased that the mayor is on board and we see that at long last, Tameside is getting what it deserves.”

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