The ‘old and tired’ Greater Manchester town in desperate need of a new lease of life

The area is home to some of the most sought after spots in Greater Manchester
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It’s a series of quaint towns and villages nestled between Stockport town centre and the Peak District.

The Hazel Grove constituency, made up of the town of Marple as well as Romiley, Hazel Grove, Offerton and other areas, is one of the most sought after places in Greater Manchester to live and visit.

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Average houses prices in the SK7 area are more than £400,000, and streams of people can found on any given day walking along the Peak Forest Canal or through the many countryside routes.

But Hazel Grove is shaping up to be one of the fiercest contests when the general election rolls around later this year.

New data from the Climate Coalition’s Local Intelligence Hub has revealed that Hazel Grove is one of a handful of ‘battleground’ seats which could be decided on green issues.

According to the research, 75 percent of voters in the area think that losing natural spaces is a top concern, and want to see their new MP focus on this vital issue.

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Voters in the town told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that green issues will be at the front of their mind when they’re standing at the ballot box.

Patricia Buckley, 73, has lived in the town for 43 years but says it has seen better days.

She said: “People are very worried about building too many houses on the green belt, this is important here. I want to keep these spaces.

“Public transport is another issue, it takes too long to get anywhere and the trains don’t always run so it’s difficult to plan a day out because you might not be able to get back.”

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Ms Buckley added that she hasn’t yet made her mind up about which way she’ll vote when the election comes, but “it will probably be Lib Dem.”

Edward Pritchard, 82, lives in nearby Marple Bridge and is another voter who is yet to be swayed.

He said: “To be honest I’m not very happy with the Lib Dems or the Conservatives.

“Green issues are very important to me, we are in a green area. I think traffic is an issue but it can’t be avoided. But I would like to see it back to how it used to be, with less cars around.”

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Caroline Clark, 68, said the town has seen better days and is desperate for some investment, not least in transport and shops.

She said: “Marple looks really old and tired, it’s like a town from the 1960s. I don’t like the lack of investment here and there are too many charity shops around.

“The train services have become infrequent too, but what I really want to see is my swimming baths back, I used to go there three times a week.”

There are plans in place to reopen a new community leisure hub in Marple, to replace the former baths which closed in 2018.

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Her companion Elanor Coyne, 69, agrees that the environment should be a top priority for Hazel Grove’s next MP.

She said the traffic can be “very bad at times” and that the lack of bins along the canal means people have to travel a long way to get rid of their rubbish.

Paul Athans, 34, is the Conservative choice to become Hazel Grove’s next MP.

The Liverpool-born candidate lives in Marple and summarised the constituency as a place where people will pro-actively take action to protect the environment.

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He said green issues and energy security are some of his top priorities.

The town of Marple in Hazel Grove constituency. Copyright: LDRS. Free to use for LDRS partners. Uploaded by Declan Carey, Local Democracy Reporter The town of Marple in Hazel Grove constituency. Copyright: LDRS. Free to use for LDRS partners. Uploaded by Declan Carey, Local Democracy Reporter
The town of Marple in Hazel Grove constituency. Copyright: LDRS. Free to use for LDRS partners. Uploaded by Declan Carey, Local Democracy Reporter

He told the LDRS: “I come from a defence background, I was an army officer, so I look at everything from a defence and security perspective.

“For me energy security is the most important thing. If we’ve seen anything in the past two years, when Russia has a stranglehold on oil and gas supplies for Europe, energy prices go up.

“If you can produce your own energy and use renewable, or nuclear, using that mix is far better and reduces the impact of hostile states.”

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One of the key issues he wants to tackle is traffic congestion in the area.

He added: “Where we are here, there isn’t the transport infrastructure in place for people to be able to use it. Half the time you’re stuck in traffic around Hazel Grove, especially through Marple, it’s a massive problem.

“One of the things we’re campaigning for is the A6-M60 bypass, my view is that if you reduce congestion you can reduce pollution. A clean air zone is just going to punish people.”

On housing, Mr Athans has campaigned for “more affordable” homes in Hazel Grove – built on brownfield land and empty commercial spaces – including in Compstall Mill which he said has “fallen into wreck and ruin.”

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He has also praised the work of the government for introducing new laws banning bosses at water companies from getting a bonus if the firm is found to have committed serious criminal breaches.

Councillor Lisa Smart is the Lib Dem candidate for the constituency.

Her name has been on the ballot paper three times previously, and each time her number of votes has grown, chipping away at the Conservative majority.

Ms Smart, who lives in Romiley, said one the things she is most proud about is having helped to stop housebuilding on the green belt.

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She said: “We are incredibly lucky to live in a part of the world which has so many beautiful green spaces. We have to protect them so that people can share their benefits both today and tomorrow.

“I am proud of the work that we have managed to achieve as Lib Dems on the council to stop housebuilding on the greenbelt. We are able to preserve our green belt by creating housing on existing sites and previously developed land – not in the fields and meadows that surround our towns and villages.”

Ms Smart has called for stronger measures to stop sewage being dumped into rivers, and worries whether the government really understands the danger of the problem.

She added: “Pollution from water companies is such a threat to our environment and it beggars belief that more has not been done at a national government level.

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“I created the first ever investigation by a local council in the UK into the impacts of sewage dumping, as huge volumes of sewage are dumped into the River Goyt and plans to create a new woodland on the Chadkirk Country Estate were destroyed by sewage leaks.

“The council has now come up with plans to create a new wildflower meadow on the site in Romiley – delivering environmental and biodiversity benefits despite the problems being ignored by the current Conservative government.”

With the Conservatives facing recent by-election defeats to Labour in Wellingborough and Kingswood, the party may face their greatest challenge yet in the marginal seat of Hazel Grove, especially with Reform UK set to be on the ballot.

Whichever way the result goes, Hazel Grove voters have made clear that they want to see their towns and villages given a new lease of life, and have their green spaces protected for the future.