Greater Manchester retail park could become 200 new homes

A new park would also provide a ‘green corridor’ across the seven-acre site -which lies close to the town’s train station, between Oldham Road and Drake Street.

New images show how vacant land at a town centre retail site could be transformed into a ‘high quality’ neighbourhood boasting more than 200 homes.

Fresh proposals for Central Retail Park, in Rochdale,  include a six-storey building boasting 142 apartments and a further 81 town houses.

A new park would also provide a ‘green corridor’ across the seven-acre site -which lies close to the town’s train station, between Oldham Road and Drake Street.

Plans to redevelop the council-owned site – previously home to Wynsors, Focus and MFI – form part of the council’s recent £20m bid to the government’s ‘levelling up’ fund.

CGI showing plans for Central Retail Park in Rochdale. Credit Leach Rhodes Walker.

Developer Capital and Centric pulled out of the project earlier this year, but the authority is now working with Rochdale Development Agency and applicant Wilmott Dixon on an alternative scheme. Dubbed ‘the Corner Plot’, council papers say it aims to ‘create aspirational apartment living’ in a place that has ‘a distinct, vibrant, and authentic identity’.

A planning document submitted with the new application also makes the case for the new neighbourhood. “The development will transform perceptions of the immediate environs and wider perceptions of residents and visitors to the town and borough, through well-designed, beautiful spaces and buildings,” it states.

The scheme is said to ‘complement and contrast’ with the surrounding area, positively enhancing the Drake Street conservation area. It continues: “The proposal will build new homes on a vacant, disused brownfield site in the heart of the town that will help bind the town and station to create a strong, vibrant community.”

The guiding ‘masterplan’ divides the site into private residential areas, residential streets, a linear park, the Drake Street ‘promenade’ and the gateway ‘plaza’ south of the apartment building. The proposed 142  apartments have either one or two bedrooms, while the townhouses are a mix of two, three and four-bedroom homes ‘arranged in a regular street pattern as a series of terraces’.

The apartment building is said ‘form a built edge to Drake Street absent for several decades’, papers describe the ‘modern building’ as ‘providing ‘a contrast and foil’ to the heritage zone.

All homes and apartments achieve ‘net zero’ carbon-emissions by virtue of their design, materials, use of solar energy and heat pumps. However, no affordable homes are included in the scheme, with all properties available ‘for private market rent’.

Planning papers says the aim is to  ‘change perceptions of what urban living can be’ and ‘set a standard for future phases’ of regeneration around the borough’s railways stations.

Documents also explain that the linear park is intended to create and ‘attractive and alternative route’ to the town centre and railway station.

It would also provide residents with ‘a range of activities to play, exercise, to meet and gather, relax and enjoy time with friends and family’. Papers suggest it could potentially host displays of public artwork, host small events and create new wildlife habitats.

Meawnhile an outdoor gym is proposed to meet adult recreation needs ‘offering something new to the community’ while the play strategy is ‘to use naturalistic play elements (boulders, stepping stones, logs etc) within the landscape as a play trail instead of a formal, fenced off area’.

Cars would enter the site off Oldham Road and the development would include 108 parking spaces, including visitor, blue badge, on street and car club spacesBike storage would be provided within the apartment building.

The number of parking spaces is said to reflect the development’s proximity to the town centre and the strong public transport links to places further afield.

Papers stress that the scheme has not been designed in isolation.

“It will perform the first part of a wider regeneration objective of the existing retail park which the council, as landowner, intends to redevelop in future years,” a planning statements reads.

“This in turn is part of its wider objective for the Station Gateway to see some 1,500 homes in a new urban community focused around the station as a highly sustainable location.”

The government has not yet announced which of the latest round of Levelling Up fund bids have been successful.

Rochdale council’s planning committee will make a decision on granting permission for the scheme.